All last year I heard comments from other quilters that they were not going to enter this year’s fair because I was entering. Even when I dropped off my quilt there were comments like – Oh there is Anita, she’s going to win best of show again. I keep telling everyone that the Unicorn quilt was just an accident. I had several different techniques I wanted to try and somehow they all worked together to create a good quilt. Once I won best of show everyone expects me to do it every time. I’m not that good a piecer or quilter!! Actually the one that won best of show this year wasn’t even quilted. It was a crazy quilt but not layered with a batting and backing. It's the one in the pictures. Sorry about the dots all over the pictures, those are lights reflected from the ceiling onto the glass.
I went out to the Kentucky State Fair yesterday. I had entered 6 quilts. I won 2 blue ribbons. One in the professional category and one in the memory quilt category. The lady that won both best machine quilting ribbons did a really great job. I was told she used a Statler Stitcher to quilt them. I really don’t know her but the quilting was perfect. She deserved to get those ribbons and I’m happy that she did. If it is true and she did use a computerized machine, I doubt I will ever win another machine quilting ribbon. I can’t really compete with a computerized machine. My movements are far too imperfect while a computer doesn’t know to do anything but perfect. It won’t stop me from entering more quilts though.
It’s kind of strange. I thought I would feel disappointed if I didn’t win a machine quilting ribbon. I really don’t feel that way. Is something wrong with me? That it doesn’t matter I didn’t win one for machine quilting? I do like to get ribbons but somehow not getting one doesn’t make me feel disappointed. All I feel is the urge to start planning a quilt or two for next year.
I spent about 4 hours walking up and down the isles looking at quilts; especially those done by my customers. There were some good, some not so good, some quilted by me, some quilted by hand, and some had ribbons while others didn’t. It was more of a walk down memory lane than an attempt to see what the judge was thinking. I heard many comments from people like…. The judge must have been drunk when they gave that ribbon. The quality of the quilts this year is disappointing. This quilt should have won instead of that one.
I heard these type comments over and over. Those comments are what made me feel really sad. The ribbons are nice but not every quilt is going to get one. The judges give ribbons based on certain criteria. If those criteria aren’t met then no ribbon can be given. I encourage every one of my customers to enter the fair. Why I encourage them isn’t really about the ribbons….it is about seeing their work hanging for everyone to look at.
What quilter doesn’t like looking at the work of other quilters? How often do you go to a shop, or visit a friend, or drop off a top to be quilted and not look at the quilts? The internet is full of people surfing around looking at quilt pictures and websites with quilts on them.
Every customer that comes to my house looks at all the quilts here. They look at the one on the machine and ask me whose quilt it is. They look on the shelves at the completed quilts and often pull one or two off the shelf to look at it closer. They ask me to show the quilts I’m piecing.
For me….this is what a quilt show is really all about; the looking at many quilts all in one place; its eye candy just hanging there for people to enjoy. I tend to focus first on the quilting. Whenever I see a quilt my attention immediately goes to the quilting. I can’t help it, it’s what I do, and machine quilting is my life. After my focus clears somewhat I start looking at the piecing design. I don’t care whether it is pieced perfect or not. I look at the design. Is it something I would want to piece? Why did she or he use a square, a triangle, a diagonal, a curve or other design element? Did the piecer accomplish the look of the design regardless of whether the piecing and quilting is perfect or not?
Maybe this is the artist in me? Artists viewing the work of other artists tend to analyze the intent of the design rather than the way it was accomplished. Let me see if I can describe this in written words with a short story.
There is a painting hanging in an art gallery. At first glance it appears to be splashes of paint thrown on the canvas. One person walks by and comments…My 4 year old son could do that and walks on by. Another person walks up and stops to stare at it for a long time. Suddenly he starts to smile, bobs his head up and down, and says very well done. What did he see that the first person didn’t? He saw what the artist was trying to convey. The splashes of paint themselves were not the real focus; it was what the artist wanted those splashes to represent in the overall design that mattered.
So the next time you go to a fair or a quilt show try looking at the quilts with an artist’s eye. Think of it as a quilt ‘gallery’ rather than a quilt ‘show’. Try seeing the intent of the design rather than how well it was pieced or quilted. Look a little closer at some of the quilts without ribbons. There just might be an artist behind those quilts; someone who was more intent on conveying a message than on how well it is put together. There could be a thousand reasons why the person wasn’t able to do perfect piecing or quilting but that doesn’t make them any less a really great quilter. They could have a handicap making it difficult to piece. They could be just beginning a quilt hobby and you are seeing the first one. They could be low income so that their quilting machine isn’t a do all, very expensive, modern one. They could be trying a design with inexpensive thrift store fabrics to show it can be done. Like I said….there could be thousands of reasons.
And….never stop entering contest just because you don’t win a ribbon. Let the rest of the world enjoy your contribution to the eye candy! Why do you think they call it “show”? It’s because you are to “show” your quilts. I know I’m going to keep entering even if I don’t win ribbons!
Ok, I’m heading off to my studio to start another customer quilt.