I remember the first time I entered the Bead Dreams competition. I submitted my Phoenix Reborn bead embroidered necklace and my Dragon Mother beaded sculpture. I was so proud of both pieces, I had even gotten Larry Sanders to photograph them and sent in fancy high-res images. To say that I was disappointed when I got the rejection letter would be an understatement.
I used to take rejection personally, and I imagine that most sensitive artists do. It's hard not to--your pour your energy and time into making a piece of art that you adore. It's a piece of you. It takes courage just to show it to someone, let alone send it out to be judged. It can be really heartbreaking to send a piece out and find it unequivocally dismissed. You can console yourself with knowing that your friends think it's cool, but only so much.
Thankfully, I possess that weird gene that when someone tells me no, I have to prove them wrong. I have no idea where this stubborn, potentially spiteful impulse comes from, but every rejection evokes the same response: "I'll show you." Both my win in the Fire Mountain Gems contest and my publication in Step by Step Wire Jewelry came from being rejected elsewhere. I had to prove the rejectors wrong.
Of course, what I've realized over the past couple years (aside from the fact that I can put my Scorpio-moon vindictive nature to very productive use), is that you can't take it personally. At the end of the day, all judgments are arbitrary. We can hide behind an illusion of objectivity as much as we want, but without a doubt, whatever was going on inside the heads of the judges determines if we get into a show or not. They might like your work, but it doesn't fit into their vision of the show. They might like your aesthetic, but not your technical skill, or vice versa. They could have been cut off by some jerk in the morning and think your entry reminds them of the driver. They could have gotten a ton of really skilled applicants this year, and your piece was great but others made things even better. Anything is possible.
At the end of the day, you have to have faith in the work that you're doing, and keep putting it out there for the world to see. As you hone your craft, someone is bound to notice, and they will tell other someones until suddenly lots of people know and care about what you're doing. But before that happens, you have to get over yourself and not take it personally. It'll serve you better in the long run.
Handmade aluminum chain mail jewelry