Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Quilt National Photography

Last week I went to the Dairy Barn to see the actual quilts that were selected for the 2013 show. Lucky me! All had arrived except for one. My graphic designer, Kim, was with me and our agenda was to select quilts for possible detail shots and for cover shots. We needed to tell the photographers which ones we liked and which area of the quilt needed a high resolution shot.

Unfortunately I can’t post any photos of this day! Not even snapshots of us in the room.  All the quilts were laid out on tables or hanging over tall racks. Of course we were surprised at how some quilts looked more amazing than their submitted image and some looked different. We couldn’t tell the size from the images we had so each quilt was surprising in some aspect.  But, one thing was clear…it will be a phenomenal show and I think everyone will love seeing this collection and come away with much inspiration and just amazement!

It was very difficult to select potential cover quilts. We first looked at all the past year’s books.  This year’s can’t look the same as previous ones. The last cover was predominantly turquoise so that color was banished. Also distinctive recent artists were avoided.  The questions became…what would appeal to the buyer? Should it be a ‘pretty’ cover or should it convey what Quilt National stands for…more avant garde?  We balanced that and selected about 7 possibilities.

While there, we also had to identify which quilts needed detail shots and what parts to shoot.  We had all the quilts printed on a contact sheet and circled the area for the photographers.  Normally, I am at all the photo shoots for my books but this time they could only do it while I had to be in Houston for Quilt Market so they worked with the guidance of Kathleen, director of Quilt National.  These photographers have experience with the show so I wasn’t worried.

But before they could shoot, Kim had to go back to her studio and work up some possible covers using the images of the quilts that we had to ‘test’ what would look good. She quickly mocked them up overnight and we could see which ones were strong and which were not so good.  Kathleen had these so she could direct the photographers to what we liked for the covers. This way some quilts were eliminated as covers before the photo shoot and others were added.

All I can say here is that Kim liked one quilt for the cover and I didn’t think it would be good because of the subject matter but she mocked up a cover anyway.  Well, it was a surprise to me but I loved it and it is both of our favorites so now we’ll see if Quilt National thinks it makes a good cover or not! You will know next Spring!

Next week is news on my trip to Quilt Market with LOTS of images!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Quilt National Judging Part 2



Judges think about the space they will be filling. The Dairy Barn is one large room with high ceilings therefore not the best space for small quilts. If the gallery was a cluster of small rooms with regular ceiling heights then it would be more conducive to smaller quilts rather than floor to ceiling ones. That doesn’t mean that they won’t accept a smaller quilt because they do but as you can see from the photos above, there is a need for many large quilts to fill the space.  They only select 85 and there is limited wall space. It’s just my observation of a factor to consider when entering any competition.

Other thoughts were whether people would stand and stare at the quilt for long periods of time.  This is a goal with the total exhibition, some ‘sticking’ power so the viewer will spend more time and find many interesting aspects of each quilt.  Also the judges consider if the quilts would be too similar to another quilt coming later that they really like. Would you want to see five quilts on the same theme? There is no yes or no answer, it all depends on the panel.

There is also the ‘derivative’ question. Judges don’t want ‘copied’ work. If it looks like ‘Famous Quilter’s’ style, they wanted to know if it was actually by her because if it was from Student of Famous Quilter, should it be allowed in? Should the pioneer of the technique be the only one to show at that level of quality? Perhaps Student of Famous Quilter has improved on this style and made it her own or better in some way? But it comes down to the question…if it looks like Famous Quilter’s style then it isn’t really expressing your own style is it?

Round 3 was down to 183 quilts. Same procedure, silence, scoring sheets and 15 seconds per image.

This all ran so smoothly because of the ‘Behind the Scenes’ crew. Behind the monitors were 1 or 2 people making sure the images came up together or pausing as needed.


Jane ran the score sheets to another room for tabulation and two or more staff were deleting the images and then making a new score sheet of the remainders in the same order. It went quite quickly.

Round 4 consisted of 132 quilts and they needed to eliminate 37 to get the final 85 to hang in the show with 10 alternates. The alternates were ranked also and were to be used to replace any quilt that was found to be all over the internet, or has already been in a show, or has violated the rules of the show. The objective is to keep this show fresh and new for the attendees.

In this round they could discuss and it went fairly quickly. Each judge verbally voted either ‘IN’ or ‘OUT’ . The majority ruled so 2 or 3 ‘INS’ were in for the next round and 2 or 3 ‘OUTS’ were eliminated.

They discussed and wanted to make sure each other were in agreement with what was selected and to see if another judge felt strongly about a particular quilt that they wanted in. They were all very agreeable, diplomatic and considerate of each other, recognizing each of their strengths in surface design, etc. All very amenable and civilized.

Here they asked for the artist’s statement to be read for some of the quilts and they used their past history of what they know of the artist’s work. The descriptions helped in most cases especially describing the techniques used so be sure to include details in your statement.

At the end of that round, 97 quilts were left and we called it a night and went to dinner at the home of a Board member.


Day 2- First the judges wanted to run through all 97 quilts, in about 3 seconds a piece, to refresh their memories. Then they asked for thumbnails to be put up on the screen to see how the entire show looked.


