Entering a quilt show can be a scary but worthwhile process for any quilter. How do you know when you are ready to take the plunge and jump into the pool of quilts ready to be examined and evaluated? What does it mean to enter a “juried show?”
It is my personal belief that every quilter owes it to themselves to display their work in at least one quilt show. There is nothing like seeing your work hung on a wall or from a full-size display for everyone to admire. The best place for your first-ever show is a non-juried exhibit. Many quilt guilds will have regular shows that showcase their members’ work on an annual or semi-annual basis. These are often held in a church, school or other public space and open to the public for a small fee. A show such as this is a wonderful way to see quilts of all styles and levels of expertise together in one space. Because ribbons are not awarded, all quilters are able to enjoy entering their quilt without fear of being judged on their workmanship.
A juried show or exhibition is one in which photos of quilts are submitted months ahead of the competition. A panel of judges selects quilts which will go forward in the competition and be exhibited in the show. Quilters are then notified of their status, and ship their quilts in time for the competition. A second round of judging takes place prior to the show opening, and winners are selected in a number of categories. Quilts are hung, and ribbons are placed on the winning entries.
It is always exciting to walk into a show and find a ribbon on your quilt. The joy that you feel when you see people admiring your winning quilt is unlike no other. In contrast, when you enter a show and do not receive a ribbon, it can be very disheartening.
How you react to the outcomes of a juried show depends on what you expected when you entered the show in the first place. Were you expecting a ribbon when you entered, or were you entering the competition looking for constructive criticism? Personally, I look for feedback to help make me a better quilter!
A juried competition must have experienced, highly-regarded quilters for judges. NQA certified judges are always preferred, as they go through a rigorous certification process and know what to look for. Always keep in mind that judges are only human. If they are comparing three quilts of equal excellence, they will choose the one they like first. It is tremendously helpful to have written feedback from the judges following any competition. That is the feedback I always look for when I enter. What was good about my quilt? What do I need to work on? Are there classes that might help me improve in these areas?
Studying winning quilts during a show helps me better understand what I need to be working on. What do good bindings look like? Quilting stitches? Applique and piecing techniques? By looking critically at blue ribbon quilts and by taking good notes during the show, I create for myself a list of items to focus on in my own work. No one improves in any aspect of life unless they practice and self-analyze their own work.
Enter a quilt show. Help yourself grow!