Friday, October 30, 2009

And that’s the way it goes.

So. Yesterday I won Best of Show. This morning I woke up to find out that ArtQuilt Elements 2010 had rejected me. Next to my name on the electronic entry form were three big red Xs.

And that’s the way it goes. You win some and you lose some.

I’m mentioning this not to publicly humiliate myself (I could have just kept quiet and not told anyone that I had entered, right?), but to point out something very important. Something I remind my kids of, and myself of, very often. You don’t always win. You don’t always get in. And that’s okay.

I know people who never enter their work in quilt shows. Some of them have confided to me that they are fearful of what the judges might say. Or that attendees at the quilt show will say nasty things (and I have heard some very rude people say amazing things at quilt shows!). I always tell them this story:

When I was a fairly new quilter, and showed my quilts to my mother, a former home economics teacher, she always had lots of nice things to say. In fact, she’s my biggest fan. But she always pointed out that my bindings were, well, crappy. She didn’t say it like that, she was very polite, and her criticism was always constructive.

But of course, since she was my mother, I ignored her.

The first quilt show I entered, I noticed on the judge’s forms that I had mostly plus marks, but my bindings got bad grades. I started thinking that I might have won a ribbon, or a better ribbon, if I had paid attention to what my mother said. (Okay, Mom, here’s where you get to say “I told you so!”) I went home, and that very day, I read books on how to properly bind a quilt. I practiced. I even (gasp!) asked my mother’s advice. I got better. And the next time I entered shows, I got good marks on my bindings.

That’s one reason for entering quilt shows. I enter my small local guild’s show, I enter the Charlotte guild’s show, I enter some big national shows, and I am starting to feel brave enough to enter some high-end art quilt shows, like Elements. With every judge’s form, I am learning what I need to improve. Or at least what that one particular judge on one particular day thinks I need to improve. (And it’s my prerogative to disagree, of course.)

The other reason I enter is that it brings me joy to be part of the event – the fellowship and camaraderie, the laughs, the rejoicing in others’ accomplishments, and our own.

But here’s the biggest reason I enter: Trying counts. Persistance counts. Keep on truckin’.

Life. You must be present to win.

So I leave you today with a few photos of friends with their winning quilts, taken at the setup last night. More tomorrow.

Greta McCrea pins a blue ribbon on her version of my quilt, “Bohemian Bouquet,” called “Susan’s Mystery,” since she did it one block at a time, finished quilt unknown. Greta is a dear friend from my hometown of Pittsburgh. I’ve known her and her family since I was 16, and now we are in the same quilt group! She is a spectacular hand appliquér, and I just love her color choices in this quilt, so different from my version.

DeLane Rosenau started this quilt, “Cold Feet,” in one of our Pandoras meetings more than a year ago. She struggled mightily with it, but persevered and created this amazing work of art. She was especially tickled that she beat me out of the blue ribbon. (“Lepidoptera” took second place in this category, Art/Pictoral.) Hooray for her!


  1. Well said Susan! I'm gonna keep on trying. I didn't submit to this particular show, but have recently been rejected by another art quilt show.

  2. Do we get to know what won Best of Show?

  3. Weren't those red x's scary? We are in good company. There were a lot of people who did not get in - way more than got in. Congrats on your Best of show.

  4. Yes, Robin, it was my "Pink Petal Party" quilt! I mentioned it (and included a photo of me with it) in the previous posting.

  5. Oh Susan! It's SO easy to see those big red x's and let them take all the joy from your best in show. Don't let it!

    I agree completely about competing. I love it - the thrill of seeing the quilts in a different place with better light and the comments from so many people when they see them.

    The x's and +'s will come, but it's spreading the joy of quilting and showing other quilters that YES! you can do it too, that's what it's all about.

    Keep slugging girl! You'll get into elements next year or the judges are just plain blind.



  6. Very well said. It all counts and entering is part of the fun whether you are juried in or not.

  7. indeed very well said Susan! you are in good company and not just for this show... there's always the next one right?

  8. Sometimes it's hard to keep perspective but XXX can be kisses too. I've had works rejected from some exhibitions only to be enthusiastically embraced by other respectable venues.

    By the way, I don't think I registered that Pittsburgh is your hometown. I'll be there for 3 weeks or so over Christmas/New Year with my husband's family. I know the area quite well now but let me know if I'm missing some textile art hangouts!

  9. Brenda,
    I haven't lived in Pittsburgh since I was 21, and have barely been back since (all my family moved away), so I don't really know about fiber art places to tell you about! Sorry.

  10. I make quilts to please myself and I am easy to please;) If I had to make them perfect for judging, I think it would ruin my fun, so I will be content not to win a ribbon for the quilts I make.


  11. very well put and I love Brenda's comment about those x's being kisses so here's a few more, birthday girl xoxo

  12. I am new to the art quilting medium, just retired from 30 years of teaching visual art. However, I am a pretty good judge of design and you win the prize, without the xxxxxxxx. I just finished your dvd and enjoyed your teaching mehodology, clear and consise, especially like the recommendation of liquid refreshment when free motion stitching. Hope to be half as good as you someday. Jane Stricker

  13. You said it...TRYING COUNTS.....alot.

  14. Lovely post. Thanks for sharing both sides of your experience as well as the 'behind the scenes' shots of the show AND 'Congratulations!!!!!' on your ribbon!

    As someone who is exploring where I want to go with my fibre art, this quote from the Tao Te Ching spoke to me:

    The more you care about other people’s approval the more you become their prisoner. - Lao Tzu

  15. I received two red X's and it let me down for just a bit. I think we're allowed to wallow for a short time! BUT, I received those X's the day before I made the trip to the Q=A=Q opening where I did have a quilt on exhibit! I always remember that my quilt is either accepted or declined, not ME! I save all my 'rejections' - keeps me humble.

  16. I love the story about your mother, thank you for telling that. Your work is solid and we can't win every time, you are right with that one.
    Your friends make great art too.

  17. As always, you are truly an inspiration to me, in so many ways. I know you will keep on trying, and will continue to be successful at what you do. Thanks for your motivational words! And congratulations to DeLane and Greta for their prize winning quilts, too.

  18. I really like the quilts and for me it is very special to look at the one made by my relative Greta McCrea You point it out as special one with beautiful colours and so do I. I think she is a really good quilt artist. I have one quilt made by her here in my home in Sweden and I like it very much and look upon it every day. Wish you all luck with the quilts / Ingrid Höglind


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