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.
Judges are human, unfortunately. LOL They have off/bad days too and ultimately, it just depends on how their day is going when they get to your piece. Some judges just want to watch the world burn. It is the rare judge that understand everything you wanted to say with your piece.
I have gotten back judges comments that read like a laundry list of things they would change if THEY had designed the piece. The problem is, that is not critique – that is opinion. I have only ever gotten 1 or 2 judging sheets back from a competition where the judge gave a professional, honest critique. Considering that I’ve sent a ton of garments to competitions, that really doesn’t really seem like a decent track record.
You roll your dice and keep your fingers crossed when something is sent to a competition; to me, that’s part of the fun. There is something I heard a long time ago that I try to live by: Rejection is good for the ego. I can’t say that I’m not sometimes hurt by people’s comments, but really, it’s up to me to pick and choose what they suggest to improve.
Thank you Gilbert! Very interesting read and experience, so different from mine. I am beginning to think that as one’s work becomes less mainstream and more avant garde, judges comments are less likely to be useful. Not that you’re out of the box or anything-LOL!
Barbara Black says
Excellent points, Jenny! Enter a judged show to learn, try to understand what the judge is saying, agree or not, move on. The best advice I got or give about judging: A judge can’t tell you anything about your quilt, that if you are honest, you don’t already know.
I recently had one of my most favorite quilts judged and I didn’t agree with the comments or how it placed in the show. Oh, well, that’s the way it goes sometimes. Moving on….
Yes Barbara! I’m not usually surprised any more but it does let me know that it’s important to others, kinda reinforces my thoughts on the piece. Ouch-a favorite quilt with sketchy comments. Yes, move on! Thank you for the comment.
Betty Jo Tatum says
Judge comments are one thing. The rating points where they choose are another. I recently had my favorite quilt…the hardest quilt I ever made…given a 2 out of 4 on difficulty, use of color, impact, etc. The comments weren’t horrible, but the points seemed off to a degree I had to wonder if she saw the same quilt I did. I was especially puzzled by the color rating. In the past, I’ve had judges comments come back with all praise…words like “amazing, magnificent” and no negatives, so why it didn’t even get an honorable mention was a puzzle for me. My quilts almost always get judged in now but seldom ribbon, so I now enter mostly just to have the chance to show my quilts. It’s disappointing, but now I compete with myself…trying to get the next quilt better than the last. And I LOVE making show quilts. So I won’t quit despite my mid-level quilter position. :D
YES! The case where I was pummeled was the point system. And I agree, you can’t live for the ribbons or prizes or the judge’s accolades. I never expect to ribbon but usually can tell whether a quilt will be juried in. I guess I’m constantly in the “bless her heart” category! It’s all about the love of making. Thank you for the comments Betty Jo!
Sylvia Earl says
Jenny, I agree with you about judging. Asking a friend to critique my work does not get me the information I need to improve. A friend will tell me it’s wonderful and may not tell me the harsh things I need to know. An impartial judge will not be concerned about hurting my feelings. Like you, I may not agree with the comments, but always feel it was worth the experience.
Thanks Sylvia-appreciate your input here. We get over our feelings and move on!
Sandy Curran says
Your quilting is so wonderful, if I were judging I wouldn’t notice fabric fading either!
On judging, I’ve had the same quilt rejected from one show (Road to Ca) and win best wall quilt in another (Pacific International). I often have a quilt completely overlooked in one show and win a major award in another. Judges are human and have their personal preferences. Some have a lot more experience than others, and it shows. Some learned to judge when only technical skill mattered and they have no training in design or art. And in my somewhat prejudiced opinion some just have better taste than others.
Sandy-surprised that your work was rejected from Road! No one is doing what you do so well. Yes, judges are going to have a viewpoint but you sure would think that they would try to be impartial! Thanks for your comment.
I quilt for my own pleasure and don’t aspire to anything higher. I’ve had people tell me over & over that I should enter pieces in shows, but that’s not what I quilt for. However, I recently listened to an interview that Cindy Needham did where she said you should enter your quilts to share, not to win. I like that philosophy. I’ve done that in local shows. Maybe some day I’ll do that for the bigger shows.
Patty I agree. I don ‘t do it for the ribbons but I love what I do and want to get better. That’s why I say “Take away ribbons and accolades and I’ll still want my quilts judged.” Pleasure and joy are important! I wish more people shared their joy by showing their work.
One thing I didn’t say above is that I wish more beginning quilters would show. It was SO encouraging to me when I first started quilting and would see beginner quilts among the masterpieces at our guild show. Thanks for your comment.
Thank you, Barbara, for the comment about being honest with yourself. I’ve encouraged people to write down their own “judges’ comments” for their quilts when they enter them in a show. You really do know where all of the ‘warts’ are. You also know the best things about your work. After the judging compare your comments to the judges. You’ll be surprised at what they missed and what they saw. You cannot look through the judges’ eyes and see exactly what they see. As judges we have to keep asking ourselves if we are redesigning/remaking (a no-no) or giving an honest critique, positive and negative. At times the ‘artist/judge’ gets carried away in this area.
