FORT SAM HOUSTON TEXAS, (April 13, 2018) - - Get the crafting tools ready and the creative mind flowing, it is almost time for the 2018 Army Arts and Crafts contest.

The 2018 contest, held by the Morale, Welfare and Recreation G9 division of the U.S. Army Installation Management Command, will begin taking entries June 11, 2018 through Aug 13, 2018. The competition is open to active-duty military members and MWR- authorized patrons including retirees, families and Department of the Army civilians. Each participant can enter online up to three pieces of work per category.

The categories include ceramics, digital art, drawings, fiber/textile, glass art, metal and jewelry, mixed media, paintings and wood. Winners for each first place category will receive $300, $200 for second place and $100 for third.

Cpt. Christopher Edmonds, who normally keeps his woodworking hobby private, entered last year's contest after hearing about the wood category. He won first place in 2017.

Edmonds, a cost benefit analyst for the Army Capabilities Integration Center at Fort Lee, Virginia, and an operations officer at the 200th Military Police Command at Fort Meade, Maryland, attributes his interest in wood working to his family heritage.

"[My] interest is hereditary as my patriarchal lineage is littered with carpenters and builders, but I honestly did not get into it myself until my late 20's," Edmonds said. "My wife needed a scrapbooking cabinet to better house her supplies and books which got me off and running."

From permanent change of station to work, Edmonds has been creating art for the past six years as his schedule allows. His inspiration for his winning piece "Infant Changing Table" was his daughter-to-be.

"My wife was pregnant and doing all of the heavy lifting making our daughter. As a father, there were limited things that I could do for her in the womb. I wanted to use the skills I have as a wood worker to make her some furniture that was not just to fill the immediate need, but something that she could pass on to her daughter someday," Edmonds said.

Edmonds enjoys woodworking because of its utility. He enjoy using a piece of rough wood to fill a need in his family.

"Instead of going out and buying something from Ikea, which would be much cheaper, I can build a custom piece that not only fills the required function, but can look beautiful in the process," Edmonds said. "There is no better feeling than when you can put that first coat of finish on a piece and see it come to life, transformed from raw dull wood to something living and colorful."

Contestants who have received a college degree or class credits in the arts or have received professional awards enter as an accomplished artist; those who have not enter as a novice artist.

Among the colorful works of winning art from the 2017 contest is Marie Powell's piece "Here Comes the Sun." Her mosaic tile work won first place for mixed media in the novice division. Powell entered as an MWR patron, her husband is an Army retiree.

Powell who has been making mosaics for 11 year, started while living in Vicenza, Italy, where she took a class. She then taught herself with books and years of practice. She said every time she makes a new piece she learns something new.

The winning work of art displays a bright sun surrounded by shades of blue and the appearance of a compass.

"'Here Comes the Sun' is a special piece, and one that shows my skill at using color, shapes and design after many years of creating mosaics. [It] is one of the best mosaics I have made, and I thought it could be recognized," Powell said. "It is a hand-drawn design using ideas from many photos and the glass tiles I use come in beautiful bright colors perfect for the sun."

Powell enjoys the craft because of its therapeutic qualities.

"Being a mosaic artist is relaxing, and the process itself is always interesting. Even when I am not happy with the result, I am always looking forward to starting again," Powell said.

Powell has entered the contest a total of three times. Among those retuning to the contest is Monica Dahl, spouse of retired Lt. Col David Dahl. She won first and third place in the painting category for the accomplished division in 2017.

Dahl, a veteran painter, also won third place for drawing in 2015, third place and honorable mention for drawing and painting in 2012, third place for drawing and second for painting in 2011.

Dahl's works "Gratitude" and "Retired at Last" landed her first and third place in the 2017 contest. Her inspiration for "Gratitude" came from a previous piece, "Danita's Children."

"Danita started her school, hospital and orphanage in Haiti. This was a photograph of a little girl who came with her father and was so grateful for the lunch they received...that she said a prayer of thanks," Dahl said.

Dahl has been an artist from a young age and said she was interested in art from the time she could hold a crayon. Her interest continued to grow as she got older. She developed a love for creating artwork of animals and then children when she started her own family. She started doing commission pieces once she became an empty nester.

Dahl enjoys the craft because her pieces develop into more than just a picture on a canvas, they have meaning.

"Life is awesome and sacred. Each memory is a special moment in time for all of us. I can take that moment, bring it onto the canvas and keep it there for people to see as a memory that will last a lifetime," Dahl said.

As for aspiring artists, Dahl's advice is to draw all the time, never stop drawing because it is the foundation of all art. She urges people to never give up and never say "I can't do art or draw."

Dahl mentioned that the Army Arts and Crafts contest is very valuable to beginning artists because there is no pressure and it is affordable.

"It is fun and not as heavy in competition as so many other online contests. I wish more eligible artists knew about this and would try it," Dahl said.

June is just around the corner, be sure to check out the contest website for the entry form and rules of the contest.