Friday, September 30, 2016

Quilt Judging: One Aspect Explained

While I don't usually post on a Friday evening, tonight I decided to do so.  First because I have missed so many entries lately, and second because yesterday I learned something that I want to share with other quilters and their audience.

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to be able to assist at the judging of the quilts for a local quilt show.  I have done this before and have found that I learn so much from partaking in this activity that it is well worth any inconvenience.  In order to make what I learned comprehensible (and therefore useful, I hope, for others), at the risk of boring my followers, I must explain the background of my "Another Chapter for the Girl with the Pearl Earring" again.

Last year I created a quilt in response to a challenge I posed to a different guild.  The challenge was to make a quilt that represented the Renaissance.  I chose to portray perspective by depicting a window with an open shutter.  In the open window, I placed Vermeer's painting "Girl with a Pearl Earring".  

Bear with me while I explain the story behind my quilt.  In my version, this portrait was created after the final chapter of the popular novel and movie.  In my quilt, the girl has returned home but receives a letter and a pearl necklace.  What will she do?

Okay, in my description written for the Vermont Quilt Festival, I explained that.  My quilt did not do well at all, and the judge's comments were that my embellishments and shutter detracted from the girl's face which should be the focal point of the quilt.  It was clear to me that the judge didn't "get it", didn't understand the story behind the quilt.

Fast forward to the lesson learned while helping the judging of quilts yesterday.  My job was to read the information given by each quilter to the judge.  Two years ago when I had the same job I read everything the quilter had written which included their personal explanation of the quilt.  This time, the judge with whom I worked told me very specifically to read only the technical description.  She explained she did not want to hear any of the more subjective back story which might influence her unduly.

Ta-dah!  Light bulb time.  Now I realize that is probably precisely what the VQF judge did when looking at my quilt if she had a rating sheet like the one developed by our guild.  And if that is the case, that is what she had to do.  

This experience has gone a long way to relieve my sense of sorrow and resentment over having my quilt's story so misunderstood.  That story was probably never told, and the judge had to use her knowledge of Vermeer's painting in evaluating the quilt.

Now that leaves me with the question:  What should be done for quilters like me for whom the back story of our quilts is so important?  Yesterday were there quilts that were misunderstood because the background was shrouded?  In a picture book, the illustrations help move and illuminate the story.  The emotional and/or informational background of those illustrations are taken into consideration in awarding the coveted Caldecott Award.  Should art quilts be considered like illustrations, and if so how would that be done?  What would the rating sheet look like?

I don't think it can be done nor am I sure it should be done.  Quilts are not usually thought of as having the same qualities as illustrations and rarely as art works with a message.  It would be very difficult to develop an objective way to evaluate them.

However, part of me wishes that there were such an instrument for my story quilts!

What do you think?

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