Friday, August 22, 2008
I have been sitting on this post for a while before writing to allow my thoughts and emotions to consolidate but actually, not much has altered over time. This was my entry to the Contemporary Large category in Birmingham. It was never going to be a winner. I knew that and, although when I looked at it hanging there first I though, 'Oh, why did I enter that it is embarrassingly, well, blah!'. After I saw some other entries I thought it was not that bad but it is not a winner and I had no expectations of that.
However, after my experience at Trentham, I was looking forward to the Judge's comments so That I could use them to improve. I was very disappointed by their utter uselessness.
When your quilt is returned you get an envelope attached by safety pin containing the three marking sheets from each of three Judges. They mark as Excellent, Good, Satisfactory or Need Attention ( which I assume to be someone's idea of a kinder way of saying the truth which is unsatisfactory'.). There are nine areas of marking under the general heading Design and five under Construction.
My first point is that you cannot logically grade on the basis of satisfactory etc unless you publish the expected standards in advance which they do not do. Also, surely the use of the term satisfactory depends on your standards. If you set out to be excellent then anything less than that mark is not satisfactory at all. (I am reminded of Steve Redgrave who said of the GB rowing team that it was wrong to aim for a medal; nothing but gold is good enough. Might well explain why he has five of them.)
That aside, I was amazed at the inconsistency in marking. I cannot see how, for 'Choice and suitability of materials', for example I can be all of Excellent, Good and Satisfactory. I cannot fathom how my Colour/ value/ contrast can be Good, Satisfactory and Need Attention at the same time. Nor how my quilting can be 'good' twice and also ' need attention'. This latter was particularly annoying as there is no indication of what I am supposed to be giving attention to. If it were obvious I would have given it that attention before hand, so I am no better off having received that comment. Does she mean that if I gave it more attention the other two would mark it excellent perhaps?!
One Judge said that my use of embellishment or surface design was Good. The other two (correctly I think) said that that category it was not applicable to this quilt at all!
There is space for Judge's comment but they were not really used to tell me how to improve. One comment was simply, 'A Fun idea for using your animal prints'. Well. yes, I know that, that's why I did it. If it was an idea akin to having root canal surgery the quilt would not be in existence. I would rather she explained why she thought my 'visual impact' was only satisfactory.
There will always be the bit in me ( a large bit) who wants to be the best when in fact I don't have the talent to be the best and so I have learned to simply observe those feelings of failure and self-loathing when I don't get all round praise, to leave it to one side and then come back in a better frame of mind to take the lessons from it and see how to improve. But I have to say that such inconsistent marking has left me feeling rather deflated and disappointed. Am I over reacting?
It will not stop me entering again because I firmly believe in the concept of participation. It will not stop me trying to learn and improve. But it may stop me opening the envelope next year.