We’re at the final installment of Critical Mass, a petition for the initiation of DIY space, or the NonPro concept in our Custom and Artist Resin show system in the US. Throughout this series we’ve covered a lot of ground to lend perspective to the problems at hand because these are systemic problems that affect every one of us. But that promises a lot, doesn’t it? If we fix the NonPro issue, we potentially fix many other problems, too. As such, the predicament of the NonPro is a collective problem. So whether we chose to admit it or not, the NonPro is far more relevant to many of our interests than we may realize.
That being the case, in this Part V we’ll explore the possible tidal wave of positives NonPro could wash over this community. They’re wide-ranging and will sink deep into the core of this activity, too—and that’s exactly what we want.
So let’s imagine a future where DIY NonPro is an active part of our showing system so it and Open are happily coexisting. More and more creative types are taking up tool and brush, and finding meaningful success on their own terms. Being so, NonPros bloom, they congregate and so they innovate, and the positive feedback loop accelerates and strengthens. So what does this mean for the rest of us? A lot—and it’s all good!
Because when we dampen the disenfranchisement of a potentially large portion of our community, that positivity spills over onto everything else. As such, the potential benefits of NonPro could:
- Reinstate healthier priorities like camaraderie and community over competition, promoting a more inclusive environment. And when more people have those Cs higher up on their priority list that spells good things for the enjoyability and sustainability of all this.
- Encourage creativity by giving the necessary space for DIYers to prosper. And who knows what they’re capable of when given this opportunity? In turn, this helps to boost the vitality of our show circuit, too.
- Return many people to peers rather than opponents so everyone can calm down and start liking each other again. And when that happens, we seem more in the same boat and that inspires cohesion and cooperation, too.
- Get potentially more people to understand what goes into making a quality model. This has a sevenfold effect. First, it helps more people understand the job of judging and, in doing so, helps to ease up on judge shaming. Second, it could cultivate a larger judging pool by training them in the studio. Third, when more people understand what quality actually means, this helps placings have more sense as things become less invisible. Fourth, knowing quality better and what’s involved, the issue of prices won’t be so touchy. Fifth, the more people who learn what goes into a quality piece, the more likely we can find consensus on such things like judging criteria and quality. Sixth, because more people have to grapple with the challenges in creativity, artist shaming could subside as well. And seventh, it could jumpstart the institution of Novice since more folks would better understand the challenges facing a beginner.
- Possibly lead to NonPro options for other creative outlets like tack making, dolls, and prop making if those folks so desire.
- Create a more welcoming and hospitable environment for newcomers and beginners by decompressing the environment. This could also prompt Youth divisions, helping to further ensure our future.
- Reduce the pressures with showing to perhaps make the experience better for showholders and judges.
- Engage peer-based competition to help reduce intimidation, frustration, and discouragement, resulting in a potential arts boom.
- Facilitate congregation so NonPros can share immediate feedback. A NonPro wants to know how another NonPro did the roan ticking? They just have to walk up and ask whereas, in contrast, Pros are usually busy in their studios. This also helps to build bonds and promote education.
- Build a system based on inclusion and more meaningful fulfillment, drawing more people into the experience and keeping them to sustain our numbers.
- Inspire participation in other ways like volunteering, show hosting, or judging because engaged people are more invested in their community.
- Increase and deepen Open over time since Pros left to primarily compete against their peers, too.
- Encourage more people to try their hand at the arts too by depressurizing them, adding a new dimension of interest for those interested.
- Even out the gambling aspect of showing by evening out the playing field.
- Improve and expand education since more people want to develop their skills. This can also help create a self-educating pool of judges and a more informed shower base.
- Inspire mentoring programs and judge apprenticeships because NonPros will be looking for guidance. The greater the need, the lower the threshold.
- Diminish the lurking resentment of “Big Name Artists” (BNA) because it gets harder to dehumanize someone when we know their challenges. (That term originated as a derogatory slur.)
- Could jumpstart NonPro performance as the lessons learned from halter could inform its creation, too.
- Ignite fun new spins to showing with its more casual attitude. For instance, this could lead to experimentation with show formats which may be instrumental for the evolution of this activity.
- Facilitate cohesion in our community by improving representation of more interests.
And know it or not, each of us has a strong vested interest in the creation of NonPro specific to our sphere of interest. Truly, many of us are tied to NonPro in important ways. For example:
- Manufacturers: More DIYers means more OF sales since more people are creating customs.
- Sculptors: More DIYers means more resin sales because more people are painting and so the demand for canvases increases. This also helps to mediate that notorious painting bottleneck that leaves people with shelves of unfinished resins.
- Painters: The demand for Pro paintjobs will remain with an active Pro division, and may actually get a boost since competition in the Open division could open up. And over time as our ranks expand and more people stick around with a more inclusive system, that could also spell more buyers of Pro paintjobs. There’s also opened opportunities through the sale of how-to books, class hosting, and how-to video subscriptions.
