Friday, August 22, 2008

Festival competition

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.


Linda said...

Hi Helen,
I don't think you are over reacting; these comments are illogical and useless and not what you'd expect from judges at a major quilt show.
I love (and admire) the way you write about these things; you nearly had me falling of my chair with your root canal surgery remark ;-). And yet I completely recognize your feeling of wanting to be the best but not having the talent...
I will be entering a quilt in a juried show for the first time in October and can't wait to see the coments here...
Greetings from Brisbane,

Quilt Pixie said...

seems reasonable to me -- if one enters a juried show one wants the input of others about what worked or didn't... If one only wants praise, or to show, one does so in a different, non-juried, venue.

Christine Thresh said...

I think your quilt is fun. From this "juror" you will get high marks. It is a quilt I'd love to have around my house to make me smile.

Kristin L said...

Art is so subjective that I think it would be hard NOT to have varied remarks. Of course, that doesn't help us much as "students." I think that the truly useful critiques are those you get one on one from a trusted mentor/teacher/peer. That way you have a better idea of where they are coming from, and you probably also have a chance to ask for explanations of their decisions. As for juror comments from shows, I generally take them with a grain of salt. Sometimes they are telling me what I already know, sometimes there's a good bit of constructive criticism, and sometimes it just doesn't apply. Keep entering the shows, but look for really valuable feedback elsewhere (and I think you have lots of opportunities for that with your 12x12 and C&G work).

janet said...

Hi Helen
I really know where you are coming from on this one. Your educational and professional background quite rightly see these remarks as total nonsense. I don't have my judging sheet yet for my piece but after reading your post I don't hold out much hope of it being any use. I have had to completely rethink my reasons for entering competitive quilting after the FOQ experience but strangely it has not put me off. Have you thought of entering juried competitions? I am illogically attracted to entering quilt 2009 (illogical since I know I cannot win!) I really enjoyed seeing your quilt especially as I felt that I 'knew' you from reading your blog! So I think us C&G girls should keep at it - this judging lark is so subjective and illogical - I'm sure we have as much chance of winning as anyone else!!
Janet x

Erica Spinks said...

I doubt that the judges had any more than a few minutes to spend on each quilt, so a reasoned critique was probably never going to happen. Each judge brings her own background and experience to the judging process and, because she is human, some degree of subjectivity. I really wouldn't rely on this process to provide useful feedback, Helen.

Kay said...

Your comments are excellent. I have also found judge's comments totally useless. On technical issues they tell me what I know already or are contradictory. (I've had good and needs improvement on the same quilt, same binding, different shows.) And I disagree that this part of judging has to be subjective. A flat, straight binding is a flat, straight binding, so let's agree on standards, look closely and evaluate consistently.

As far as the "je ne sais quoi" that makes a winning quilt, I guess that's subjective. Clearly, I don't have it :), but no comment has ever told me why, or been helpful