I will have 2 blog posts this week, this one about judging, and another about my week (which will be delayed).
I am excited to post these comments by Deborah Boschert who judged this year’s Houston show along with Charlotte Angotti and Sharon K. Stone. All 3 are accomplished artists and very well-seasoned experts in quilting, each with a different area of expertise. This year’s Winner’s List is posted here.
Deborah wrote about her experiences and posted her thoughts in a private Studio Art Quilt Associates FaceBook page. I received her permission to share her words.
This is the best, most comprehensive article on judging that I have read. Enjoy and learn:
“I had the pleasure of judging the 2023 International Quilt Festival Judged show. It was so exciting to see lots of SAQA members quilts in the collection!
I know several of you are interested in the judging process, so I gathered some experiences and thoughts. It’s long. Feel free to skip over this entirely, but if you’re interested … here you go.
We judged 218 quilts in seven categories. These were selected by a three-person panel who selected these quilts from the entry pool of 442 quilts.
We had two main jobs. First, to pick the award winners: best of show, five master awards, first, second and third in each category and our judges choices. Second, to fill out the Judges Critique form for each of the quilts.
We started judging each category with the Quilts Inc staff holding up each quilt in front of us. We divided the category into two sections: potential award winners and non-award winners. Then we went through each non-award winner and filled out the critique forms. Then we went through the potential award winners, filled out the critique forms and selected about five or six that were in the top for that category. Then the three judges reviewed those top quilts and put them in order from 1st to 6th. We repeated that process for all seven categories. After we’d been through all seven categories, we selected the best of show from the 1st place winners. We then selected the five master awards. As quilts were pulled for these major awards, the other quilts in the categories moved up to fill their spots finalizing the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place in each category. Then we selected our Judges Choice winners. The process took three full days.
IQF has a policy in place that a quilt can only be awarded one ribbon. I really like this format and I love that we could spread so many awards out over so many fantastic quilts.
At any point in our review, we could ask for details from the entry form (other than the artists name). We often asked about source material (photos, patterns, classes, etc), technique and artist statement.
We could also ask for the quilt to be held up or to look at a picture of the whole quilt. Looking at a quilt up close on a table is different than looking it up close hanging, is different than looking at it hanging from far away, is different than looking at a picture of the overall quilt. With the time allowed, we tried to see each quilt as fully as possible.
Yes, we sometimes looked at the back. Looking at the back can tell you more about how the quilt was constructed and can indicate attention to detail, intention of the process and sometimes there’s something special and surprising on the back.
I loved working with Karen Stone and Charlotte Angotti. We had great conversations, shared opinions, pointed out details, asked questions, and listened carefully to each other. We each brought different ideas and experiences to the job and I learned so much from each of them.
The Quilts Inc staff masterfully manages the judging process by organizing every quilt, category, judging sheet and entry info. Each quilt is handled with care and respect and every single person there LOVES quilts.
The Judged Show at the International Quilt Festival is a competition. This is obvious, but I have a fuller understanding of this reality having had the experience of judging. This particular show is known for exhibiting excellent work and giving away significant prize money — $52,500 in total. Attention to detail, technical mastery, artistic vision, and visual impact must all be very very strong for a work to rise to the top. But also, it’s subjective and a different set of judges could make different choices.
Sometimes a quilt made a strong positive impact upon first viewing and then upon closer inspection the details didn’t live up to the first impression. Sometimes first viewing was positive but not particularly strong then upon closer viewing I was totally enamored and found the quilt much stronger.
Well thought out beautifully executed details make a work rise to the top.
There were many absolutely stunning quilts that did not receive awards.
There is absolutely not enough time to make as many comments on each quilt as we might like or as much as the quilter might like. We work the format of the judging sheet which sometimes is very helpful and appropriate and sometimes doesn’t apply as well as we’d like for a particular quilt.
I really wanted to honor, respect and celebrate the work of every single quilt by making the critique sheet thoughtful and positive.
If a quilter is looking for a holistic, full, dedicated, thoughtful analysis or critique of a particular quilt or their body of work, the judges critique sheet from a show may be one component but can’t possibly be a complete review. (And each sheet is just the opinion of one person.)
I believe a person who has a depth of experience in the quilt world can make an excellent judge. This experience may be in quilt making, winning awards, academic study, publishing, leadership in quilt organizations, entrepreneurship, or many other areas. A team of judges with a variety of experiences makes for a holistic team that can work together to choose worthy winners.
I’ve seen all 218 quilts in up close detail and I’m still excited to see them again at Festival in November. Will I see you there?
It’s not easy being a judge! Can you imagine how hard it would be to choose winners? I hope you get a chance to see these quilts; the Houston show is the largest in the world. It is such a joy to see the Houston show in person, either this year or in the future. It’s worth it!
I will share this on: