SAN ANTONIO (June 1, 2015) -- The 2015 Army Arts and Crafts Contest is open through July 31 for Morale, Welfare and Recreation, also known as MWR, artisans and craftspeople to submit their handiwork.

The Army Arts and Crafts Contest is an annual, juried competition of artwork for novice and accomplished artists, but MWR arts and crafts workshops are open year-round on most installations.

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Lisa Stansbury, a former contest winner, used arts and crafts to help overcome the anxiety of returning home from deployment.

"Soldiers are predominantly impatient people, especially when it comes to procrastination," Stansbury said. "When we come home from war, it's even more pronounced, and we need help transitioning back into society. Sometimes we need to find things to soothe and calm our spirits. Some Soldiers take up fishing, some write, others go to therapy - all of which demand our patience - or it won't work."

Stansbury took up painting, with glass, at Camp Red Cloud, South Korea, and her "Old Glory" earned first-place honors in the 2013 contest.

"Initially, I thought that the deployment changed me forever, and not in a good way," she said. "Looking back, the fact that the deployment led me to working with glass, it did change me forever. Everything happens for a reason, and I'm so grateful for that change and new passion in my life."

Myrna Hawkins was a regular in the contest for several years.

"Ceramics is a great stress reliever," said Hawkins, whose "African Influence" placed first in the accomplished metals and jewelry category and "The Mask" earned runner-up honors in mixed media 3-D in the 2007 contest. "When you put your hand in the clay and start to work, a peace just seems to come over you. I can't quite explain, but it's wonderful."

An Army MWR employee, in the embroidery section of the arts and crafts shop on Fort Hood, Texas, urged Hawkins to enter the contest.

"I really am amazed each time I win anything, because if someone would have asked me a few years ago if I would be doing what I am right now, I would probably say 'no,'" said Hawkins, who later majored in fine arts at the University of Mary Harden-Baylor. "If I couldn't be creative, I don't know what I would do. Get dirty! Work in clay! It's awesome!"

This year, Army arts and crafts managers will host local contests, assist patrons in preparing their contest submission photos, and forward the photos for regional and final competition. The contest is open to MWR patrons from all branches of the U.S. military.

Where feasible, the Army will host regional competitions, and forward winning entries for judging at the Army-wide level. Submissions, to the region and Department of Army levels, will be digital .jpg images of the work submitted via the web through the MWR website.

The contest entries will be judged in two classes. Group I, or novice, is for individuals, whose art skills have not been gained in formal education leading to college credit or a college degree. Group II, or accomplished, is for individuals, who have gained skills and knowledge through formal courses leading to credit in college or art schools, and those, who have received awards in professional competitions or Army art contests.

The artworks must be entered in one of the following categories:

Ceramic art: Inorganic and nonmetallic materials, which include items like tiles, plates, vases, sculptures, etc., and often covered in decorative stains, glazes, etc.

Digital art: Artistic work or practice, which uses digital technology as an essential part of the creative/presentation process (digitally-altered photographs should be entered in the 2015 Army digital photography contest in October).

Drawings: Instruments may include: graphite pencils, pen and ink, markers, wax color pencils, crayons, charcoal, chalk and pastels, etc.

Fiber art: Refers to art, whose material consists of fiber and other components, such as fabric or yarn, focusing on the materials and on the manual labor.

Glass art: Non-crystalline solid material used to create glass art, which may include vases, sculpture, glass tile mosaics, ornaments, stained glass, fused glass, jewelry, etc.

Metal art: The process of working predominantly with metal to create a wide range of work from sculptures, figurines, kinetic works, metal jewelry, etc.

Mixed media 2D: More than one medium employed and combines various traditionally distinct types of art media, i.e., a work on canvas, which combines paint, ink and collage.

Mixed media 3D: More than one medium, anything that can be handled, touched or perceived to be three dimensional - think about using recycled/re-purposed objects.

Paintings: Applying paint, pigment, color or other medium (acrylic, oil, ink, gouache, fresco) to a surface using airbrush, brushes, knives, sponges, etc.

Wood art: Wood used in forms of sculpture, craft, construction and decoration, for example: furniture, carvings, marquetry, musical instruments, toys, etc.

Each contestant can enter, as many as three pieces per category, at the garrison level. All submissions must be an MWR authorized patron's original work completed since July 1, 2014. Previous contest entries are not eligible. Works done on official duty, illustrations, training aids or similar assignments are ineligible, but contestants should feel free to allow their military experiences to influence their work.

David Sohl earned first-place honors in the 2013 accomplished artists' mixed media category with "Goodbye U.S. Army Heidelberg."

"When I decided to create this sculpture, I wanted to ensure that I captured the longstanding and enduring relationship between the United States and Germany," Sohl said. "I wanted everything to be authentic, so the handshake in the center of the sculpture was done with a mold of my hand and the hand of an American friend of mine, who has worked in Germany as a Soldier and now as a civilian."

Sohl, however, could not resist getting artsy with his craft.

"The American flag is not a literal representation because I wanted to create a work of art that is unique and not representative of a poster or photo," he said. "The idea is I wanted to show the sadness of the Americans leaving Heidelberg after all of these years. I chose the patina blue because not only does blue represent sadness, but the patina gives it a unique and special look."

As an artisan, quite naturally, Sohl thrust great thought into his hue of blue and the durability of bronze.

"For me, Americans in Heidelberg was something special," he said. "The stars and stripes of the flag are in the patina blue because one of the colloquial names of the U.S. flag is the 'Stars and Stripes' and I really wanted those parts of the flag to stand out, because the stars and stripes are the essence of the flag and all it stands for. Lastly, I chose bronze because it is a material that endures, like the friendship between Germany and the United States."

For this year's contest, entries will be accepted until July 31. Department of the Army-level judging will take place in August and the results should be available in September, when a gallery of winners are scheduled to be posted online.