Sunday, April 11, 2010

Trentham Gardens Quilt Show Review

Today Mum and I went to the Trentham Gardens show, relocated due to a collapsed marquee to Utoxeter Racecourse. Peversely we started by doing the gardens at Trentham themselves something which I never did while the show was actually there. We had a lovely walk with the squirrels around the Capabilty Brown lake (which contains these metal sculputures) and strolled around the Italian Gardens. After a quick lunch we set off to the racecourse, Mum to show interest in my hobby and me to hope that I still had time to see everything.

Sadly, I was very dispappointed with the show this year. I thought the venue low ceilinged and cramped and the lighting was appalling. Catering by midafternoon consisted of a stainless steel pot of premade tea. However the traders preferred it to the marquee and I gather that some of the problems result from the rushed move which was not the exhibitors fault and that the venue offers possibities for workshops in the future. We shall see how it pans out.
What really concerned me though was the low standard of the competition quilts compared to previous years. Many of the accomplished quilters who usually enter - such as Lesley Brankin, ( and her daughter who usualy scoops prizes in the children's section) Gwenfai Rees-Griffith, Ineke Berlyn, Stephanie Redfern and others were absent and the gap was not filled with new names of similar calibre. The way was clear for Anja Townrow to scoop a number of ribbons - and deservedly so as her work is superb. But one of her placed quilts dated fron 2005 and it was a shame that the fresh and interestingly designed work was limited to half a dozen quilts or so. One of the best was very reminiscent of a Gee's Bend  but with great machine quilting, and I have emailed for permission to show it in a future post.

The showcased quilts were much more interesting and proficiently executed... with two exceptions perhaps...
I was surprised to find my two designs for the African Fabric Shop hanging when I hadn't entered them! It transpired that the organser had asked Magie Relph to assist in filling the space with quilts made by her, her friends and her customers and of course as she has permission to do what she will with these samples it was nice to see them there. The Kinshasa quilt on the right is now available in kit form from The African fabric Shop. in several colorways.

I particularly enjoyed the Thin Blue Line qullts, some of which you can see if you scroll down this page. The Maori inspired one on the right in the first picture of that page particular caught the eye of both Mum and I. However, maybe our favourite and the one which people were talking about as we walked around bumping into acquaintances as you do was Rainforest. I have only a bad photo with no permission to post it but you can see a picture on Pauline Barnes' own website, although even her picture does not really do the quilt justice. Sadly it suffered from dreadful positioning and lighting at the show. And, surprisingly, won nothing.

Interestingly, it hung near mine which also uses circles. Now I never considered mine to be a competition contender but was entered to support the show ( and yes, I can take all the crticism I gave to the general standard of the show applied to my own work, although for reasons come to below I think this one might not be too bad!). It was the first in a series I am doing using similar themes in different ways and I was anxious to get feed back from the Judge to assist me in improving towards the standard of Anja and the Thin Blue Line lot.

I was sadly disappointed. The Judge was Tracy Pereira who has won awards for her own work although with a couple of expections the long list of accolades on her website shows she won for longarming other people's designs and piecing.  Of the 10 criteria listed on the standard tick box form she ranked me 'very good' on 6 and 'good' on 4. So not bad but certainly room for improvement. What exactly should I do to get the top ranking available in each criteria of excellent, then in her view? I have no idea. Her comments were,
"A lovely well balanced design and colour choice with good use of patterned and tone on tone fabrics. Beautiful stitchwork and quilting. Well executed turned edge treatment."

Or at least I have no idea from her point of view. I asked Mum what she liked about Rainforest and she explained how good it was by comparing various features of it to mine, without appreciating it was mine she was using as the 'inferior' ( she prefers 'different'!) example!! She was fairly mortified when she discovered it was mine but you know, it was extremely helpful advice from someone viewing it as art.

I was also bemused by the praise I got for good use of tone on tone fabric. I accept the definition from
"The term tone on tone refers to a printed fabric that is made by combining different shades and tones of the same color. Tone on tone fabrics often appear to be solid when viewed from a distance, but their printed motifs become recognizable on closer inspection."
I think that is probably uncontroversial. I am bemused because there are none of those in my quilt. There are some of Lisa Walton's handdyed fabrics which I assume is what she was referring to!

I had another quilt in the show too - the Sacred quilt I made with Mum.The one that taught me never, ever again to piece using this particular brand of silk. Ever! I would share my results for that one too but I can't accurately do so as 5 of the 10 criteria have not been ticked in the boxes but on the line between two boxes so I don't actually know for sure what she though of it. Sigh.

All I can say is that has lead to some deep thoughts on how I will be thinking about my own work in the future which will no doubt spill out into a future blog.

The afternoon was not a complete loss though as I had accepted several article ideas by a magazine editor I bumped into and took the opportunity to pitch to, including the pattern for my 'good but not excellent' blue quilt above and was also able to have some useful conversations about future quilt kits using a variation of that design! Oh and Mum and I found some great 'way-too-good-to -pass-over' jackets in various designs and colour ( but none tone-on-tone!) in the sale at Trentham for £20 -30 each and brought eight of them home between us!


sandra wyman said...

Thanks for this post: interestingly there has been a debate on the Contemporary Quilt (why aren't you a member?) yahoo group about quilt judging which raised similar points to yours and a lot of others besides! I love your work - even if the lighting wasn't so hot!

Rachel said...

Interesting post - it just goes to show that Judging in this sort of event is a skill all of its own, entirely separate to skill in the craft.

Joyce said...

"not been ticked in the boxes but on the line between two boxes so I don't actually know for sure what she though of it. Sigh."

Only one possible explanation - she thought it was borderline between two categories!!! ie left hand line of good box means almost very good or excellent, depending on what next box to it is called, and right hand line means only just counts as good but was the very top of what could be regarded as average.

Azreada said...

I, for one, admire your creativity and the enormous variety of designs, styles and fabrics that you use. Keep up the good work!!