Sunday, October 30, 2011

Entering Art Quilt Shows Part 1


Last April 1, I posted a piece about a new quilt show and since then I have been cogitating upon what advice I might give to entrants. I came up with so many different ideas, I thought I’d split them into two posts. These are some of the very important things to remember when entering a show.

1. The quality of the photograph: Remember the juror has very little time to look at your piece, so you really don’t need to bother too much about how the photograph looks. If the instructions say the image should be “300 ppi” that really is just a “serving suggestion”, you don’t need to bother about it much. Any number that has a 3 in it will work.


2. Principles. Be sure to have some. You’ve probably heard about the “principles” of good composition…well, when it comes to choosing which pieces to enter a show, be sure to get them right.

Harmony or unity simply means that all the different pieces of cloth are joined together. Variety or tension is an indication of how tightly the stitches are pulled together and is best ignored. In a detail shot, you can show the judges just how well you ignored tension! A pulled out stitch or two or a nice lumpy seam is exactly what they’re looking for.

Balance and proportion are guidelines only if you are actually going to wear your quilt whilst climbing a ladder. You want it to hide the naughty bits as you go up, and to support your weight if you fall down. Otherwise, this “rule” is just another piece of bureaucratic flimflammery!

You’ve heard them talk about getting rhythm and movement into a piece? What that means is that you should be sure to repeat a shape you like several times. Keep those shapes identical and the same distance apart, think about a funeral march: dum dum dum…whatever you do don’t put in any twiddlededees!! Asymmetry is anathema.

basic dyeing 2

Movement means that you’ve got to do all you can to make this quilt stay in place. Think of it being like a target. All important elements should be slap bang in the middle and if there are secondary objects – one on each side, exactly balanced is a very good idea.

And I’m sure you’ve heard some misguided fools talking about economy and simplicity? I know I have!! What idiots they are – everyone knows more is more. Stick everything on that baby you can!! Jumbles are good! Everyone loves a thrift store much more than an austere gallery. If the different parts of the quilt are ugly, jumbling them all up will really add a certain something to the piece! A “je ne sais quoi” that could be your “piece de resistance”! (you’ve heard of resist and discharge processes, this is where the resist part is important).

3. With purpose aforethought. It isn’t important for the jurors to have any idea of what your purpose was in making this quilt. In fact you don’t need to have any purpose. It’s much better if you think now it’s time to use up this horrible pink fabric with purple dots, it’s been hanging around in the closet for too long. It’s very important not to have any meaning to a piece, the less content the better. It’s all about form!

bw screen 3

4. Crime de passion. Jurors really don’t like genuine emotions, so distressing. You’re much safer with saying something that has been said before. A different point of view might be a little confusing to them. Stick with the obvious and water it down if you can.


5. Containment. It’s very important to make sure you have a good solid border around your piece. A dark color is preferable, and the more borders the better. You want to make sure the central motif is firmly nailed into place. The softer and more delicate it is, the heavier the border should be – you can never be too careful!


Be sure nothing will get up and have any spirit; at all costs, the piece should not have any life or movement to it. That’s very disconcerting and might put the jurors right off their stride, it could even wake them up. Lifeless work is much better.

Part 2 of this sage advice will appear in my next blog; I do hope you feel that the ideas are helpful! So, if you have been, thanks for reading! Elizabeth


Elsie Montgomery said...


Gerrie said...

Ha ha ha! And it is even April Fool's day!

Unknown said...

I shudder to think that perhaps there are those out there who don't know you are kidding....

sheila said...

You should have titled this posting ... What NOT to do!!!

Karen said...


Mary Keasler said...

After reading the first few sentences a couple of times, ( I know, I know, I am a slow learner) I was laughing and giggling with glee. What fun.

Anonymous said...

Loved this!!!

Faith said...

Aw, shucks! No more "Live, Laugh, Love" or "Dream" (copied form a greeting card, poster or an ad) quilts slapped together after seeing a home decorating show using quilts, using a an old machine needle (it's not broken so it doesn't need to be replaced) and that fabric Aunt Matilda hadn't used for forty years before inheriting it twenty years ago, with a mismatched sheet on the back ('cause who looks at the back) and lots of commercial appliques where the fabric gave out on front and quick machine sewn patches on the back (because the sheet was old, too) that don't go with the quilting, but no one really notices the quilting (and besides, it will keep people from seeing how many fits the machine caused trying to do it.
Phew! Not that everything listed is bad (except the needle!), but there is a place for everything.
No, I never saw all of that in one quilt but I've seen some of it and heard about the rest and I hardly ever do any quilting, myself. They'd ignore my mismatched points and occasional pulled seams.

Jeanne Marklin said...

I bought my husband a tshirt from the "National Sarcasm Society" in smaller letters "like we need your support"
Bet you'd get a kick out of it!