Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Ultimate Quilt Judging Algorithm - 9 questions to ask!

Last week I wrote about developing an algorithm to see if the judging of art quilts could be improved -  partly just out of curiosity about decision making but also because I had seen so many amazing pieces rejected for major shows, when quite mediocre ones were accepted. I asked for ideas for questions the algorithm might use. 
But, before we get to that, I must commend N who has already developed her own algorithm for judging science fair projects!  She wrote that judging “seemed daunting [until]  I came up with a number system that rated categories. Added the categories, I could tell whom I would recommend for blue ribbons. It worked great for me, but I was always amazed that the other judges saw things totally differently. I was never really sure if I was thinking out of the box or if they just didn't know what they were doing”.  What’s interesting is that there is, in fact, very little correlation between one’s confidence in a decision of this kind and its validity.  If a person is very confident in their intuitive powers, you need to ask whether they are making that judgment in an environment that is sufficiently regular to be predictable and also whether they have had the opportunity to learn those regularities through prolonged practice. 

The same holds true, of course, for art projects.  When you are blocking out a quilt on the design wall, in judging whether or not this shape of red (or blue) will work well in relationship to the other shapes on the wall, if you have considerable practice and feedback at doing this, your intuitive judgment is likely to be sound, given that the principles of good design are surprisingly applicable to much art.  If, however, you have not had much practice and this is your first workshop in creating an art quilt, then to be asked by the teacher to “use your intuition” is a nonsense! Intuition is the result of prolonged and considerable exposure to fairly regular situations, it isn’t something you’re born with.  Alas!!

SO,  let’s look at the questions that were suggested for our Ultimate Quilt Judging Algorithm.  I wrote that six categories should be enough – you don’t want to be standing there all day looking at your own various attempts, or at the quilt show looking at one piece! Interestingly, only four main categories were mentioned.

1. Immediate reaction, Attention getting and holding
Did this quilt attract my attention? Yes = 1, no = 0
How long did I want to look at it? 5 seconds (0) or 5 minutes? (1)
If I pushed myself to look longer, did I see something more? Yes = 1, no = 0
Does this piece stir something in me? Yes = 1, no = 0
Is there anything in this quilt that distresses, disturbs or bothers me?  Was that the artist’s intent?
 Yes:    Intentional = 1, Unintentional = minus 1. No = 0.

2. Fresh and New
 Have I seen something like this before? If so, is it a development, or an iteration?
Score 1 for not seen before, or a development.  Score 0 for seen before.

3. Color and Value
Looking at it first in grey scale (in order to avoid not only color bias, but also the tendency for different people to see colors in different ways), is it strong, balanced and interesting? Yes = 1, no = 0
Do the colors used work together and, if they clash, is there a reason for that? Work together = 1, clash but with a good reason = 1, clash for no reason = 0.

4. Technique
Does the technique used amaze and awe me? Yes = 1, no = 0
But, are the techniques more the result of proficiency and access to particular technology (camera, printer, high end machine) than to traditional fiber work?  The weight given to the answer to this could be determined by the organizers of the quilt show and who is awarding the prizes! (ha!) If the show supports all techniques, not matter how much technology is used, then the yes is good.  If the show does not, then subtract the 1 given for amazing technique.

Conclusions: What’s interesting is that while the above questions do not directly relate to the principles (which are, of course, guidelines, not rules!) of design (as in “is this quilt design well pulled together?"), but, rather, they are all supported by those principles.  So judges who were familiar with those concepts would be able to hold a discussion using common terminology.  I do think it important that we all have the vocabularly of designs - we think in words by and large, and without words, less thinking is possible!!

There are more questions in category 1, however that is because more people thought it important to mention. And, in reading many jurors' comments, this is definitely the category considered to be most important.   So there are in total 9 questions.   Try them out – and report back!!  Especially try it out on the winners of prizes vs the non winners, and, if you have access, the accepted work vs the unaccepted.

Any comments?  I look forward to reading them! They make my day! both positive and negative!
And, if you have been, thanks for reading!    Elizabeth


Parsley said...

This is really interesting! Thanks for some great food for thought. The one question I'm left with after reading through these is that several ask the judge to evaluate based on the artist's intent. I would think (having never been a judge) that sometimes that would be obvious, but not always. How do judges know, for example, if a color clash was intentional or not?

Claire said...

I like these. I'll run them by my art quilt group and see what the reaction is.

mad elena said...

These nine questions are great! I'll introduce them to my critique group in January. Will let you know how it went.

Elizabeth Barton said...

I think the judges would know if a clash of color or shape etc were intentional because the rest of the piece would support it - the clash would be indicative of anger over war or some such...and if that wasn't reasonably obvious, then one would suspect it was unintentional!
I will be really interested to know what the critique/art quilt groups think!! Modifications are possible!!

Peneller said...

Given the uneasiness caused by some judging decisions at this year's Festival of Quilts in Birmingham it would be wonderful to think that the QGBI would adopt something similar as it's judging criteria. Sadly though, however desirable, it's unlikely to happen anytime soon, but at least I can use the criteria to judge for myself! Thanks you so much for all the time and effort you have put into this.

Miriam said...

This is very helpful. Thanks. Would you comment on show themes? I don't understand their purpose. Perhaps I take them too literally. Seems many just ignore them. Your thoughts?