How to Win Beading Competions: 6 Tips from a Contest Judge


What would you do with $1,500?
If you had a $1,500 gift certificate to spend at a huge online bead store, what would you buy? Every kind of gemstone available? Enough seed beads or toggle clasps to last a lifetime? A top-of-the-line set of beading tools?

I'd buy that–and more, but since I can't enter Bead Star (something about being the editor of Beading Daily), my big shopping trip will remain a dream. For you, this could be real.

The grand prize winner in the Bead Star contest will get a $1,500 gift certificate for Fire Mountain Gems, along with a fun trip for two to Bead Expo in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and the joy of seeing his or her project on the cover of a magazine! And that's just the grand prize winner. There are tons of other big prizes too in every category: crystals, seed beads, glass, pearls, stones, metals, plastics, under $25, and designs with heart. There's even a prize for the bead shop that gets mentioned most often on the entry forms!

New–A Special Prize for Early Birds!
If you get your entry in by midnight MST on Friday, April 25th, you will be eligible to win $250 to spend any way you like! That's right–we're going to draw a random name from all the early entries (including all the entries already submitted) and that person will win a $250 gift card! And you can start spending right away–the winner will be notified by April 30th. So what are you waiting for? Read today's tips for creating a winning design and get busy! (Your laundry, grocery shopping, and whatever other "important" stuff you had planned for this weekend can wait!)

Yes, Marge—You, Too, Can Win!
by Marlene Blessing, editor in chief of Beadwork

Have you been watching Dancing with the Stars? (Good for Priscilla Presley that she hung in there so long.) Or American Idol? (Why did they have to axe the Aussie?) Or Project Runway? (I could never make an outfit out of candy wrappers. What will they torture the designers with this season?) We love competitions and contests! And beaders, there are lots of contests out there for you to enter to feed your beading life. Interweave has a big one coming up–Bead Star! Our beading editors will select finalists, and all of you will choose the winners. And there are big prizes at stake, too. Does $5,000 worth of travel and beading supplies sound good?

Having been a judge in beading and other contests, here are some key tips to help you rise to the top:

  1. Follow entry rules to the letter! If there's anything you think is confusing or ambiguous, most contest sites offer FAQs. They probably even list contact information if you need more help. Don't lose by being disqualified.
  2. Get the best digital photo of your project(s) you can. If you've just made your most stupendously cool bracelet ever and you know it's a winner, remember the old adage: "A picture is worth a thousand words." Actually, edit that to read: "A great picture . . ." Loads of wonderful entries lose all the time because the image submitted to screeners and judges didn't do justice to the finished beadwork. There's even a Digital Art Photography for Dummies book to help you improve your results.
  3. Be a politician. Get your friends, family, fellow bloggers, and coworkers out for the vote! If you've entered a popular vote contest such as Bead Star, it doesn't hurt to lobby the ones you love. (Just don't make any election promises you won't keep.)
  4. Focus on finishing touches. Style and originality count big in contests. But be sure you finish your work beautifully with the best findings, technique (good tension, no knots or thread showing–unless they're intended, etc.), and other bits of polishing. It's all about the total package.
  5. Enter contests frequently. Chance plays a part in winning, and you improve the odds if you keep on trying!
  6. Have fun! (No explanation required.)

As a judge, I've seen the bodies in the road, folks who could have been contenders but lost their way. There was the amazing crystal-embellished piece that was eliminated from a recent Swarovski competition because the entry photo was fuzzy and dark, making the piece look like one of those bad UFO photos. Or the extremely cool beaded shoe that had nothing to do with our Beaded Bag theme contest. Or a finalist piece of bead-woven jewelry with unruly (and unintended) threads sprouting here and there.

For now, good luck to all. Ready? Set. Go!


Visit the Bead Star website for a complete list of prizes and entry details. The deadline to enter is May 6, 2008, but if you enter by April 25, you'll be eligible to win the random "Early Bird" drawing. All beaders in the U.S. and Canada are encouraged to enter. Someone will win–why not you?