- Showholders: It’s possible the number of NonPros is large and so could pack shows. Shelves of unfinished models could finally show up!
- Hobbyists: When the emotions of a large group depressurizes, everyone’s experience improves. NonPro could also provide a low-pressure artistic outlet which may be of interest to potential creatives. What’s more, the better the collective experience, the more people are drawn in and stay, potentially bolstering inclusion over time.
- Judges: NonPro creates peer-based competition allowing us to better serve showers. And in a depressurized atmosphere where more people are behind the studio door, being shamed is less likely. As such, we may also see an increase in the judging pool, easing up the pressure for long show days.
- Community: NonPro can help bring camaraderie, community, and creativity back to the fore, bringing balance back to competition. It could also make education a stronger influence and when people are learning and exploring, the patience and respect they have for one another improves. It could also potentially increase volunteerism by compelling more people to become more invested in the activity.
- Our future: NonPro could increase the vitality of this activity, potentially improving its sustainability and stabilization.
Here’s the thing, too—NonPro won’t erase or diminish the Open division. There will always be an active and vibrant Open division for those who find satisfaction and thrill there—and that’s awesome! Really, NonPro can simply coexist. It also won’t kill competition—it’ll simply provide another option for it, another competitive conduit. In this sense then, it’s not a threat to the showing circuit, it’s an asset.
People can participate in a competitive activity both as a hobby and as a competitive sport. As such, the hobby aspect of this venue is a natural, expected byproduct just as much as the intense competitive interests. They’re two sides of the same coin.
However, if we study other communities built around competition, we find they’re far more developed to better guarantee an inclusive and sustainable future for both sides of that coin. Truly, we find an inclusion-based structure that promotes versions of AO, Youth, and Novice since they recognize these participants assure a vital, sustainable future. As an off-shoot, they’re also strong on education through lessons, workshops, classes, training, printed materials, instructional videos, and teachers. Those communities that also factor in creativity tend to build their expos around education as well. In fact, many professionals there earn a large portion of their income through hosting and providing these things. In other words, the impetus is to get interested creatives involved in a hands-on aspect of the game and to keep them engaged in ways meaningful and accessible to them.
And all this is because these communities have a “more is merrier” perspective that results in growth, engagement, and stability. And because this is the priority, the community becomes self–sustaining as networks and foundations strengthen. Indeed, when a creative activity is based on its non–competitive priorities first we create a more stable base that supports the competitive aspects for the long-term. In other words, this bottom-heavy paradigm is more supportive of the activity as a whole. Instead, however, the creativity in this venue has a top-heavy paradigm…and it’s teetering. Space for the DIYer could help reinstate balance.
Indeed, the focus on intense competition has compromised the more supportive environment artists once had for the big learning curves, limited resources, or less intense interests. Yes—competition can improve quality, and it often does—but the truth is that was happening anyway. Intense competition isn’t entirely necessary to motivate a group of artists who are already high-intensity by nature. In this light then, perhaps we’ve put people’s personalities in competition which may explain another level of the lingering tension out there. It also potentially explains why a fixed definition of quality has been so elusive since people participating as a hobby tend to create work aligned to their inherent nature rather than to a set standard. It could be then that it’s not change that threatens this activity, it’s the status quo.
Conclusion to Critical Mass
It’s time to let go of our fear. Breath in, breath out—let it go. Stop fixating. Stop panicking. Stop knee-jerking. Stop jumping to conclusions. Stop fear mongering. Just…stop. Close our eyes, take a breath, relax. Everything will be alright when we work together for a common future built on positives and inclusion, and we can start the repairs by initiating space for the DIYer. Always remember The Five Cs: community, camaraderie, creativity, collecting, and competition. In that order. Right now we’ve put competition at the top and that may be causing some problems—but this is just a temporary hiccup and one we can fix. Indeed, this series isn’t intended to establish a New Order, but to seed ideas. To start dialogues and brainstorming. No one person has the answer! This is a collective issue and it’s best solved in that spirit. There are many other ways to tackle these issues and considering them all is smart. Along those lines, it’ll also take some exploration and experimentation, perhaps even implementing regional spins custom-fitted to a region’s specific quirks. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?
Because perhaps we’ve sacrificed too much to the God Of Competition and it seems many are tired of the spilled blood on that altar. Truly, some again want the fertile ground of fun, creativity, friendship, and less pressure and NonPro could certainly help that along. The truth is we could be approaching critical mass on this issue—time will tell.
So perhaps the question is this: are there people still out there with enough moxie to spearhead this concept? And perhaps they’ll come from some unlikely places. Because it would be a shame to stop fighting the battle right when Gandalf may show up. And things tend to be worse right before they get better, don’t they? The time wasn’t right twenty years ago, ten years ago, or even five years ago….but maybe we’re drawing closer to the right moment? Perhaps one last push, one Hail Mary is all that’s needed. We just need one match to start an explosion.
