On a bitter cold day in late February a friend and I took in a quilt show. Both of us had quilts entered and of course we wanted to check out the competition and be inspired.
We were thrilled that both our quilts were hung in prominent, well lit spots. Some of the other 200 quilts on display weren’t as fortunate. There were lots of different types of quilts to admire, though almost no modern quilts. I don’t know if that reflects a lack of interest in modern quilting in our area or if modern quilters simply don’t enter this show.
I took fewer pictures than is my wont, partly because I didn’t see a lot that was new to me or so exceptionally well done that I had to record it. Here are photos of quilts I really liked that sported no ribbons.
All of the above quilts looked technically well done to me and had a spark of originality. I notice that three have a similar color palette, so maybe those are the judges’ least favorite colors. The ribbons graced the Judy Niemeyer pattern quilts, the needle turn applique quilts, and bog standard log cabin quilts. Yes, some of the quilts that won ribbons were lovely, but many of the judges’ choices were mystifying.
The most head scratching was the winner in the art quilt category. It was large and depicted an imaginary land, complete with water, lighthouse, very large tree, houses, hills and a host of other details. Almost every inch was covered in some form of bling applied with a heavy hand – buttons, rhinestones, angelique, crystals and more. This choice confirmed my hunch that most quilt show judges haven’t a clue how to judge art quilts, where design is probably more important than technique. I believe they felt that due it its size and amount of embellishment this quilt deserved first place.
Certainly any award winning quilt should be technically well made. Heavens knows I saw enough quilting and binding that made me shudder. And when I disparage the binding on a quilt you know it’s bad.
It may be that show judges need more education and guidance on how to judge a quilt’s design. It’s yes/no when it comes to straight edges, square corners, sharp points, even stitching, etc. Art quilts don’t lend themselves to such criteria, and their design is critical to judging them. The art quilt category had the third largest number of entries in the show, so I think this issue will grow.
So why enter art quilts in a general show, you ask? There are shows devoted to just art quilts or modern quilts, but ecumenical shows serve an important purpose. I want show goers to see all the permutations of quilting, not just a small slice. Traditional and art quilters may find inspiration where they least expect it.
I’ll close with a photo of my favorite quilt at the show. It won a second place ribbon in its category. There’s a small boat thread painted under the breaking wave.