This post is a bit of a horn tooting. I am happy to share my successes, and techniques that I feel readers can benefit from. But generally speaking, I don't just post to say "hey, look what I did". This is different though. I have news of which I am immensely proud, and I really want to share it.
NQA has just about the nicest ribbons in the business!
This week, my quilt Bouquet Royale, was awarded the Masterpiece Quilt Award by the NQA (National Quilting Association). If you are unfamiliar with this award, here is some information. There are 29 other quilts that have been awarded this distinctive honor since 1980. It is difficult to look at this list of quilters and see myself among the company of quilters like Diane Gaudinski, Sharon Schamber, or Linda Roy. It is very surreal. Earning this comes as a tremendous surprise to me -- so surprised in fact, that I started a post a day ago that I was going to share after the news of my NOT getting the award was known. Guess the surprise is on me.
I've decided not to delete the text. Here's what I wrote.
..written the day before the big news arrived
So here's what happened. Friday, in early April, while I was at MQX. I was getting ready for teaching a class when I received a text message from NQA judge Scott Murkin. He was one of 3 judges at the MQX show.
This post is one that I could very well just not make. To not say anything about this day would not alter anything for anybody. I doubt anybody knows that I have a quilt at NQA, and that it is being judged for a really big award, so to not say anything would not reveal anything. It would not announce "I failed". But to let this event in my life and career just secretly sneak by is treating it as though it never really happened, and it has. My Bouquet Royale quilt was judged along with a few others for the Masterpiece award. It did not get it, though. I never really expected that it would get it, so I'm not all that surprised to hear the news. I'm delighted to have been nominated, but that is where my elation gets to end for now. I teach my kids to have courage to take the good with the bad, so long as they give each event their best effort, so that is the approach I am taking. They are told "Those who try to do something and fail are infinitely better than those who try to do nothing and succeed". I made this quilt with every ounce of Me. It is a creative use of fabrics I love, bolder designs, and some daring chances on applique, quilting and binding. It is a good quilt, of that I am certain. It's just not a Masterpiece. That is ok, Am I sad?...certainly. And a touch disappointed. I know what this day would have meant had circumstances been different. The reality, though, is that I couldn't be happier, or prouder. A judge that I trust nominated a quilt that I made for the Masterpiece Award process. Does anybody really know what that means?!? It gives me shivers to type it. The Masterpiece Award is like the pinnacle of a quilter's resume. There are 29 of these awards that have been given since 1980 - only 29 quilts have achieved this status. OK, yes, probably many more, but 29 of the many which have actually been judged, earned it. I was one of the many that were nominated, and were allowed to have a quilt go through a 2 hour scrutiny by 5 judges. It sounds scary just thinking about how many mistakes I could find in that amount of time. Thanks for listening. Please don't give me your condolences. I am happy to be where I am. Having made something that is worth nominating is prize enough. Sharing my story with other quilters that, like me, are perfecting their craft, helps to show that none of us is perfect. Tomorrow I will wake and go at life with the same zeal that I did yesterday. That day will come when I will wake and the goal will be achieved. And that is ok.
As an aside, Scott is probably the one judge out there whose opinions I completely trust. He has seen and judged nearly every competition quilt I have made over the last 5 years -- a total of 14 quilts (and two were actually judged twice because they didn't ribbon and then were entered at a subsequent show!). He's probably the best machine quilting judge in terms of experience level out there. If he told me it looked like crap, I'd fix it without question. He told me in April that he thought this quilt had a chance. I certainly wasn't about to question his professional opinion then.
The message said that he wanted to nominate Bouquet Royale for the Masterpiece Quilt Award. I was dumbfounded, shocked, and a thousand other elated-am-I-worthy-enough-synonyms. I had a class to teach, and then I was heading home for the night. The one thing I knew, though, was that I had already entered this quilt at the Minnesota Quilt show, and I KNEW that the dates of MN and NQA conflicted. I had chosen MN over NQA for that quilt because of potential prize money. I really hate pulling quilts out of shows; it is poor taste. I had not, however, yet received the acceptance letter from MN, so I decided it would be ok. The other fly in the ointment here is that this Friday was THE last day to actually ENTER the NQA show, and if I was going to pull a quilt from a good show that paid well for awards, I would have to actually have to have it entered in the NQA show too (paid only for Best of Show awards). After driving home to Maine that night, I did get it entered at NQA, with barely 2 hours to spare before the deadline. In my mind I knew that winning this silly award was a huge long shot, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. I could re-enter MN next year.
I could have waited until 2016 to have it reviewed for Master Quilt, but the wait would have driven me nuts. All the what-ifs crept into my mind...What if I drop my coffee on it? Furthermore, if it didn't show well at a year's worth of shows, I would feel pretty stupid sending it to the Masterpiece review! As it turns out, it did well at the only other show it has entered, winning BOS, so I at least had a confident feeling when it was mailed last week.
I tried very unsuccessfully not to think about the judging the last 2 days, despite seeing a picture on their FB page which showed my quilt's backside. I was expecting the call tomorrow morning, thanking me for allowing them to judge it, and how pretty it is, and how well they all know it will do at other shows...yaddy, yadda, yadda, etc. I never, NEVER expected to get the phone call I got tonight, saying it won. And the part about how they all loved to touch and fondle of for 2 hours was kinda cool too. And those simple words, "You have a Masterpiece Quilt". I am over the moon with pride, and where my quilting has gone in 5 years.
As I type this, I can't actually go public for 2 days. It seems excruciating to have to wait, but their awards are Wednesday evening. I still don't know if it placed, but that will come soon too.
Thursday Morning Update...
Mary Buvia's Masterpiece quilt did not take the large quilts BOS, as I wrote yesterday. I assumed this, because mine had not won it. In actuality, a different quilt altogether won it. If your eyebrows are raising, you are not alone. Mine have done so as well. Let me explain the judging process a little. The groups that judge the Master Quilt nominees and those that judge for the "show" are different. I told you about the Master judging earlier. Typical show judging is like this - 3 judges (and yes I know who they were) spend on average about 5 minutes per quilt at most. The 3 Master quilts come back into the regular piles of show quilts for a second judging. These 3 show judges probably know who was up for Master review, but they do not know the outcome of the evaluation. So...in the large quilts category, a completely different quilt was chosen for BOS. It was not subsequently nominated for Master review, which the judges can do to a couple quilts from the show, at their discretion. My Bouquet Royale took 1st in it's category (large quilts, mixed techniques). The other large category Master quilt did not place whatsoever. I am still trying to process how NQA can find all of this palatable. I find that if this other quilt was good enough to beat 2 Master quilts, why wasn't it bumped for Master review. I also struggle with how not having my quilt take the BOS muddies the intensity of the Master Quilt award. Don't get me wrong, I would have loved the BOS and the cash it brings, BUT I am not whining about this. I am seeing it as a confused viewer that on one hand sees that the Master Award as "ribbon in the highest", yet another quilt clearly beat it. Hopefully there are enough people at NQA that can see this too. Their process, though it seems to be fair on the surface, needs checks and balances for when the 5 minute judges come to a different outcome than those that spend 2 hours. JMHO, and I welcome your's.