Marlene Blessing is the editor in chief of Beadwork magazine and author of Create Jewelry: Pearls and Create Jewelry: Crystals. Marlene is an experienced beading contest judge and most recently helped judge the 2007 Swarovski Create Your Style Design Contest.

New "Editor's Choice" Feature on Beading Daily
Each month, an editor from Stringing, Beadwork, Step by Step Beads, or Step by Step Wire Jewelry will offer a free project of her own choosing! Today's project is from Marlene Blessing of Beadwork magazine.

Project: Bohemian Revolutions Bracelet by Jamie Hogsett

This sparkly bracelet uses circular square stitch to combine crystal bicones and size 11 seed beads in muted tones of chartreuse, gray, and turquoise. Originally published in the August/September 2006 issue of Beadwork magazine. 

Please note that this was a special limited time download: This bracelet project was free to Beading Daily members through June 1, 2008.  Instructions are now available for sale in the store.

Why did Marlene choose this project? She says, "Making square-stitched circles in really easy and fun. What's great about this project is how it teaches you that mastering one simple seed bead technique can allow you to design something satisfyingly unique. Try your own color variations–go for jewel tones instead of muted colors, or choose a citrusy variation (lime, yellow, and deep orange) for summer."

Michelle Mach shares free beading projects and tips every Friday on Beading Daily. If you have questions or comments for Michelle (including suggestions for future free projects), please post them here on the website. Thanks!

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Beading Daily Blog
Michelle M.

About Michelle M.

I was the founding editor of Beading Daily (2007-2009) and my now a freelance designer/writer/editor.  My designs have been published in Stringing, Step by Step Beads, Jewelry Gifts for the Holidays, Creative Jewelry, Beadwork, and other magazines. I enjoy stringing, bead embroidery, wirework, metal work, mixed media, beadweaving—pretty much anything that involves beads or jewelry.  I also enjoy exploring new crafts like pottery and felting.  I write a personal blog if you want to see more of my work. 16+ Free Beading Projects: A list of the free projects I created for Beading Daily. Contact Info If you have a question regarding Beading Daily, please contact customer service at or the current editor, Kristal Wick. If you'd like to contact me, you'll find my info on my website:  You can also follow me on Twitter at: Pictured here is a pair of earrings I made for the Spring 2010 issue of Stringing in an attempt to get over my fear of designing with the color orange!

One thought on “How to Win Beading Competions: 6 Tips from a Contest Judge

    Good tips. Another good tip is to not weigh so much on entering/ getting accepted into such big contests, and just create for yourself. Organizations that put together these contests are looking for a certain type of image to put on their magazine cover and they are looking to use your creation to sell their product. If your piece does not fit their idea of that image, your piece will never be accepted no matter how spectacular it is… Create for yourself first, and you will always be a winner. 😀

    Comment by: The Lone Beader | April 18, 2008

    cool tips. thanks

    Comment by: tubaishi r | April 19, 2008

    Wow, Lone Beader, those are really inspiring words. I have a question about this contest. I’m a beadweaver (I don’t even know what type, but I use fishing line and connect all the beads together by crossing the two ends of the fishing line through them to make complex 3-D patterns like animals). Anyways, I read on the contest rules that the pattern must be simple. I don’t think I’ve ever made a simple pattern that didn’t involve beadweaving. So I can’t enter the contest?

    Comment by: Allegra C | April 19, 2008

    I’m having a similar dilemma to Allegra. I do more beadweaving than anything, but I also braid multiple strands of beads into bracelets as well. Would this be acceptable for the contest?

    Comment by: Onye N | April 19, 2008

    Help…the Bead Star contest will be my very first and after I read the directions, I still had one question: It says to be sure that the “entire design is clearly visible”. Does that mean lay it out flat? I took pix of mine on an upright display, as if someone were wearing it, but that means the back doesn’t show in the pictures. I don’t want to send this in until I get it right. HELP! Thanks.

