Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Thoughts From the Bloggers Quilt Festival

Whew!  I just finished viewing the last of the catgories for Amy Ellis' Bloggers Quilt Festival and voting for my favorites.  This is the fifth year Amy has hosted this online event which she holds twice a year in conjuction with the vendor Quilt Markets. 

Like all of the previous years, this was a great festival -- truly a chance to see what so many quilters around the world are working on.  This year Amy did it in a new format -- rather than just having one huge linky list, quilters added their projects into specific catagories like Bed Quilts, Wall Quilts, Hand Quilted, Art Quilts, ect.  This definitely made it less overwhelming to view all the entries.  

However, I also realized something while deciding what to vote for in each catagory.  Trying to choose between all the beautiful quilts I saw, I felt like I got a taste of what it must be like to be a Quilt Show Judge.  There were times when it was really, really hard to choose just one favorite.  Years ago, I listened to one of Annie Smith's podcasts where she talked about her experiences as a judge and what quilters entering contests should keep in mind about the process.  I did find all of what she said to be true as I tried to make my own selections from all the online entries.

I now really get the challenges involved when you have to try to pick a favorite from 50 or 60 quilts in a catagory.  Your first reaction will be to narrow it down by going for the visual --- choosing those quilts that most catch your eye.  You may like a lot of the quilts but there will probably be just a few that stand out visually above the rest to you.  With the online show, I found that then reading the stories behind them often influenced whether a quilt stayed in the running or not.  Maybe it was the effort the quilter had to put into getting the quilt from idea to finish or the inspiration behind the quilt or unique materials or techniques that were used (or invented) to make it.  I don't know if show judges have that information when they judge but for this festival it definitely was a factor. 

Another judging quilbble is making sure your quilt is in the right catagory.  There were a few instances in the festival where I saw quilts I liked but not for the catagory it was in.  In those instances, juding a quilt based on what the catgory is supposed to represent meant it scored lower for me than it would have if it had been placed in what I believed was a more appropriate catagory for it.  This is also something I've read is true for live judged shows.

The limitation of judging an online quilt show like this is that you can't actually see the quilt in person.  Bad pictures really work against the maker (something that I know I need to work on for my own projects).  This is also something that I've read is true when people send their quilt entries in for initial selection even before judging.

I have to say that even taking into account what I liked about some quilts it was still hard to choose just one to vote for!  So now I understand why at the quilt shows, the skill of construction of the quilt comes into play.  When faced with two quilts both equally visually beautiful, well executed, and with equally successful interpretations of design or theme, the only other factor that might distinguish the two might be how well it was made -- right down to the last stitch!  As quilters, we laugh when people tell us about judging critiques that talk about "the fullness of the binding (or lack thereof)" or being chided for "not hiding knots in the back of the quilt" or "uneven quilt stitching".  But if you're in the position where you  HAVE TO make a choice and some seemingly inconsequential issue is all that seperates one outstanding quilt from another, you're going to use it! 

This also brings to mind something else Annie said: that quilters need to remember that there is no doubt that judging does have a big subjective element to it.  Beyond the established or outlined judging criteria, a judge also brings their own preferences to the table.  So a judge that prefers hand work might boost that over an equally beautiful machine done quilt.  Or if you like intricate piecing over "liberated" or favor original works over intrepretations of published pattens those things may sway your vote towards a particular quilt.  As a quilter however, this also means that you must take judging comments and choices with a grain of salt.  You must remember that your quilt is not being judged just on its own merits, it is competing against other quilts.  Not winning or getting a ribbon DOES NOT mean your quilt is bad, it just means that when all the factors came together, someone else's quilt pushed more of the judges' buttons than yours did in this particular show.

All that said, all I can say is "thank goodness for Viewers Choice" --- although even there I could have really use more than one vote!  This is the chance for you to elevate a quilt that held a particular appeal for you towards the award platform.  We should all make it a point to take the time to fill out those Viewers Choice cards at any show we go to and give a boost to the quilts that might not "take the cake" but do "steal our hearts".

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