Oct 17, 2014

hey, quilt competitions: why all the secrecy?

There's a giant hole in my blog and my so-called 'gallery' page. My best art quilt is nowhere to be seen.

That's because I entered it into a competition for the Houston International Quilt Festival and by some miracle, it was accepted. Woohoo! So excited, and truly honored to have been chosen.

But the rules in the "Call for Entries" explicitly state that you cannot enter if the finished quilt has been shown on blogs, websites, articles, etc. prior to the show's opening. The Houston event is not alone - most quilt competitions work this way.

In a world where we post selfies every other moment, and a in world with a plethora of bloggers, grammers, pinners and twitter addicts...  why all the secrecy?

Here's the world we live in.... See me with my dinner? See with my dog? You like my picture? Oh, I like that you like my picture! See what I made today? Wanna comment? Oh, I love comments!

I totally understand that quilt exhibit organizers want an element of surprise and freshness to their shows. And this is legit. I get what you're thinking, but I think your thinking is old school.

Lots of artists and makers today need and want to document and share their creations. For some of us, this is as much an innate part of how we work today as is picking up a needle and thread.

And this issue is not just about the needs and wants of the makers versus the organizers. Its actually a much bigger question that centers on the expectations of the viewer... and the ways in which we think, communicate and process images these days.

Are we fighting a new war with an old strategy?

The war in this case being the hyper-connected, online, visual world in which we live... and reconciling that world with being stuck in old school ways of communicating.

Here's a case in point. Let's start at the most famous, most obvious example in the Western art world - the Mona Lisa. Why do people go see it? Why is the line 500 feet long, every day, every year, year after year?

Photo by Teresa Duryea Wong, 2014.
To say you can see this image online is kinda, well ... duh! You can see it everywhere, at almost any second of the day. But people realize that you can't trade these obscure impressions for the tangible experience of seeing the real thing. So they put the Mona Lisa on every Paris must-see itinerary.

Other art museum exhibitions show the same paintings we've been looking at, reading about, and studying for 200 years on view, and we line up around the block to see them in person. Why is that?Clearly, it's because you see it in a book, on a website, on a poster, in a magazine, where ever... and you want more! You want to see the real thing!

So, if you see a quilt online, doesn't the same logic apply? Don't you want to see the real thing?

Don't you want to touch it? To put your face up close to it? See the stitches? See the construction? See how big or how small it is? Feel its vibe? Picture the maker working tirelessly on it? You can't get all these things from seeing a picture online or in print. But these images can make you want to see the thing! In many cases, these images can make you care!

Many, many studies prove that repetition breeds familiarity. That's why advertisers show the same ads over and over again. That's why we listen to the same songs over and over. Think about it... the first time you hear a song, you are probably ambivalent. You need time. You need repetition, you need an experience that connects you to that particular song. You need a moment.

Art works the same way. Your first glace is not likely your most memorable.

Am I alone here?

Another case in point. Couple weeks ago, I blogged about the art of the amazing Susan Lenz. I wrote in that post that I've only seen a couple of her pieces of art in person. Nothing would thrill me more than seeing ALL of them in person.  Susan's work is something I discovered online... if there was no blog, no social media presence, no website... for me, there'd be no interest because it is doubtful I would have known about her.

I truly believe that an online or in print impression helps BUILD interest in a work of art, not DETRACT interest!

Why do quilt competition organizers think the opposite? Why do organizers struggle so hard for publicity in the "old world media" of newspapers, magazines, etc, when the blogger - who is the new citizen journalist - is right there, ready to spread the word? Why do we quiet these voices when we should enable them?

I hate whiners. I love solutions.

Here's one solution.Give bloggers a button to post on their blog or website or store that says: "Hey, I'm a winner. Come see my Quilt here!" Have the button link back to your web, or blog, or board... whatever. Get lots of people to contribute to it and spread the images. Hope that they go viral. Free the voices! Empower those who care most to promote and share... and tweet and pin...

Empower the bloggers and the grammers to do their thing, to sing from the mountain tops!

