Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Read the Instructions First

With the help of the other members of the San Fernando Valley Iris Society and my sister-in-law Nora, I had managed to stage my first ever iris arrangements in the Artistic Division in record time. After the rush of the morning, Nora and I went to look at the other entries to catch our collective breath. Fat chance: the other arrangements took our breath away again. There were exquisite oriental arrangements, clever uses of rock and driftwood, unexpected uses of found objects. And of course, beautiful irises. If you have never been, you really must go to the next Iris Show in your area and take a look at the beautiful arrangements.

Before the show, each member of the society is sent a Schedule announcing the theme of the show, the dates, the show committee members, and most importantly, the rules for exhibitors. This Schedule should be read carefully and completely if one wishes to avoid embarrassing gaffes, such as raising your fist and shouting out "Woo Hoo!" when you spy a blue ribbon beside your entry. I learned that this is considered bad form, and may even get you disqualified if heard by the judges. Exhibitors should avoid going near the area while the judges are considering the arrangements. It says so right in the Schedule [ahem].

The judges have extensive experience with irises and undergo training under the auspices of the American Iris Society. They follow the rules as set forth in the Handbook for Judges and Show Officials, 7th Ed. They examine each element of an arrangement and discuss the merits among themselves, then compare the arrangements. There are different levels of awards distributed, so the judging process takes some time. After the judging is completed, the final awards are laid out next to the arrangements. Only then is it permissible to move in for your photo ops.

When I returned on Sunday evening to collect my cake pan, I was stunned to see that the Industrial Revolution with Lady Friend had won not only a blue ribbon, but a second award for Best in Section! The Dark Ages had won a blue ribbon as well! I stood there in disbelief. But I was jerked out of my stupor when I watched my blue ribbons being swept up by Steve, a show official. What was he doing with my ribbons? As it turns out, the ribbons and trophies are collected at the end of the SFVIS Show to be given out at the annual awards banquet in June. My new friend Steve calmed me down, assuring me I would get them back. Whew.

Thanks to this experience, I have a new art to practice, new friends who are talented people as well as kind and patient mentors, and a new appreciation for the beauty of irises. If you have never entered this competition, I heartily suggest you consider it next year. Take it from a novice: You’ll have a world of fun in the world of irises.

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