But understand the nature of your job. Don't look to NAMHSA—it’s not their job. It’s not a overarching governing body nor is it a spearhead for change. NAMHSA only puts on NAN—that’s it. And it’s already overtaxed and its volunteers are burned out. Don't blame showholders for not having NonPro either—people have to pack the classes to justify the resource allocation and that hasn’t been happening. You want NonPro? Approach your showholder and volunteer to spearhead it in your area. Find judges for it. Create the space. Develop the awards. Advocate, educate, and encourage. Practice activism. Don’t just demand change, be the change. Most of all, you need to show up and support NonPro. Represent! Create your pieces and pack NonPro to demonstrate proof of concept, to prove its viability. No show holder is going to host NonPro to crickets or even just a few. Get others interested involved and invested because the stronger the turnout, the more likely NonPro will stick. What’s more—quit with the imprinting, creative hierarchy, purity syndrome, and pigeon-holing. And stop the infighting. Make a decision, build it, and just go. Adapt as you go along. Nothing is written in stone. And you’re not going to please everyone so just please most and move forwards. Things will smooth and settle over time. Remember that bullying can come inside your ranks, too, so don’t get distracted by a few malcontents. Forge ahead on target. But all this depends on you—no one else is going to do it for you. That’s your job. Quite literally, NonPro needs a grassroots movement, a strong, steady activism that will change hearts, minds, attitudes…and paradigms.
And don’t be afraid. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t be apathetic. And most of all, don’t fall prey to all those traps we’ve talked about. Stand up, chin out, and be proud to be a NonPro. This is your hobby, too, and you deserve your own identity and space. This isn’t an entitlement. This isn’t a privilege. This is your right so work for it and take care of it. And—sure—there will be hiccups along the way, but keep that baby in the bathwater. You can always morph as you go so there’s no need to be inflexible and rigid. It’s better to be adaptable, responsive, and fluid. You got this.
Chasing ribbons is fine and many enjoy it—it’s fun and thrilling! Many people love to show the work of others, too, and that’s fantastic. All this helps to keep the Open division so vital and diverse. But there’s more to the equation, isn’t there? We have this whole other segment of folks, too. We don’t have to sacrifice one for the other either—they can coexist. We want them to coexist to improve representation that will boost competition and the fun and cohesion that brings. Truly, if we want to support competition then, initiating NonPro is a natural choice.
To that end, think about learning more about our arts history. Discover where we came from to better plot our future. In many ways, perhaps we need to get back to our roots, back to the original magic that started this whole art thing in the first place. Indeed, looking back, our arts helped us to share our commonalities rather than amplify our differences, and we can get back to that reaffirming place again.
The choices we make now will determine our future. Can we continue to disenfranchise the DIYer? Does our competition just have to have one pathway? Do we have simultaneous options to competition? What are other possibilities? What other ideas do we have? Are there other ways to approach these issues? Do we need multiple approaches? These are curious things to ponder. Indeed, steps are already underway to tackle these issues. For example, Region X has a framework for a new kind of schooling show that offers DIYers an option. If you have any questions about Region X's schooling show, contact the committee at Schooling@regionxnation.com. The issue of disenfranchisement is also being addressed elsewhere—wonderful! For example, in that paper instead of NonPro and Pro, the terms here are “casual” and “avid,” very neutral terms that are also highly descriptive. Check it out!
Because we may be at a crossroads—which path will you take? It’s in your hands. If the enthusiasm just isn’t there—that’s fine, too. Perhaps the time just isn’t right still or maybe solutions can come in other and better forms. But if the enthusiasm is there, it may be a good time to start taking steps forwards. It’s certainly been an interesting twenty years and it’ll be exciting to see what the next twenty will bring! We’re definitely a resourceful bunch and with enough brains working a problem we’re sure to find workable solutions to any challenge. So thank you for reading this series and considering these ideas. We're all connected in this tightly-knit community—we’re all in this together! And that spells good things for our future whatever may come.
“When things are shaky and nothing is working, we might realize that we are on the verge of something.”
~ Pema Chodron
I would like to thank Kim Bjorgo, Lesli Kathman, and Kay Myers for their input for this series. Kim provided some valuable historic articles advocating for NonPro, written by herself, Stephani Robson, and Vickki Johnson. Likewise, Lesli provided some key ideas as well as the necessary perception shift that opened the door for NonPro inclusion. And Kay offered valuable insights from a NonPro perspective over morning coffee in the wee hours of the morning. Thank you, ladies! And thank you to all those who’ve chatted about these issues all these long years. Your voices are important and I’m sitting here fingers crossed, too!