Here another idea. Let's do an experiment. Let's take an online festival - like Amy's Creative Side, for example, who runs one of the biggest online quilt festivals (slash competitions) - and let's say that we take those quilts and hang them in a real, brick and mortar space.  Would you come see them?

If you've seen these quilts already on your favorite blogs, and you voted for them in an online festival, would you still want to see them in person?  My guess, is yes! I know I'd love to see them. That's why I look at them online... because most of them are good, some are awesome. It is because I am familiar with them that I care about them.

Are we fighting a new war with old strategies? I'd love your thoughts!

My disclaimer: I recognize that this post might offend some organizations, and they might think I missed the point. I don't intend to offend. I'd love to hear all points of view. This is how I feel. What do you think?

P.S.My art quilt goes on view October 29. I have my long awaited blog post ready to publish Oct. 29! I'll post a picture of me standing next to it. I hope you "like" it!

I'm linking up. I love link ups. If you want to share this or re-post it, that'd be cool.

Nina Marie's Off the Wall Fridays
Bad Ass Quilters Society Facebook Page - or web... maybe they will share.
Amy's Creative Side

40 comments:

  1. This is my biggest hugest can't overstate it enough pet peeve about quilt shows and competitions. It is SO frustrating. You perfectly state the case and I wish shows would pay attention.

    For me it comes down to two things (both of which you mention)

    1. For many of us blogging about the processes of making our quilts is a key part of the creative process which is stifled when these absurd limitations are imposed.

    2. If anything traffic and viewing on blogs/websites will only INCREASE the amount people want to see the shows!

    ARGHHHH!!! Thanks for the insightful post about this!

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    1. Agree on both points Shannon! Let's spread the word... maybe someone will listen.

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  2. Best of luck in the competiton......what an exciting time for you!

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    1. Thanks for the kind words Mary. I did not win, but I am thrilled to be among the finalists... and I will be more thrilled when I can blog about it.

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    2. I say if you already know you did not win, post away! What are they going to do - take away your ribbon?? And I completely agree with everything you've said above. I have not been quilting long (2 years or so) but this is something that has bothered me as well.

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  3. Thank you so much for sharing these well crafted sentences that explain in a most logical, kind, and open-minded, respectful manner the frustrations and questions many feel. Thank you, too, for mentioning me in the post. I have yet to blog about my two Quilt National rejects. Why? Not out of embarrassment that I didn't make it into the show. Plenty of superb pieces are always rejected from such an international call-for-entry. (Besides, I made it in the last time around. So, it's not a validation issue either.) I haven't blogged these two pieces because they are "out of order". They aren't part of the creative journey and documentation process that is going on currently in my life. They were intentionally "left out" when appropriate due to the organizations rules. It was difficult to do. I leave my thoughts there on each blog post. These entries are the tools for writing later, specific "artist statements". Now, I almost have to figure out a way to "put them back in" even though my mind, heart, and available time are being spent on other projects. Four years ago I entered Quilt National for the first time. Both pieces were rejected. (Yes, I know one can enter three pieces but it was too difficult to keep that many works under wraps and still have "something" to blog and share.) Eventually, I showed the two on my blog. That post was titled "Quilt National Rejects". Since then, I've always sort of thought of these two stellar works as "rejects". I've wondered how many other artists view their pieces in a similar, negative ways even after other awards are earned in other exhibitions for the same pieces? I'm trying very hard not to think of my two recently rejected pieces as "rejects". I'm also wondering why I entered. Why did I keep the secret? Why did I go along with rules that I feel are absurd and out-dated? What did having work accepted into Quilt National 2013 really do for me that was worth compliance with these old-school rules? I don't have an answer other than it provided a "good line" on a resume but still only a "good line" for those who have heard of Quilt National. Does the staff/committee at a university gallery in the process of evaluating my solo show proposal care about this line? Do art residency programs look twice at an application if such an exhibit is listed? Does the programing director at an art center decide to hire me for a workshop because of this inclusion? Was my budding career in the arts majorly enhanced over the past two years due to being in Quilt National 2013? I don't think so. Of course I was thrilled to be among the chosen. I got a hardcover catalog too. I think my piece went to a few of the traveling venues but not all of them. Within the "art quilt" world, it's a big deal ... but elsewhere? I'm not sure. Will I enter again? I don't know. Yet, I do know that I am more inclined to travel to exhibits sharing images. I do know that many insider "art quilters" complain that the wider world of ART doesn't accept our medium. It seems to me that the wider world of art would be more inclined to accept art quilts if the art quilting world behaved more appropriately ... bragging about itself, its quality, the concepts and craftsmanship through available social media and Internet opportunities. The more we show the world, the more the world will want to see it in person (and purchase the catalogs and artwork on view.) It seems to me that we "cut off our noses" in spite when not being more open.

