This week, I was delighted to serve as a judge at the CQQ Salon 2012. I had about 70 quilts to judge, in four categories, and 12 ribbons to award. I collaborated with the two other judges, Lily Lam and Sheila Wintle, to decide on Best of Show. Lily and Sheila were very generous, sharing their approaches to the task at hand.
I was definitely influenced by my many years of writing reports for elementary school children, giving rather few C's. Anything "needing improvement" is supposed to get a C, but I preferred to give a B, "satisfactory", with a prescriptive comment. Why discourage someone whose best work may lie ahead of them?
My comments were usually tentative: "perhaps you should consider...", "I think that...", etc. Now I wonder if this phrasing will undermine the authority of my opinion. "What does she know anyway? She doesn't seem very sure of herself."
Another issue is the item on the score sheet about the appearance of the back of the quilt. I had to ask myself, in the case of a wallhanging, does the back of the quilt really matter? I decided it would have to be a really big mess to qualify as a problem. A buyer might question the quality of overall workmanship if the back of the work showed a lack of care, but otherwise, really.... Next time I might just X out that item on the score sheet.
The big question for me was "What distinguishes the Art Quilt category from the Small Wallhanging category?" I judged the first group on Day 1, the second on Day 2. The organizers didn't have a definitive answer. I decided that the essential thing about an art quilt is that it has to be original work, whereas small wallhangings could include pieces made from patterns or even pre-printed panels. True, all work was to be graded on originality, but I weighted that factor less in the small wallhanging category. I didn't downgrade anyone for using a pattern, and I placed more weight on the traditional criteria: does it hang straight, is the stitching even, does the quilting design complement the work, etc. Then again, doesn't the quiltmaker who takes a bigger risk in the design, technique or colour deserve special consideration?
One of the highlights of the experience was being able to designate a Judge's Choice, Julie Poirier's "Allium", a very graphic black-and-white image made with a cut-away technique and some closely-spaced horizontal quilting lines. Congratulations on your striking and innovative work, Julie!
The show is definitely worth a visit, with much beautiful work to see, including many that didn't qualify for a ribbon.