Saturday, February 18, 2006


In the last couple of days, I have been thinking about why I started and continue entering competitions. Yesterday, while sewing with my group of friends, we got onto the subject. My friend Kathleen recently had a piece accepted into Focus Fiber. I am really proud of her. I would consider her more of a fiber artist than I am.. I am a quiltmaker. What she makes for competition I would loosely consider quilts. They are artistic, sometimes "quilted" with nuts and bolts. Her accepted piece is one of a series based on women she has known. This is a reclaimed cathedral window quilt, that has been put in between two pieces of screening, and the screening has had pieces cut away in many places in specific designs. I can't remember how she put the layers together.

Anyway, we got onto the subject of entering competitions. Kathleens thoughts are that you can make art just to please yourself and not ever put it in a competition. Others of my friends agreed that they were happy with their friends getting pleasure from seeing one of their quilts, and they didn't need to put them into a competion.

Today, another friend, asked why I would enter a quilt in the Vermont Quilt Festival. I don't even think there are monetary awards. Last year, I got a ribbon for a Baltimore Album, and that's how I found out how they judged. They judge according to points, and quilts are not judged against each other, but each quilt is judged on it's own merit. I plan to enter my skeletons, and my mini pineapple this year. So when my friend asked me this, I started thinking about it. Why do I do any of this?

First, I'll talk about Vermont Quilt Festival. In addition to the NQA show, I have got the best critique on my quilt from Vermont. That is what I am interested in. What judges who are trained, and experienced think about my workmanship. It is important to me because I enter not to beat another quilter, but in a sense to beat my best. Just like some Olympic athletes, they go to the Olympics knowing that they don't have a chance to medal (Like the 50 year old woman from Bermuda (?) in I think the Luge competition. They must be so excited to say they were in the Olympics. Many of them have said they are trying to beat their personal best. I am not really interested in entering to win money.. although I don't mind if I do win some. Good thing.. I don't think VQF has monetary prizes unless you are a top winner. Vermont is an historic old show, and I think it is also fun to enter because of that.

Don't get me wrong, although I am ecstatic if I am juried into a show... I was even more excited when I won first place at Road to California. Quilters with more show experience probably don't think a win here is a big deal. But it was for me. I have heard some top quilters proclaim that they expect to win and if they don't they are upset. I read about a quilter who won a lesser prize at a big show.. but not Best in Show.. which is what she thought she deserved. After causing a stink, she never entered again. I guess that she was a wonderful quilter, and could have contributed a lot to the quilting world. God help me if I EVER act like either of those women. I think that the biggest reason that these ladies are like this, is that they have taken their art, and made it a way to make a living. I don't have any need to do that. I made a business out of my painting maybe about 10 or so years ago. It took all of the joy out of it for me. I felt pressured into coming up with new things, and pressured to produce. I'm sure quilters who do this for a living have the same kind of pressures. They have to continually make new art, and designs, I would think that they HAVE to win at the larger shows, because it's good for their business.

That being said, why do I enter? If I ever get good enough to win top prizes.. would I be taking the food out of someone's mouth that needs the win ? I know, that's assuming a lot... Like.. TERI... AS IF!!! I don't have any aspirations to pattern making... none for teaching...the thought of traveling all of the time would be awful for me. Let's see.. the first thought I ever had of entering was when I made the skeletons for fun, and then didn't know what to do with them. It was actually my friend Kathleen that gave me the idea.. She said she knew of places that I should try to enter. Entering that quilt has given me so much inspiration. I am tackling difficult projects (no, I'm not a fast and easy kind of quiltmaker) that I might not have ever bothered to try.
Truthfully, if I hadn't planned on entering my pineapple from the get go.. I would never have tackled an excruciatingly intricate project like that. Now, it is one of my favorite pieces, and I learned a lot making it. The quilt means too much to me though, because I backslid into hoping too much that I would get it into the AQS show.. I go there every year, and I love the show and the town, it would mean something personal to me to have a quilt in that show. Yesterday, when I read the AQS newsletter, it pretty much snapped me back to reality when I realized that since they have raised the prize money for the miniatures, that every excellent miniature quiltmaker is going to enter the show. I will have a hard time with the disappointment when they don't accept it. So, I can't keep dreaming about it and be devastated...I am just going to let it go.. and what will be will be.. I can try again next year.

I am glad that my friends made me think about why I enter.. It's fun, it's personally rewarding, It brings quiltmaking off of the porch, and out in the big world for everyone to see. Although, you will be proud of me that I don't comment when someone tells me, when they see my Skeleton piece.. "I like your blanket".. Okay...... I am just happy that it touched them enough to comment... ;)


Lisa, Procrastinator Extraordinaire said...

Very insightful. Thanks for making me think :-)

Mandi aka Fabric Princess said...

I think you're right. It's rewarding. I'm trying again this year to enter things, after being so personally "rejected" several years ago. Now I get that it's not personal, but it motivates me to do stuff that I otherwise wouldn't try. Now I just hope that one day someone will jury me into a show.

kristin La Flamme said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. It's interesting to me to find out why people enter shows and what one expects. I can't imagine anyone could make a living off of shows as it costs so much to photograph, enter, ship, insure, etc your artwork and each quilt could only win in a limited number of shows at best. I am new at entering shows, but for me the reason to do it is to share my passion. My family and I love what I make, but sometimes it's nice to have a little wider "audience." I see it as a sort of validation as well, although rejection won't stop me from creating!