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.

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