I recently sent a couple of my quilts off to Quilt Con – the first Modern Quilt Guild National Conference for the quilt show there. I’ve never submitted a quilt for a formal juried show and I was nervous but excited. I submitted two quilts into the show and was delighted when they were accepted to be part of the show.
The first was a small applique quilt I made as part of a swap. It’s one of my favorites!
And the second was a Zig Zag Twin size quilt I designed and made as part of a QAL here on my blog.
I wasn’t able to be at Quilt Con myself. The cost was prohibitive for me and I frankly needed that time to sew. But it sounds like lots of people there had a great time. And they helped keep Austin weird. 😉
I couldn’t see my own quilts in the show and lived vicariously through the pictures people took of the quilt show. It was great fun to see all the quilts.
And then, the awards started coming out. It was quickly clear that I was NOT a winner. That’s okay. Seriously. I was fine. I did have some hmm? moments about some of the winners but I chalked some of that up to not seeing the quilts in person. I put that behind me and focused on my current work and the fun time I was having with some quilty friends in Atlanta that weekend instead.
Today I opened the box with my returned quilts from the show, excited to read the judges comments on my quilts. Excitement quickly dwindled to confusion and then to heart ache as I read what they thought of my work.
Let me preface this by saying I do not know who the judges were and I DO NOT think that they were saying anything about me, Angela Pingel. I feel that they were talking about my work. And it’s awfully hard to distinguish that from myself but I’m working on it. I feel no animosity towards the judges…I’m just sharing my experience with my first juried show.
This quilt… a little piece of me for sure, was unoffensive to them but definitely not their cup of tea. They found nothing extraordinary about it and it was described as being “overly personal”.
Confusion. Isn’t quilting about being personal? Isn’t this about taking a piece of ourselves and putting it out there? Is Modern Quilting just graphic images and straight lines at wonky angles? I didn’t think so before this, but now I’m not sure. There was no mention of the detail or work it took to make this. Did I make it look too easy? lol Because trust me. It wasn’t.
So whatever. Obviously not to their taste. So I opened the letter to read about my zig zag quilt. And my heart sank.
They pretty much hated everything about this one. They didn’t like my fabric choices…thought they should be “more special”. They DID NOT like the binding fabric – apparently it cut off the design of the quilt. ??? The quilting did nothing for them. Apparently it did not accent the design of the quilt. And the kicker. They said it had NO VISUAL IMPACT. They said it was not particularly modern (It was in the modern traditionalism category) nor original.
I’ve got to admit. That was really hard for me to hear. I cried a few tears and tried to understand what they would want. I didn’t EVER think that my zig zag quilt had a chance in hell of winning anything. I even joked with friends that I thought my quilt was accepted in order to make it obvious that their quilts should win (I think I was right on that). But I didn’t realize that by entering it I was opening myself to this type of critique. I want to have a conversation with them and explain that the fabrics were deliberately chosen to highlight the pattern and not the fabrics. That the quilting was difficult and done by me on a conventional machine using 17 bobbins. I thought that the juxtaposition of the large pebbles was interesting against the straight lines of the zig zag.
I wasn’t expecting puppies and rainbows but I don’t want to feel like it wasn’t worth their time. Why did they accept it in the first place? But most of all I struggle with the fact that they (whoever they are) have made me ASHAMED of my work.
I’ll recover. I’ll move on, scarred but stronger. It will certainly take a lot for me to ever enter a competition like this again. I’d like to think I can take criticism but maybe I can’t. I don’t have any other experience with juried shows so maybe this is what they are all like. Regardless, they are not the place for me. I feel less like I belong than ever before.
*shutting down the comments so we can all move on. Please feel free to email me if you have further concerns. I’m doing well and I will be happily sewing in the future.*