Judging Criteria



































































































The Eternal Judging Dilemma

by Susan Miller


This is the third of a series of articles which appeared in The Cutting Edge about judging.  In it we present a sample judging sheet for the system adopted by the Cascade Chainsaw Sculptors Guild ( CCSG) after many years of experimentation.


 In previous articles, we pointed out some of the challenging areas that need to be considered, and we’ve talked about the qualities necessary for having good judges.  Here, we’ll talk about the scoring sheet, which is very concise and easy to understand and remember.  Following the judging sheet is a brief discussion to further clarify these criteria.  This explanation is short enough to be printed in a competition program or posted where carvers and members of the public can refer to it.


We are happy to be contacted about permission to use this copyrighted information, Although many of the ideas are not new, condensing, organizing and explaining these concepts was time and labor intensive.  If you would like to try out this system, we do ask that it be credited to CCSG and used in its original form.  Otherwise, it would be like someone getting hold of one of your nicely finished carvings and passing it off as her own, or like that same person getting hold of one of your nicely finished carvings, shortening up its legs and nose and telling people that it was her work.


Judge what you can judge


If you want good judging, you will need judges who are knowledgeable, open minded and fair.  If your judges don’t know anything about wood carving, they should be willing to learn. If their sculptural awareness consists of a trip to the local tourist trap and a look at the trinkets there, or of a shopping spree to the Hallmark Card store, then you should probably not try to judge the artistic merit of the work, but clearly state that the judging in this area will be subjective.  We will be following up this article with others that focus on each of the criteria and include illustrations. We invite your comments.


This system does not pretend to judge the performance qualities of the carvers, and it does not judge the monetary value of the carvings.  These are covered very well if a competition has a quickcarve component.  We also have some thoughts about Carvers’ Choice awards, the “Wow factor”, Judges Choice, People’s Choice, Carver’s statements, allowable tools, and so on.  These will be addressed in future articles.

CCSG Recommended




Carvers Identity (Name or number) _______________________

Title or Artist’s statement about this piece______________________________________________





SCORING:  Up to 20 points will be given each of the following criteria:


Judging criteria 1:  CONTEXT, CLARITY OF INTENT ……………………..Up to 20 points

Does this sculpture make a clear and unique statement about the theme?

or effectively communicate the artist’s intent?

                                                                                                                      SCORE __________                                                                                                                                                                                   



Judging criteria 2:   EFFECTIVENESS OF DESIGN………………………….Up to 20 points

Use of sculptural elements to achieve Balance, Contrast, Emphasis

Front view (8 points)

Side View   (4 points each side)

Back view   (4 points)                                                                                                   SCORE__________



Judging criteria 3:  USE OF MATERIAL ……………………………………….. Up to 20 points

Structural Integrity (10 points)

Design decisions which make use of the unique character of wood (10 points) SCORE_______



Judging criteria 4: DIFFICULTY……………………………………………………. Up to 20 points

Difficulty of rendering an image (10 points)

Skill with the tool (10 points)                                                                                 SCORE_______



Judging criteria 5:   CRAFTSMANSHIP …………………………………………..Up to 20 points

Precision of cuts (8 points)                                                                                                               

Completion (8 points)

Presentation (4 points)                                                                                            SCORE___________



TOTAL POINTS                                                                                         TOTAL SCORE____________




Comments from the judge: ____________________________________________________________________






                                               © Susan Miller 2008


Text Box: p.3


The following is meant to further explain the scoring sheet.  It would ideally be available for carvers and spectators reference.



Judging the carvings: A brief explanation of the scoring sheet



Our purposes for judging are:

1. To recognize excellence in carving with awards and prizes for the carver.

2. To improve the standard of Chainsaw sculpture by encouraging and rewarding desirable features of the sculpture created.             

3. To inspire and challenge the artists to do their best work

4. To raise the public awareness and knowledge of chainsaw sculpture.



The Criteria: Judges will judge the following qualities




 What is the artist trying to do? Does the sculpture make a statement or observation? If there is a theme, does it make you think about the theme? Does it give you a new insight or provoke an emotion? Is it beautiful or dramatic, sad or funny? Is this a caricature or does it attempt to portray reality?  Does it focus attention on a specific shape or feature of the wood in an abstract way? Does it have a style of its own or refer to an historic style?  The sculptor may legitimately have any of these intents.  Can you tell what the artist is trying to accomplish?

The piece may speak for itself, especially in a themed competition.  In other cases, a title or artist statement may alert us to the deeper meaning of the piece. (20 points total)




 Sculpture, by definition, is a dimensional art form.  Its elements are form (shape or space), texture, line, value (shadows and light) and sometimes color. The artist arranges these elements to achieve a dynamic or stable balance of shapes, to lead the eye to focal points, to provide emphasis and achieve harmony or unity.  The design should reinforce the artist’s intent.  The sculpture should be interesting from all sides and the various views should relate to each other. The design should be consistent with the intended purpose of the sculpture. (8 points for front view, 4 each for sides and back)




This material is wood, and it is fairly large.  It is not metal or bronze, or clay or plastic.  It has its own characteristics and its own beauty.  Wood has structure and directional strength, it is a living material, it has a certain hardness, varying according to species, and it has a tendency to weather, split or rot.  It is heavy enough to cause injury if it falls on a person.  Has the artist incorporated qualities unique to wood? Has he or she dealt with some of the limitations of the material in terms of the design and craftsmanship? Among other things, look for splits which cause important parts of the carving to fall off, or for pockets where rain water will pool and cause rot. (20 points total)




 We see two kinds of difficulty.  Rendering an image means actually being able to produce the form that you imagine.  The use of the saw may not be especially difficult, but it is hard to carve a perfectly smooth large curve, or identical repeated forms, or a convincing image of a living creature or some other objects that we see in our world.  (Examples might be boats or trucks, or a perfect pair of giant pliers.)


The other aspect of difficulty refers to the expertise involved in skillfully using the tools.  Getting into that tight corner, having to lie on the ground or climb onto a ladder to cut between two or three forms, achieving a certain texture or effect, especially in a tight spot, piercing and hollowing so that light will play just right.

Neither of these kinds of difficulty should be ignored as we look at the sculpture in front of us. (10 points rendering, 10 points use of tool.)



 Precision:  Both design and skill contributes to craftsmanship, especially in the limited time available to the competitor.  The judges will be looking for cuts that meet cleanly.  They will not want to see unsightly gouges or over cuts.  If the piece uses joined parts, these will need to be strong and tight. (8 points)


Completion:  In this day of traveling carvers, completion of the sculpture has become more important.  Though many carvers will do further work at home after the show, the carving to be judged should be completed to a saleable state.  The surface appearance (either textured with a saw or other tool or sanded) should be skillfully done and consistent with the artist’s intent.  The base should be sturdy and should enhance the appearance of the sculpture (8 points)


Presentation:  By now, the carver is tired and covered with sawdust, but the sculpture should be appearing at its best.  Its surroundings should be cleared of debris, the title and the carver’s name or number clearly displayed. (4 points)



We hope you have found it useful to see how these


______________________________________________________________________© Susan Miller 2008



For a more in depth look at this system, a short booklet was printed in 2005, and is available from Susan.

For discussion, please feel free to visit our forum   http://www.network54.com/Forum/249381


Want to try this system?

Contact Susan Miller   [email protected] or (503) 755-2508