Lately I have been taking a hard look at the direction I am heading in my fabric arts adventure. Asking myself what do I strive toward in making a good wall art quilt worthy of ribbons or hanging on the wall in some particularly visible area of a nice home or office? A timely and fascinating discussion about judging in shows lately also occurred this week on Facebook, begun by Marilyn Badger, an extraordinary long-arm quilt artist. This discussion centered around a perceived recent trend toward judging decisions being based mostly on the quilting and a lessening of emphasis on good design and color decisions by the quiltmaker. This has been remarkable to see what the top quilt makers and judges who chimed in on this topic had to say. Most agreed that this has been the trend and most felt the pendulum needs to swing back the other way to better balance.
In my humble opinion, winning quilters should strive to gain a solid balance among solid design, artistic color and value, exacting technique for embroidery, piecing and applique, and beautiful quilting. Unless the quilt is for a specific category that is well defined, such as whole cloth quilts, none of these should be rated above the other in a well judged show. The artful impact should also be considered. And also, I believe that if two people make a quilt…one the top and the other the quilter, or some other division of labor, they should both be considered equals in the quilt judging.
Art quilts should be no exception to these…although paint and other surface designs may replace applique and piecing in some cases, and if so, they should be exquisitely executed. Art quilts may also call for different kinds of quilting than judges may think are the best, and sometimes this type of quilting is even harder than traditional feathers and other traditional patterns.
I am certain that I will not always agree with the judges decisions, but I do hope to see that I see better balance in the judging in the future and I end up agreeing more often.
So where do I think I stand in all of this? My designs are unique but are artistic…whether that’s a good thing for a show depends on the judges tastes, I think. My quilting is above average, but it needs to move higher. My embroidery, applique, piecing when needed, color and value choices are either very dramatic or very muted, but overall pretty good. Occasionally I see where I could have improved in the value selection, but overall, my tops are pretty good. Sometimes I have trouble getting things squared up, especially when making silk quilts, but I am aware of that and do what I can to fix it when it occurs. My painting is pretty good for how I use it. Borders sometimes get me into trouble, because I like wide dramatic borders if I have them at all, and some judges think they overpower the central theme…but I think they are part of the overall theme. It’s a matter of opinion. So given all that, when a quilt of mine does not place in a show, I can pretty much pinpoint a disagreement between my tastes and the judges (something I can’t help) or my quilting as the culprit.
Taking all of this into consideration I feel for my show quilts I need to improve my quilting a lot. So I will start practicing like I did my music back when I was a semi-professional musician…almost everyday for at least an hour. And I will pay closer attention to the color values and the balance between borders and central themes. At least I have decided after all of this to continue making show quality quilts and for a while, at least, to continue showing them in the national shows if they will have them. 😀
But my question still is…How do I balance quilting of an art quilt between the traditional tastes of the judges and my more organic tastes for pictorial art? What do you think?
Sew happy everyone. Practice your art a little bit most every day.