Next they had to weed out 12 quilts and rank 10 alternates.

The questions now become: If this is a progressive, avant garde show then should they take a piece that looks the same as Quilter X has been doing every year for 20 years with no progress? Do they take a piece that they personally know doesn’t represent the best of Quilter X’s body of work?

The judges come with their own set of knowledge about the quilts and the quilters and know lots of background which they use in this process.

And finally the judges select the quilts for the 7 awards plus their one favorite each. The top award is Best of Show but the prestigious Quilts Japan prize is a full expense-paid trip to Japan to teach for a week.

The award not chosen by the judges is the Hilary Fletcher Persistence Award, named after the late director and founder of Quilt National. It is given to the artist that sent in the most entries until she was finally juried into this show.

The CREAM award is for a first-time exhibitor and is to encourage emerging artists.

At the end, they were all happy with the show that they had selected. There were 35 first-time quilters juried in while the norm is about 40.

With the list of winning quilts, Kathleen and her staff now check on the internet to see whether the quilt is shown any place other than the artist’s website. If so, then the quilt is eliminated and the top alternate goes into the group. If all goes well then Kathleen emails a notification letter to the quilter that their entry was accepted into Quilt National 13 and they have two weeks to ship it there. Unfortunately there are always some that have posted their entry quilt on other internet sites or have used it for promotional purposes and then are disqualified, never knowing that they were originally chosen. This year there seemed to be many that violated the rules and that is a pity.

If you get a rejection letter, you shouldn’t be discouraged. Unfortunately you will never know if your quilt was in the last round, or on the alternate list,or #86 so just missed being in.  There is a finite number of quilts accepted and you should just continue working and enter again.

During the third week of October, hopefully all the quilts will have arrived and I will return to the Dairy Barn with my graphic designer, Kim, to see all the quilts. We will try to decide on the order of the quilts, select the ones that need detail shots and focus on a handful as potential covers of the catalog. Then the photographers will know what we need and give us the finished shots in November.

More on the rest of the process in weeks to come.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Quilt National Judging Part 1


This year the three judges are Linda Colsh, Judith Content and Penny Mc Morris. Below are short bios on each of them, taken from their websites or online.


QN _Cenote Azul_

Judith Content- is a fiber artist in Palo Alto, California, who utilizes a contemporary interpretation of the Japanese dye technique, Arashi Shibori. Her hand-dyed, quilted, and pieced silk wall pieces often depict elaborate landscapes that are inspired by the mystery and majesty of the Pacific coastline.


Linda Colsh- builds her pieced, layered and stitched artworks from the images and ideas that she collects as photographs, drawings and writings. She is known for her images of elderly women and men. Anonymous and invisible to most others, her subjects come from the streets where she finds them. She strips away their context, and reworks them with new narratives and imagined scenarios. Each work begins with blank white or black cloth, which Linda alters with dye, discharge and paint. She works with design software to develop her images for printing by digital or traditional methods.

Penny McMorris-has been involved in the field of quilt studies for several decades, working as a dealer and quilt scholar. She hosted three quilting shows in the late 1980s and early 1990s, including Quilting, Quilting II, and The Great American Quilt, all of which were shown on PBS. She has also authored several books on both historic and contemporary quilts including Crazy Quilts. She is the co-founder of The Electric Quilt Company, which produces software for quilters. McMorris worked as a dealer in the quilt field for a number of years, especially focusing in the area of contemporary art quilts. Along with Michael Kile, she curated the exhibition The Art Quilt held in the 1980s.

The three judges are chosen by the Quilt National director, Kathleen Dawson. There are always two that are quilt artists and one that is in a quilt-related field such as museum curator, art historian or author. Kathleen reviews the resumes of different people that are recommended to her or that she hears would be potentially good judges. Judges are paid a fee, airfare, hotel and meals in return for two days of judging and writing a statement for the book.

Sept 28, 2012

Friday, 9am. Jurors sitting at table in front of two large monitors. One monitor had full quilt on it and the other displayed the detail shot. Also Jane Forrest Redfern- Director of Dairy Barn Arts Center and Kathleen Dawson were directing the events plus staff to aid with the computers and scoring. I was the only outsider observing.


(Linda Colsh, Judith Content and Penny Mc Morris)

They had score sheets in front of them with names and numbers of each quilt in order.

Instructions to the judges: If you have personal knowledge of the quilt, have seen it, then you should recuse yourself and not vote. Then the other two will decide. There is no bargaining…I’ll put this one in if you put that one in.

This year there were 851 entries but the judges had the images to review at home and spent many hours viewing and scoring them on their timetable. Their scores were sent in and tabulated and hundreds were eliminated.

The importance of professional photography here cannot be emphasized enough as the quilts are judged purely on image quality. The first quilts to be eliminated were the poor photos, such as quilts pinned to siding, hung over railing, bad lighting etc. These images in round 2 all looked professional to me.

So, they started with Round 2 of about 380 quilts.

This is how the Scoring worked:

1- out

2- want to look again

3- like

4- definitely want in show.

