Why I don’t enter quilt shows . . .

Snail's Trail/I
Snail’s Trail/I

Many years ago, I entered my first quilt show.

I entered the Snail’s Trail quilt shown above. I was very pleased with it for a number of reasons: I played with scale and transparency. There are two different sizes of spirally arms overlaid on each other, one dark blue and the other teal. In places, they show a third color, as though you’re looking THROUGH the arms.

After twenty years of quilting, I felt it was my best quilt to date.

Then, I entered it into a local quilt show . . .

I wondered about the judging process, since the judges didn’t know me from Adam, and had never seen any of my previous pieces. I figured they would judge it on its own merits. I felt I had a winner on my hands.

About a week later, I received a phone call informing me that I hadn’t won a thing, and I could pick up my quilt at my convenience.

WHAT?? I was SURE it would win!!

When I went to retrieve my quilt, I was given the judges sheets. There were three judges and over a dozen criteria they were looking at. Without fail, one judge would like what I did, and the other two didn’t (and never the same two).

Some of the criteria made sense, but I was at a loss on others. Two judges didn’t like my choice of color . . . Really?? What color should it have been?? Two judges didn’t like my choice of pattern . . . Oh, come on!! Two judges didn’t like my border treatment . . .

I think the judges needed to make their own damn quilt (and keep their criticisms off mine)!!

The woman next to me asked to read the judges comments, and said, “I don’t get it . . . I don’t agree with a single thing they say. You made a great quilt!!” I put on my best face and graciously thanked her.

Then, I looked around the room. All of the other quilters in the room wore the same expression as me.

It dawned on my that they ALL expected their quilt would win, too!!

You know what??

I vowed never to enter another quilt show . . . And as for judges, FLICK ‘EM!! I’m sure I can point out the flaws in my quilts more readily than THEY can!!

I enjoy quilting for its own sake. I had no idea there was an entirely separate realm of “perfect” quilts, with their own rarefied standards. What was the point?? Did the winners quilt for the money, the glory, the bragging rights?? More power to ’em . . .

Every quilter who quilts is a winner, whether another person bestows the title upon them or not. I feel you should take pride in your accomplishments; learn from your mistakes; and do what feels right to YOU, rather than give someone else power over your sense of joy.

Now, you may think “sour grapes.” But I never tasted the fruit, so I wouldn’t know if it’s sour or not . . . I moved on.

About a month later, I made another quilt with the same pattern (only larger), followed by a smaller piece made from the leftover blocks:

Snail's Trail/II
Snail’s Trail/II
Snail's Trail/III
Snail’s Trail/III

The clients who bought them, loved them . . . and didn’t give me a single criticism. They were my kind of people.

11 thoughts on “Why I don’t enter quilt shows . . .

  1. I think maybe they need new judges. And consistency. I thought the quilt was fabulous. Would have loved to have seen what they considered a “winning” quilt then.

    Sounds similar to the reason I stopped going to the local guild. Anything traditional was great, anything leaning towards modern was sometimes LITERALLY frowned upon.

    SO what if something was not to their taste? Applaud the effort and technique!

    1. That’s a good way of looking at it, Andrea. Thank you!!

      As a matter of fact, I did not attend the show. I wasn’t the least bit curious to see a “winner.”

      I attend quilt shows even less than I enter them, LOL!!

  2. Showing is hard work – emotionally . And you are right about making our art for those who love them.
    I read an article about “Why we exhibit” which changed how I look at putting my art out there (in any context).
    And I think your snails quilts (all 3) are wonderful – I love your use of colour and how you extended the art of a “plain” snail block.

    1. Thank you, Margherita!! Even now, I see things in the third piece that I never saw at the time I made it!!

      Fifteen years ago, the only people who saw my quilt were those who also “didn’t make the cut.”

      Now, thanks to the internet, my quilt has been seen by a much larger audience across the globe!! (And not a nay-sayer in sight!!)

    1. Thank you, Teresa!!

      I truly believe that each quilt I make is better than the one before . . . too bad the judges never realized that.

  3. I LOVE all 3 also! And yes I am yelling LOVE!!! I feel the same way although I have never entered a show. I know my mistakes as I make them. Some I fix and some I attribute to creative license. My customers are all happy!
    Keep on doing you Raymond!

    1. Thank you, Jackie!!

      I’m far from perfect, so why should I stress out if my quilt is also less-than-perfect?? (I believe there’s a name for that sort of behavior.)

      This post sparked a lively discussion on Facebook, with certified quilt judges weighing in.

      “Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose” only applies if you choose to PLAY that game . . . “Homey don’ play dat, LOL!!”

  4. Raymond, firstly I have to say, I adore your website name. It’s unforgettable, and made me giggle! I agree with other commenters that your quilts are gorgeous, and also that most of the time, for quilt shows, the judges are not qualified to judge. It seems as if they possibly have never even made a quilt themselves. I attend quilt shows as if they were art gallery showings … and every artist has a different style, so I cannot possibly love them all (other than loving their efforts, which are great. Fabric and pattern choices alone can take eons!). I myself have never actually *finished* an entire quilt or quilted project, although I have many quilt tops on the go simultaneously. I’m beginning to think that ‘fabric acquisition’ is my real hobby, as I have enough fabric to easily make 30 quilts — tops AND backs! But I do have a friend whom I consider an Expert sew-ist and long-arm quilter. What she does with panels and fabrics to ensure designs remain right-sides-up and characters and points are not cut off is unbelievable. And yet, her efforts are not rewarded enough with ‘Winner’ quilt awards, although she has many many ribbons. When she points out in detail what she did to achieve her final product, I think the judges had no clue. But don’t let it stop you from ‘showing’ your work, Raymond. Although I agree the internet can showcase your fiber art, it’s so much lovelier to see quilts in person. ~A fan.

    1. Thank you very much, Diana.

      I want people to own my art. I want them to look, touch, feel, and snuggle with it as much as they want.

  5. Raymond, I just discovered your blog and I love your style. Your Snail Trail quilt is fabulous and those judges don’t know what they are doing. Once I entered a hollow cube quilt in the state fair. It didn’t win anything, but was exhibited. They hung it upside down and fold so that only a third of it showed. Really???

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