FORT SAM HOUSTON, TEXAS (October 25, 2016) -- More than 150 participants from 44 installations generated 414 entries for the 2016 Army Arts and Crafts Contest.

The contest, ran by U.S. Army Installation Management Command's G9 Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Directorate, is an annual competition that recognizes the talent and originality of active-duty service members, family members, retirees and civilian employees in both novice and accomplished experience levels.

The competition included 10 categories: ceramic art, digital art, drawings, fiber art, glass art, metal art, 2D mixed media, 3D mixed media, paintings and wood art. Cash prizes of $300 (first place), $200 (second place) and $100 (third place) were awarded in each category.

First Sgt. David Sayers, an Army reservist located in Salem, Virginia, competed in the last three Army Arts and Crafts contests. With over 10 years of woodworking experience, he won first, second and third place in the wood art for accomplished artists category. His first-place piece is called "Convertible Walnut Crib," which he built for his daughter Alexis. The crib was built out of walnut from his family farm.

"I wanted to build something that could be part of her life as she grew up and could be used as a crib and a bed," he said. "No matter where she goes, a piece of our family will go with her."

Another experienced artist entered the competition for the first time. Retired Master Sgt. Steve Opet found out about the contest after reading the garrison newspaper at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Opet's Army career spanned over 32 years with two deployments in Iraq. In his free time, he drew black-and-white and color cartoons. Some cartoons depicted military life while others, such as his first-place winning piece entitled "Red Go Round" in the drawing for accomplished artists category, came from photographs he collected.

"I use old photographs as reference, and search for photographs of children, their pets and men and women at work and at play -- conventional subjects drawn in an unconventional way," he said in his artist's statement.

Opet thought the contest is a great opportunity for the military community to interact through the arts and encourage new artists to submit their work.

"It [the contest] does not discourage someone who is just starting out," he said. "It gives new artists a chance to enter their work and build their confidence."

One novice who competed is Scarlett Ayres, a civilian scientist for the U.S. Army Research Laboratory's Survivability/Lethality Analysis Directorate at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. Her piece called "Flower Radiating" won first place in the 3D mixed media for novices category.

Ayres learned about the contest by chance. She found a truck radiator fan on the side of the road and envisioned the item becoming a flower statue. She went to the MWR Arts and Crafts shop at WSMR for help with trimming the damaged blades. Through the encouragement of Al Fuller, the shop manager, she entered the contest.

Ayres claimed that she didn't have an artistic background, but she is an avid "DIY-er" and loves to upcycle items into art. She also said her artwork involves a form of artistic mediation.

"Creating a piece of art causes your attention to shift to a state that allows fresh perspectives and creative insights to flow. Hopefully, this transfers over to other aspects of life," she said. "Artwork teaches problem-solving skills and how to learn from your mistakes. Most artists will try and work through or around the mistakes and usually end up with something really unique. You don't just give up. You persevere."