Great idea Helen. I do that but never actually wrote them down for comparison. Thank you for your remarks-I wanted a judge’s viewpoint!
About the ‘technical’ on the lovely purple ensemble: I wonder if the model was your size?
Carol Mcdowell says
First your work it totally amazing and I’ll bet your willingness to accept constructive criticism has had a big part in that. Being judged is a hard thing to do and not all judges do it very well but I admire you for being able to take what they say and learn from it. Congratulations on your show pieces.
I appreciate your comments Carol-thank you! My little secret is I go by myself to read the comments, then digest them, the emerge all composed.
I’ve been disappointed at the lack of any comments on some pieces I entered in regional/national shows. I have gotten comments on entries in local quilt shows. Generally, those haven’t told me anything about my work I didn’t already know. It may be that my work is becoming so different from traditional quilting that the judges are stumped about what to look for/comment on.
I’ve been a scribe at my guild’s quilt shows and recommend it as a learning experience for what show judges look at/for. The better judges always find something positive to say about every entry and put negative comments in tactful terms.
Joanna I get hacked when the judge’s comments are sparse. I got into Paducah once and got 17 words of comments-all of it “throw away” stuff, not specific enough to be useful.
At PIQF a garment I made got all positive comments and no ribbon. I did not expect a ribbon, but if it didn’t ribbon then surely there was room for improvement!
I see from the other comments both here and on Facebook that I do think that the farther you are from traditional, the less likely you are to get positive comments and the less likely you are to get useful tips for improving.
This has been an interesting and enlightening discussion on judging. Thank you for sharing your experience and perspective Joanna!
LeeAnna Paylor says
how refreshing!! Great post on the whole shebang. Funny what the camera picks up that the eye doesn’t… I’ll bet the blue streaks are almost invisible to your eye. I notice more since I started blogging. I’m trying to jump back in the game after some time off from entering shows. It sure has gotten expensive to show work! Then there is the appraisals, the insurance, the shipping, etc.
LeeAnna Paylor lapaylor.blogspot.com
Yes it is burdensome to enter LeeAnna. I do think it’s worth it though! Good luck to you! THank you for your comments.
Rebecca Grace says
What an interesting topic! First of all, Jenny, I can tell you EXACTLY why the judges didn’t mind those discolored spots from the spray basting on Vintage Rose. To my eye, they actually ADD to the quilt by giving it an aged appearance, and by naming it “VINTAGE Rose” there is no reason for anyone to think you didn’t create that aged effect deliberately. The bleeding on Mom’s Lily Bed, although not what you intended, COULD also have been intentional as well. A lot of batik and hand dyed fabrics out there have that same streaky, mottled look to them, and again, it worked with the style of that quilt. If you had made a very traditional red and white Hawaiian quilt and the red cotton bled all over the white, it would be an obvious disaster, but when you have those bright silks and the dyes run a little on a quilt with a more contemporary vibe, sometimes it comes out like a very happy accident.
Now, I am a beginner who has never entered anything in a show. I have made eleven quilts now (which amazed me when I counted — I would have guessed that I had only made six) and of those, five were immediately given away when they were finished because they were gifts, one was immediately given away because it was a school fundraiser quilt, and the other ones are in use in my house. Two of them are on my sons’ beds, one is a small baby quilt that has been dragged around to picnics, the one that used to be on my oldest son’s bed now has holes chewed into the binding, and the one I made for my husband spends half its time on the sofa and the other half on the floor. In my opinion, nothing I have ever made has ever been good enough to be entered into a show. I never see anything made by beginners in shows, and the work that I do see in shows is so intimidating that I don’t even want to admit to people that I make quilts, too, because someone might ask to see one of them and then I’d have to die of embarrassment!
Here is what I think of quilt shows: it’s like watching the Miss America pageant. You get to see these impossibly perfect beauties with all of their perfect hairdos and makeup and gorgeous gowns, and you get to see what the latest fashion trends are and root for your favorites to win. But NO WAY IN HELL will I join the contestants on stage for the swimsuit competition! ;-)
Oh Rebecca you are too funny! Your comments are interesting-it never occurred to me that Vintage Rose’s spots might look “vintage”!
I have a new word for you that I got from someone else’s blog-wish I remembered whose blog it was: “doomspiration”. Doomspiration is the feeling you get when you visit a show and are both inspired and humbled-isn’t that a great term?
But I disagree with the predicament of beginning quilters. Beginners do show at my local show and I love it! I remember when I first started, I needed to see that beginning work was beautiful also. I was just as inspired by the beginners as I was the more experienced quilters.
Your work is beautiful and the class quilt you made is the coolest class quilt I have seen. I would encourage you to show-you learn a lot from having your work hang with others. You will see what needs improvement but you will also see that some things you do is actually quite good!