Friday, October 11, 2013

Quilt Show Chat

While I am certainly not a saint when it comes to keeping my mouth shut over judging disappointment, I am one to value the experience.  If I didn't, there is no way that I would continue making, entering and competing quilts.  There's no way I'd know what to improve or where I am excelling.  Lately, though it definitely seems that quilters have been a tad more vocal about expressing dissatisfaction over judges comments, to the point of completely discarding the comments.
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Back to the show...I am getting such a kick out of reading that some other quilters just trash the comments after the show.  Yup, the garbage can.  I must be some neurotic freak because I have every judges sheet that has ever been given to me, from the very first quilt I entered in 2009, to the latest show a couple weeks ago that I complained about in my last post.  And I have been known to refer back to them.  When I hear that some quilters think that they are mostly useless, it is sad.  The vast majority of them do have information that can help your quilting if you look for it.
They are supposed to be informative and thought provoking.  They also should highlight what the quilter has done well.  They also need to critique areas that need improvement.  It's just common sense.  If all they did was say how good you do this and that, there really wouldn't be much point of getting them, now would there?  It is the areas of negative feedback that are the bone of recent contention.  Some comments, including some made on one of my quilt's critiques, were overly picky when it comes to the chosen colors for the quilt.  I have heard of two other individuals that had quilts at a certain recent quilt show that received similar "I don't like your colors" comments.  To me, this is nit-picking, especially at this level.  This is not Houston.  It is not extremely difficult (or hard at all!) to get juried into this show.  And furthermore, isn't that a subjective choice?  Judging should be more about design, stitching technique, quilting plan and execution, etc.  My remarks were for this quilt.  The red and coral were "not appreciated"...I believe the comment was that they were "jarring" to the otherwise complimentary palate.  Ouch.
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 I, for one, love the bold juxtaposition of color that the bright red star brings to the quilt.  And that coral diamond border helps to draw the viewer's eye in to the star, without being quite as dramatic of a color as the red.  Each color I chose was carefully auditioned.  I wonder if comments like this are made because they think that a quilter haphazardly chooses a fabric.  The red and coral provide the framework for the eye.  I just so disagree, and I would imagine that the others that got color comments from judges would too.  I mean seriously, from the colors in the quilt, is there a better color choice to have used?  It's OK, please tell me if you think so.  Give me technical feedback; it is more constructive and useful.
The comments from judges are (IMHO) invaluable.  They have taught me early in this journey that I made cruddy binding.  I learned that it should be snug, filled, straight, narrow, and that some do prefer bias-cut binding.  From my first show, I took one thing from each review and let that be a focus of an area for future shows that I didn't want to lost as many points on.  Binding was my beginning.  I added making piped bindings to my repertoire, and more recently the scalloped binding.  Top scores, nearly every time.  If a judge had only remarked on the good, these learnings would never have come.
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Some things that judges tell us we just know...like tension should be good and consistent throughout.  This is their subtle way of telling us that you have bad tension somewhere.  It's kind of inevitable, so use matching bobbins, and check the tension frequently.  Bury your thread-tails.  They just have a magnet for finding where you stop and start, and trust me, after 2 years of sending it off in a box, running a lint roller over it each time, anything not buried is bound to come out of where it once was snipped.   I think that judges prefer shorter stitches - just a gleaning from the many sheets I have reviewed. Shorter stitches make curves that much smoother.  Variety of stitching patterns and overall design are a big deal, especially with the machine quilting shows.  But there must be good cohesion of patterns -- an ever-present challenge with many, including me.   They just know when the quilt is a weekend project.  A well thought out design is hard to execute that quickly.  With as many show quilts as I have made in 4 years, I struggle each time to design something that I just love and want to make, with fabrics that I really like, while being mindful of what a judge may say.  This should not be read "she makes quilts with only the judge in mind".  I do ultimately make what I love, but I do think about how both judges and viewers might see it.  Twelve to 18 months of effort is just too much to make something that won't show well also.  It is a gentle balancing act.
My concluding comments are this.  Don't let the comments of judges suck your style and personality from what you make.  Let them guide you to make something that may be technically better, whether you plan to show it or not.  Let the comments tell you that darker colors make a better outer border than paler shades. Lighter and less printed backgrounds will show off the quilting better than darker and busier.  Some threads are more appropriate for denser quilting.  Their comments are only intended to make us better and more conscientious quilters.  They aren't a personal attack.

9 comments:

Helen Rosenberger said...

Awesome blog!

Helen Rosenberger said...

Perfect blog!

Margie Kraft said...

Well said Margaret. Sometimes we just need to buck up and take the constructive criticism and admit that yes, we could have done better. Thank you!

Sewing Junkie said...

Well put. You have commented when a quilt is entered in a different show that the comments on your work is different. Constructive comments are beneficial. It is an opinion and they are not "The Quilt Police" Chris

Janet Ann said...

Very well said! I agree whole heartedly, use judges comments to improve your work. I also have kept every judges comment sheet! And will go back and read them just to refresh what I need to work on most.

Karen said...

Thank you Margaret... Your quilts are beautiful from this point if view....

Tami @ Lemon Tree Tales said...

Great post Margaret! I remember getting constructive criticism from my classmates and teachers in art school. Sometimes it may hurt to hear what's wrong but when you take a step back you realize, as you said, that it's all about learning how and where you can improve your artwork. One of these days I'll have to get to a show to see one of your big quilts in person. In the meantime I'm working on a piece that I want to submit to a show mainly to see what I can do better. :-)

Elsie Campbell said...

The judge doesn't have to live with my quilt. I do! I've learned so much from judging comments, and I've learned that there are some that I can simply disregard, because I chose to use that color thread, or that kind of fabric because I LIKE it that way. I learned what I must do well from the positive critiques, and I learned what I needed to learn more about. I took workshops on the things I needed to do better, and read every book out there, and then practiced those techniques that I needed to improve until I was satisfied with my work. You wrote an excellent article, well-balanced in your point of view, and I appreciated much what you have to say. Elsie M. Campbell

LynCC said...

Yeah - color is too subjective to be a valid place for judge criticism unless they're talking about problems like failed low-volume combinations or unintended pure craziness that drives the eye insane (although I suppose those are design issues more than color issues). I'm still not seeing any problem with the red and coral choices. . . heh! It's good to hear a gentle reminder for folks to glean the helpful bits out of the critical comments. As you say - they can help us improve!