    Comment by: Sandra D | April 21, 2008

    Great questions! I’ve let the contest organizers know about these questions and we should hear from them soon. There is also an email address on the rules page that you can use if you have a question that needs immediate attention.

    I’d love to see a beadweaver take home the prize in the seed bead category (using whatever is deemed a simple technique). I mean, who better to enjoy a prize of hundreds–or even $1,000–worth of seed beads???

    Comment by: Michelle M | April 21, 2008

    Hi everyone,

    The contest organizations sent me these answers:

    1. Correct: This time around, we are not accepting any needle-and-thread, beadweaving projects–only simple stringing and wireworking projects. See the FAQs at for more information. 2. By “entire project must be clearly visible” we do mean that the WHOLE piece must show. Usually laying the design flat is the best way to achieve this. -The Contest Organizers

    Comment by: Michelle M | April 23, 2008

    Hi,my name is Melanie and I have already asked the people of beading daily this question but, and received my answer, however I was wondering what all you other beaders thought… I have two creative boys (9&14, the 14 yr old being ADHD) who love to bead with my friends and I, they want to join in contests out there too…does anyone else have kids who join contests or anything that maybe i could find for my boys? I hope Beading Daily comes up with one but maybe there are others out there! Thanks Melanie

    Comment by: melanie h | April 23, 2008

    I struggled nd retook pictures and couldn’t get them to look the way I wanted. I finally sent something at about 8:30 last night, hoping to make the Early Bird Deadline; then I went straight into a hot bath and to sleep. This morning I found that all three of my entries had been rejected because the pictures were too big. Since I don’t know how to size them, now I don’t know what to do. How disappointing. Now I do understand the disclaimer in the rules that says it isn’t their fault if it doesn’t work due to “defecs in the operation…or software used by the entrant or by IWP.” I’m just really upset and disappointed. Can anyone tell me how to size my hard won pictures? Thanks for listening to me rant.

    Comment by: Sandra D | April 25, 2008

    I can tell you how to resize your pictures. It depends what softwar you are using when you save your picture. In some cases: When you save you have an option to save at different quality levels the higher the quality the larger the picture file size. In other programs such as Photoshop you go to Image then Size and set the picture to the size below. Double check your file size before you send it by going into Windows Explorer find your file. You need to be in the right View so go to the View Menu and choose from DETAIL view, then check the file size. Make sure the file isn’t bigger than 500kb. The rules are 640×480 at 72 dpi, and their file size must not be more than 500KB each. You may contact me directly and I can give you specific help at I made a low cost lightbox out of a 1×2 wood and very lightweight white muslin with 6 clip on lights from the local WalMart. Use the 26W fluorescents. I used white very lightweight posterboard or cardstock (large sheets). The large black office clips hold the muslin and the cardstock to the frame. Make a three sided framed only box. The clip lights allow for some awesome lighting effects, like downlighting. I also use a remote hookup to my computer from my camera that lets me see the picture and make adjustments before I take the shot. It is a very low cost set up but the result is nothing but top dollar compared to what I had before. Don’t have time to make a lightbox? It takes about an hour. I got the best results with natural light in the morning and the later afternoon. Just use a white background for the contest. I am still learning everyday.

    Comment by: Rebecca L | April 25, 2008

    Thanx so much for all the wonderful information, it has clarified all but one question, for me personally. I understand the deadline date as May 6, 2008 but the time is in question. Is it 12:00 a.m. or 11:59 p.m.? I’m not trying to be dense or anything but I just found out about the contest and as I am still working out the final details in my design those extra hours could mean the difference between being accepted or being rejected due to late entry. Kinda important from my perspective. Thank you for putting up with my ignorance outside my own little world. Foxfyr64

    Comment by: P.L. M | May 4, 2008