The judges had 15 seconds to view each image and score. Total silence and semi-darkness. Judging sheets were whisked away to the back room where they were totaled and the next round of images were prepared.

The quality of the art quilts was phenomenal and I couldn’t eliminate any of them at this point. Also I couldn’t guess the artists on most of them except about four that had very distinct styles: Susan Shie, Pam RuBert, etc.  The judges aren’t allowed to discuss or know who the artist is until the end.

The next round was to decide on multiple entries from one artist since there can only be one quilt from each artist in the show. Judges spent a good amount of time viewing the multiples and deciding on the one they would keep, if any. The advantage to entering two or three is that they may get more screen time if they make it to the third round.

…to be continued next week!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

An Insider’s View of Quilt National


I am happy to announce that we are publishing the next catalog for the Quilt National 13 competition and exhibition.  For us, this is more of an event than just publishing another book. We plan to tell you everything about this process on this blog, from the jurying to the Winners’ Party and Awards in May.  It’s going to be very exciting!

The photo above is the Dairy Barn Arts Center in Athens, OH where the show is held biennially on the odd-numbered years.  I’ve been going to this show for 17 years or more and the work always takes my breath away!  The building has gone from a real cow barn to a beautiful arts center. But the exhibition has never been anything less than amazing with the quality of the art quilts. 

One year I saw this exquisite quilt on the wall and just stared at the details!  It was “The Midden” by Joan Lintault who was a juror that year.

The Midden


I couldn’t figure out whether Joan bought fabric of dishes and then chopped them up or what? It turns out that she silk screens all the patterns of dishes and flatware! Those black spaces in the detail shot above are all negative space-holes!  Each piece of flatware is finished and overlapped to create the spaces. Around the edge of the quilt are cut out letters or words for a poem.  Well, I had never seen anything as unusual and beautiful as this quilt so I wrote down her name to research later. I wanted to know if she had a body of work and I found that she did indeed and I called her to write a book for us.  She had just retired so it was an opportune time!

M Joan Lintault book cover

We are very proud of this book, it turned out to be a masterpiece with her insights into design.

Another personal connection is Noriko Endo.  When she was writing her book for us, we needed a large photo of one of her quilts so we could enlarge it for a cover shot. She suggested to ask Kathleen Dawson, the director of Quilt National, since she owned the Best of Show quilt for 2007.Confetti Naturescapes book cover

Kathleen generously took it to a local photographer and sent me the image. Then I brought her a copy of the book and that is how we met.

During the next year, I will write about working with the team on Quilt National.  I just observed the judging process and have lots to tell so be sure to come back weekly to this blog.

Here is a little bit of the history of Quilt National from their website.

In the late 1970s Athens, Ohio, was home to numerous talented artists. Included among this group were Nancy Crow, Francoise Barnes and Virginia Randles. These and other area artists were using fabric to create works that were pieced, layered, stitched and stuffed. These works were "quilts" by virtue of their structure, although they were intended to be viewed on a vertical plane. The original designs and use of innovative techniques and color combinations made them unacceptable to the organizers of traditional quilt shows who were most interested in beautifully crafted bedcovers with recognizable patterns. The only exhibit opportunities for these artists were in mixed media fiber shows alongside baskets and weavings.

Crow and Barnes recognized the need for an appropriate showcase for what are now known as "art quilts." They were just two of a dedicated corps of volunteers who decided to organize an exhibit devoted entirely to this relatively new breed of contemporary quilt.

Fortunately, this need coincided with the efforts of area artists and art lovers to preserve an abandoned dairy barn. Built in 1914 as part of a farm complex situated on grounds belonging to the state-owned mental health facility, the barn had served as part of the activities therapy program. Artists and others in the Athens community felt that the barn had the potential for a second life.

They didn't see a dilapidated building with trenches in the floor and rows of cattle stanchions. Rather, they saw a lovely example of early 20th century architecture sitting quietly on the crest of a gently sloping hill. The natural amphitheater formed by the hills and trees behind the barn created a backdrop of serenity and beauty.

In 1978 the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and The Dairy Barn Southeastern Ohio Cultural Arts Center was born. In 1979 the first Quilt National was established. It is a biennial show offered in the odd numbered years. The opening of the exhibition is late May and runs through first weekend of September.

The show is juried by three judges and they received close to a thousand entries from around the world which has to be culled down to 85. Typically 6,000 to 9,000 visitors come to the Dairy Barn over the summer.

Go to facebook and ‘friend’ Quilt National for more info and photos.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Quick Stuff to Sew magazine & win one!


Just a ‘quick’ post while I write a more thorough one on my weekend watching the judging at Quilt National.

As you may have seen in last Christmas’ post, I made dozens of mittens from recycled sweaters that I felted. I sent the directions into Threads magazine with many samples for photography this summer. Yesterday I got the finished issue and found that I had the BACK COVER!!

It should be on newsstands soon so pick up a copy. Lots of interesting projects to make for yourself or as gifts. My Koos loop scarf is also in there too….a fabulous fast gift to make!


Leave a comment on some projects you’d like to see in next issue and I’ll select a winner for a free copy of this magazine on Oct. 6! But please leave your email address so I can contact you.