Before I get into what I intend to say in this post, let me toot my own horn.
I found out this morning that my quilt "Meet Me at Giverny" (shown below) has not only won first place in it's category at the NQA quilt show in Columbus, OH, but...it also won the best track-mounted quilting award. I am completely shocked and blown away by BOTH of these awards. I got notification early this morning from Sherry Reynolds (many of you know of her from her America quilt, which has won everything in sight as well as been on the cover of Quilter's Newsletter magazine) that my quilt had taken 1st, and another ribbon, but she didn't tell me which quilt it was! I really figured it was Sea Glass. So funny. Just recently, I was told it was the Giverny quilt. Sometimes its an interesting, and not always patient process to unravel the results of quilt shows when you are not there. Would be nice if they'd just call or email, eh?! ...and I still don't know how Sea Glass did. Sherry has pictures to email me when she gets home.
If you are a quilter that creates quilts for quilt shows, then surely you will relate to this post. The whole process of making a quilt, sending it to a show, then patiently (or not so patiently) waiting for the process of having it judged and getting the results, etc can send a person through a complete ringer of emotions. Obviously, only a few quilts end up receiving ribbons, but somehow we endure the process just for that possibility. And it yields different results every time.
I am learning that is just the way that subjective events are. As much as we want quilt shows to be purely about the "facts", it is not the case. If you send the same quilt to 10 different quilt shows, you'll be surprised how differently it will come out. I have seen how traditional quilts do better in certain parts of the country, and how some shows seem to favor more arty quilts. Before I sent this quilt to its first show this year, I was fairly confident that it would be middle of the pack. It's very much to my taste, but lacks applique, and my quilting is monochromatic, maybe not as complicated as other people do. My machine is hand guided so every bit is unique - good or bad. I thought it was not my best binding, and that the outer edge seemed to have a tendency to ruffle just a bit more than my other quilts. Of course I am always my worst critic, but that is natural.
Turns out, the quilt took 2nd place in its first show, and having spent lots of time on the show floor, I heard plenty of great and complimentary comments. I was overjoyed, and figured I just didn't know what a judge looked for! It went on to MQS, it's 2nd show. MQS was big this year, and was stacked with so many great quilts. It seemed daunting to read the good quilter's names that sent quilts this year. My quilt only came home with a Teacher's ribbon. But the judges comments were what came as a total shock. They liked the binding and the hand painting. But they clearly disliked and thought inappropriate my choice of the Stonehenge fabrics, stating that the mottled appearance made seeing the quilting difficult. Most of the quilting is in gold Glide, and I thought it showed quite nicely. Opinions...Judges are not wrong, but it's obvious that their personal tastes can and do affect how quilts are judged. There's a subjective part to the scores - how they rate the overall appeal of the fabrics/design. There will always be winning show quilts that I really detest.
So, where does this leave me? or you if you like to make show quilts? ... Follow your heart. Make what makes you happy. Incorporate small bits of each critique into your next quilt without taking it all completely to heart. As soon as I got the MQS critiques, I bought 7 yards of more Stonehenge fabric and immediately started on another quilt. Yup...in pretty mottled fabrics! (big grins!). My ego may have been punched a bit by the comments, but I knew well enough what I like and needed to follow through with that. I will be a better quilter because I respect the comments of the judges, and I like to know what they like. It helps me to choose one thing to try to do better next time.
I anxiously await the NQA judges comments. Though it's great to know what judges don't like, I find it more comforting to know the things that they think I have done well. Show quilting can be an obsessive hobby. Learn from it, have fun, and know that the best end result is that others can enjoy what you already love.