I know many quilters are reluctant to have their work judged. I want to actually encourage you to consider having your work judged. Some quilters will bristle at this, but I have found that I have learned a lot from having my work judged.
There is a belief by some that judges are evil Quilt Police whose job it is to squish self expression. And most of us have experienced or heard stories about quilts that have been unfairly judged. And sometimes you look at a quilt show and wonder, “How did that quilt place higher than this one?” etc.
Let me walk you through my judging experiences and perhaps you will see my point:
This poor little jacket was the first thing I ever had judged and my experience was AWFUL! The judge absolutely pummeled my work. And this was just for a little Wearable Art Challenge in my local guild. I had just gotten my needle felting machine and wanted to needle felt the world.
I look at this now and see lots of design issues, but my technical skill in construction and use of the needle felter were good. And my garment was certainly…..unique! She didn’t like anything about it and I felt like she was telling me to find a hole to hide in.
BUT, everything she said was actually true! She certainly could have said it better.
Now here’s where you have to decide how you are going to react. Of course my first reaction was shame, discouragement and anger. But then I quickly realized that this was not the last word on my work. And I knew that this was not the norm for judging.
After my recovery, I just kept on working and improving. And you know what? Two years later I was juried into Pacific International Quilt Festival and I ribboned on my first try! And in both of the following two years I had garments juried into the Houston International Quilt Festival. So there!
The point is that I didn’t let one bad judging experience keep me down.
So “Feathered Abundance” was my first item to be juried into Houston. I was over the moon. Before I sent it off I self-assessed. I decided that my strengths were my tailoring skills and my quilting.
When I got my garment back, I opened up the judges’ comments and they dinged me on technical skills AND my quilting! I was shocked. I put that judging sheet down and thought “What does she know”?
To my surprise there was another judging sheet and she dinged me on the same thing! So I thought, this is ridiculous and threw that sheet down. And wouldn’t you know it, there was a third judge’s sheet and she dinged me too!
After I got over myself I realized that the Take Away Moment was: If you’re going to be in Houston, you gotta up your game girl!”
And I did. The next year my garment was judged much more favorably. Lesson taken.
Now “Golden Moments” was judged at my local quilt show, then Houston and then in Paducah. It received pretty favorable reviews at my local show and in Houston. But the Paducah judge said “Center is distracting”. Huh?
I asked my judging friend Helen Hardwick to interpret that for me and she said that the eye just rests there and doesn’t move around the quilt. Oh, I get that. Okay, lesson learned.
Now sometimes, it’s kind of funny-the judge will miss something that you thought was glaring:
This piece, “Vintage Rose” was judged several times.
No one noticed the spray baste stains that just shouted to me!
This is when I learned that you don’t spray baste anything with silk content.
“Mom’s Lily Bed” bled. I turned my world upside down trying to get the bleeding out but it wouldn’t budge. I almost did not send it in even though it juried into Pacific International Quilt Festival.
It also was judged several times and nary a comment on the bleeding. It went on to win runner up, Best of Show at PIQF-who knew?
Oh my, “If Diane Met Karen” was fraught with problems and never received any judge’s comments about them. Do you see the long fade lines running the vertical length of the center section? I used discounted dupioni and never noticed this until it was hanging in show. The judges did not notice either.
If you look for them, you will see rows of horizontal wrinkles where for some inexplicable reason, my water soluble basting left a permanent crease in the silk. I’ve used this method since then and never had that problem again. Sigh.
I think you can see it in this photo a lot better.
So I hope you can see my main points:
I learned a lot about what I need to improve upon by having my work judged.
The judges don’t always notice what you see as glaring issues.
Even if you get a “bad” judge, do not let that deter you!
I have not yet had a judge’s comment that I disagreed with. For some comments I thought “I don’t care about that and I choose to ignore the advice”. On most, I took their advice. I am still in control of my own art whether it’s judged or not.
The work of a judge must be difficult. Imagine judging a hundred quilts and not making a mistake or two! In the final analysis, I am happy to have my work judged, grateful for the opportunity to have an unbiased assessment of my work.
Take away ribbons and accolades and I’ll still want my quilts judged.
So what do YOU think? Any judges thoughts? I know some of you will disagree!
PS-I’ll be linking this up with Nina-Marie’s Off-the-Wall-Friday-there are lots of good links there. It’s always fun to check them out.