Ordering a Custom Award
If you wish to have a custom design developed for you, MK Shannon personally works with you to determine the image, the spirit, and the values your company wants portrayed in your award. The creative process begins with an in-depth conversation with renown sculptor, MK Shannon. That discussion gives us insight into your company’s awards program and a vision of how the award will be used. With the concept understood, two hand-sketched drawings are presented to you to select from. The design you select is then fine-tuned. It is at this point in the process that you can more easily make changes and adjustments to the design. Once the final design and size is agreed upon, MK sculpts a model in clay or wax. It usually takes many, many hours to create the actual model perfectly. The sculpted model is then taken to the art foundry where a rubber mold is made around the wax model. This is the first step in casting your awards.
Presenting Your Awards
For twenty-some years, I have created sculpted awards in metal for corporations, foundations, associations, universities, sporting events, and private individuals. You get the picture. I have attended various events where the pieces I have designed were presented. My focus in designing was on the individual recipient and the purpose of the award, what it meant and what it represented.
Recently, while attending a gala dinner awards event, it suddenly dawned on me that the most important aspect of the award was missing entirely. Picture along with me, if you will, what I experienced at that event. As I sat watching, the announcer for the event introduced the founder of the organization to present the awards. The founder made a short speech about the first recipient and then, as if, out of the clear blue sky, an object appeared and was handed to the happy recipient. It was the award! Here is the part where my brain said “huh?” As the artist, I had been paid to create a sculpture especially for this event. I had discussed it with the founder of the organization in whose name it was given. I had discussed it with people in the organization. This was a work of art on my part and it was a work of love born out of the people in the organization that believed in what the purpose and the meaning of the award was to be about. This was a commissioned award. It was not something bought at a trophy shop or something purchased off the shelf.
The Real Meaning of An Award
After this experience, it dawned on me that one of the most important aspects of the development of a commissioned award had been lost, had not been used, or even mentioned. The how and the why, the development of the piece itself was left without mention in the presentation. Let me try to explain by example. If I made an award for you that took months and a good deal of effort and thought, wouldn’t it mean more to you if you understood it? Wouldn’t it also be significant to those who were there to see you being honored? Let’s say I handed you a figure with its arms out stretched and it had no feet. At the base where the feet might have been, there was an open circle emerging at the base of the body. I tell you what a wonderful accomplishment you have made, as I hand you the award, and it looks very beautiful and you feel much honored. That would be one experience similar to the event I witnessed and described, but now for just a moment think of this scenario instead. You arrive at the event. The piece is displayed prominently in the foyer with a vivid message that describes the piece or what it represents. It is there so you can see what will be presented that evening. The evening begins and it comes time for the awards to be presented. They are lined up on a table or on pedestals in view of the audience. There is a beautiful picture of the piece on the TV screens mounted behind the podium. The head of the organization takes the podium and begins to describe the award and says something like this “Tonight we honor those individuals in the film industry who have worked tirelessly on behalf of our organization (Para Olympics) to increase understanding of the importance of Paralympics sports. This piece was commissioned to express that feeling of accomplishment, that sense of glory when you compete and finish. It is that moment when your head is thrown up and your arms are thrown out and you are crossing the finish line! The base of the piece is a circle, that circle represents a wheel chair, that circle is open, because the wheel chair is not limiting. The human spirit can not be held down or penned in by closed doors. You know it is a wheel chair because I’ve told you what it represents, but symbolically it is so much more, it is the human spirit! This is what we have chosen to honor you. And now it is my great privilege to ask Kimberly Franklin to come forward to accept this Challenge Award!”
Spreading the Word
There! Now, do you feel the difference? Now the announcer describes all that Kimberly has done, she says a few words of appreciation and the next award is presented. Now, the recipients and the audience know what they are receiving. Now, they have the opportunity to understand the relationship between the honor of the award and the award itself. All the effort that went into producing the award—I’m talking about the organization’s effort— can be understood and felt. People might go home and when they are talking about the event, they might mention the wonderful award and what it stands for, and when they do that, they are spreading the word of the organization, the type of people they honor and how they honor them. The recipients will go on to tell people who see how they have been honored what the award means. This is what people do! This is how you honor individuals with an award.
The Oscar is an award. It needs no explanation because over the years it has come to be the symbol of excellence within the movie industry. However, when your companies and organizations seek to establish their own “Oscar” it needs explanation to help the message stick; to help people remember and care about what the award represents.
Honoring People Really Matters
The American Eagle, is just a bird. If you understand what it represents, it changes how you feel about it entirely. The beauty, the grace, the power of that bird, gets translated to a people, the American people, and suddenly, we are beautiful, we are full of grace and we are a powerful nation. This is the very element that I have seen go missing in so many events, but I never really paid attention to it myself. My job was to create something meaningful; my job wasn’t to pass that information on to the recipients of the awards or to the audience. This element I speak of is so valuable and so important to the event. It is an integral part of the event, of the moment, that is invaluable and immeasurable. My work is to honor the honored, but more importantly, this element honors the giver and the receiver and that is the way I believe it needs to be for any awards to truly have meaning.
MK Shannon, President/Artist
MK Shannon Awards & Rewards, Inc.