'Battle of the Rings' set to kick off in May, Edinboro involved in selecting competitors

Category:  The Arts
Tuesday, April 6th, 2021 at 5:22 PM
'Battle of the Rings' set to kick off in May, Edinboro involved in selecting competitors by Hazel Modlin
Contributed Photo

This year marks the second annual Battle of the Rings, a contest only the most resilient and worthy metalsmiths may enter. Armed with simply their skills and tools, they must forge their unique rings out of any material of their choosing, while ensuring that they stick within the contest’s parameters. 

The event is a worldwide, “head-to-head, tournament style, single-elimination juried ring competition and virtual event with a top prize of $500,” according to the official website for Danaca Design, the studio responsible for hosting the contest. Edinboro University has a hand in picking the competitors, as Professor Cappy Counard is one of the two judges.

The deadline for entries was March 31, and the rings will be pitted against each other from May 1-28. A suggested entry fee of $5-$25 was required.

Last year, Dana Cassara — a metalsmith from Seattle — started the tournament after years of watching a ceramics studio nearby compete in an annual “Mug Madness.” She explained that, “it’s like March Madness, a bracketed competition with coffee mugs.” She thought the idea was unique and had been interested in pursuing a similar contest with jewelry, but she didn’t have time to act on it until the pandemic hit. “I just thought that this is something we could do that would still be community engagement.” 

Cassara chose rings because they’re a more challenging type of jewelry to sell. She said, “people love rings in a really intimate way, but they’re kind of hard to sell because they have to fit people.” 

Last year, 120 ring submissions competed for a total of 64 possible slots in the head-to-head segment of the battle. This year, they had 166 entries, with all being shown on the Danaca Design Instagram account. They're now in the stage of selecting the 64 competitors. Last year’s winner was Karen Keller.

There are no age or career specifications limiting entries. But as Cassara explained, “The price limit (capped at $1,200) will probably cut some people out who just aren’t willing to produce a ring in that price range, but it’s not super cheap.” Every ring entered must be put up for sale, and the profits will be split 50/50 between the artist and Danaca Design. The rings submitted have to fit a finger size of 5-10, and they cannot exceed 4x4x4 inches, and most of the restrictions placed on the rings are to keep them wearable. 

There are two judges: Kirk Lang — a goldsmith based in Seattle — and Counard — a professor of metals and jewelry at Edinboro. Counard explained the jurying process in an interview, along with the fun tournament twist. “We are going to look at [the submissions] separately, and then we’re going to get together to decide on 64 rings.” Each juror will then claim rings for their respective “teams,” which have been named the “mandrels” and the “shanks” after different ring-related tools and parts.

Each team consists of 32 rings. Then, the “battle” part begins. Every day, starting May 1, one ring from each team will be posted on the Instagram account. “Basically, they put up two rings, one from each team, and then the public judges which ring wins for that day,” said Counard. “So, it’s this competition that just keeps narrowing down to see which is considered the best ring.” The competition will take place over a month, and the final contest is scheduled for May 28. 

Counard explained that she was chosen as a judge because she and Cassara know each other professionally. “We met each other through SNAG (Society of North American Goldsmiths) conferences, so she knows my work,” she said.

Counard admitted that there are a couple of Edinboro University students applying to the competition, but Cassara has a system that eliminates any possible bias. “There will be no names attached to the rings; the jurors will only see the materials, the title of the ring, the dimensions of the ring, and the statement about the ring, so they won’t see a statement about the artist,” she said.

The Battle of the Rings provides aspiring metal- and jewelry-smiths with an opportunity to showcase their work, and Counard parted with the following statement: “It’s just a fun competition … it gives the opportunity for these artists to sell their work and get their work out there. It’s something fun for people to look forward to.” 

Hazel Modlin is the Executive Editor for The Spectator. She can be reached at edinboro.spectator@gmail.com.

Tags: edinboro art

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