Thursday, September 03, 2009

The J Word

That would be "judges"--quilt judges that is. My second guild is having a show in a couple of weeks, and in the planning stage, there was apparently some discussion of having a judge, instead of viewers' choice awards. This didn't happen because quite a few members refused to participate if their work was to be judged.

I wonder how many people share this attitude? I can understand the arguments: I quilt to please myself, judges are subjective, judges focus on technique and not design, judges only make negative comments. I would agree that these criticisms are true some of the time about some judges. I would add the point that judges' comments can be so generic and vague as to be useless.

Even so, I like to have my work judged, and not because I get glowing comments either. I've had plenty "needs improvement" comments about various aspects of the work. I'm not sure why I like to be judged. I don't exactly buy the argument that "you can learn something" from judges' comments. I've seldom had a negative comment I hadn't seen for myself already, and then there is the vagueness, which can make it hard to understand exactly what might be done to "improve."

I think what can be gained from having a judge evaluate one's work is a sense of context: you know you're not in a vacuum, quilting for yourself, judging yourself, or being praised (and criticized) by friends. There's a bigger world out there, and there's something to be gained by risking exposure to it. You may not learn specifically what to do about a weakness, but you can't just ignore it, and maybe you'll try something different next time.

One woman in the guild, an excellent quilter, was apparently so burned by a judge's negative comments that she never enters her work in judged shows. That's a loss for her, and for the quilting world. It's also a loss when someone is afraid to try even once.

I'd be interested in hearing from others, including anyone who's judged, about this topic. What's the benefit of having a judge evaluate your work?

*Image above is from


Beena said...

Unfortunately, I can relate to your one guild member. I was burned bad in one show by some judge's remarks ( a very big show), and have since decided that judged shows aren't worth all the trouble for me. If I want validation for my work, there are other ways to get that. If I want exposure, there are other ways to get that. And I find it hard to value the opinion of a judge who may have significantly less experience than myself in certain things on which my quilt will be judged. There are bloggers who are more privy to my artistic process than a show judge will ever be. I therefore value their comments more than I would a show judge's. This is just my opinion. There are still challenges and shows I would do, just because. But I couldn't care less about ribbons or prizes, or criticism (constructive or otherwise) at this point in my career. It's all "art for art's sake" to me.

*karendianne. said...


I arrive at this as a person that spent her entire life in the Horse Show then Dog Show world. There I learned if you do the work and what you have is true quality - you'll get a lot out of the experience. You may not have the ribbon but you'll learn by watching. And you'll likely get the ribbons sooner or later if that's a goal.

It is my view that the individual has to be mentally and emotionally ready to engage in the world of Showing. To put your "work" on "display" to be "evaluated" by an "unknown quantity" requires something within you. Most folks don't have that something within them. I did but I don't anymore. With this hobby, Quilting, I didn't want to put myself thru the paces again.

As for learning itself, I have continued to learn from my friends, skilled teachers and kind bloggers like you or Debra Spincic. Y'all have taught me so much over the years about Art Quilting, Embroidery or just turning me onto some cool article. Thru the medium of Blogging, my world expands. And by golly, at the quilt shop I'm always on the prowl for the awesome quilter coming in the door.

Stalker Karen! hee.

Libby Fife said...

I am not so hip on people I don't know anything about judging my work on a professional level. What I am interested in is if I know someone whose work I admire and having that person honestly evaluate my work. That feedback would be meaningful. I am not negating the experience of a professional quilt judge-I would just need to know their credentials first. Sounds snooty but I am all about meaningful and helpful evaluations-not just critiques done by strangers.

However, the man-on-the-street evaluation is always useful I think. Someone who doesn't know me and can give me a first impression? I find that useful too. I think in the end you need to actively seek out the info that you want to receive.

Reality can be intrusive and unwanted at times and I think the more that you can shape your world, the better off that you will feel in the end.

Great topic so thank you and one to continue talking about:

Debra said...

The quilt one makes for a show and the quilt one makes for other reasons are two different animals.

To start making a quilt and then decide that "it's pretty good" and enter it into a show (to me) is setting oneself up for a big surprise. (Been there and done that.)

To me, the big quilt shows have turned into major quilting competitions (similiar to the Olympics). Just because you like to play around in the swimming pool doesn't mean you can compete with Michael Phelps.

If you plan to enter a major show you need to get your major quilting game on from the very first minute; you need to do the very best you can to succeed. I believe that takes a much different mindset than a non-judged show.

On the local level where people quilt for a variety of reasons, I think a guild should offer a judged and non-judged division so quilters from both styles of quilting will be comfortable. I don't get the "exclusiveness" that a judged show would foster & out of stubbornness I might boycott it too!

Candace said...

For me I would not enter my quilt in a juried show if I didn't want to be judged - plain and simple, if you ask me. I haven't done so yet, but do strive to make everything with that quality in mind. I'm not opposed to critics of any kind, Kaye; I feel my work will only benefit from it. My two cents.

Liz said...

I haven't entered quilting for judging yet, but I enter a lot of my other work (dolls) and I always ask for the judge's comments. I think the feedback is very valuable and try to take each comment seriously. On the other hand, one judge's criticism is not a show stopper. I do try to see what they are getting at, but I've also had the vague comments which I ignore. If the judge can't be more specific then it's not worth my time. I want to continue to improve and considered feedback is really important. But I remind myself that it is just one person's opinion - even if they may be experienced or educated - and I am pretty confident in the quality of my work at this point. And it's awesome to win a prize!

Anonymous said...

Art for art's sake, is subjective (i.e. viewer's choice), and then there is the technical side of quilting that judges are all about.

To answer your question, if you care about getting your name out there, or writing a book or making money from your work, I suppose you need to be technically brilliant, enter juried shows and subject yourself to judges' critique.

But if you make quilts as a creative outlet, or to stretch yourself, and want to hang a few pieces to share your work, you can be in your guild's show. If it's gut-level feedback you want, you can lurk nearby and listen to people's reactions and opinions to your work.

But if, as you say, you like having your work judged, and if you think you can benefit by that, if it's technical perfection you seek, then you should enter shows with judges.