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  4. I COMPLETELY agree! I have only ever entered one quilt in a regional show. I may enter more competitions BUT as an attendee of quilt shows - there is NOTHING more thrilling than seeing a quilt that I have seen online in a show. I totally agree with everything you said :) I was at Phoenix AQS show last spring, walked around the corner and saw a quilt that I had seen on line. Not any quilt, this was a special quilt that I just fell in love with and inspired me. I skipped, I put my hand over my mouth, yes, I even squealed :) If it had not been for seeing that quilt online - I very well may have walked right by it. . . AND I thought about not going to the show at all - not going would not have even entered my mind if I had known beforehand that that quilt was going to be hanging in that show. Your points are spot on! Where's the petition, I'm ready to sign!

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    1. Judy, your experience confirms everything i feel as well. Thank you so much for sharing. If i could figure out who might be open to a petition.... but first we gotta get people talking about this. Maybe we can change minds! Love your comments!

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  5. Thank you for saying publicly what many of us are thinking but haven't put out there.

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    1. Gwyned, this means a lot to me. I appreciate your sentiment and support! We gotta start talking about this issue.

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  6. Once upon a time, I followed a competition sewing blog by Summerset Banks. Sadly, she has stopped blogging as of 2012.

    She would faithfully blog about EVERY step in her process of creating a competition garment .. or in her case, a SET of coordinated garments. She talked about her thought process, the fabric buying process, the samples she'd make (the good, the bad, the ugly). She'd talk and show numerous photos of the garment in progress.

    It was endlessly FASCINATING to watch this project emerge from a thought to a finished product.

    One of her garments, "American Beauty", was documented in her blog this way. She entered it into Pacific International Quilt Festival and I was fortunate enough to attend that year. AND I SAW THAT GARMENT.

    I tell you, I was like a juvenile fan girl when I saw it! I was (quietly and discretely) jumping up and down and (subduely) exclaiming that *I KNOW THIS GARMENT!*. I might have squealed once or twice. I might have even gushed. I was *so* excited to see her garments in person BECAUSE I was ALSO familiar with the process she had gone through to create it.

    I acted as a mini-guide to the friend who had attended with me, telling her all the details about the garment that are impossible to include on the info card. When I was finished with my mini-description, quite a number of people had gathered around me to listen in. Several came up to me afterwards and thanked me for all the details.

    So, my experience is that pre-show publicity and photos will in NO WAY detract from people wanting to see the real thing. In fact, I would venture to say just the opposite would happen .. the more people know about the item in advance, the more they will want to see it in person.

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    1. Shelley: Your story is just incredible! Although I am not surprised... these rules are so counter-intuitive. I am so glad you shared all this on the comments here! Thank you for reading. I think we might get some momentum going here... we can only hope to bring about positive changes. Thanks a million for your precious story!

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  7. I hadn't thought about this much before, since I am in the UK and we don't have loads of quilt shows, but I do know that at least twice in my life I have seen a painting in the flesh that I expected nothing from, (having seen reproductions) and been blown away by the real thing. Something about the scale. I am absolutely sure I would love to see in person art that I had watched being created via a blog - in fact I think this would be a richer experience because of the extra understanding that comes along with knowing the story and observing the process.

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    1. Kaja: Your comments are spot on! Nothing compares to seeing the real thing. I truly appreciate you reading this and sharing your thoughts... it means a lot to hear other perspectives. I have felt the same way several times before when seeing art in person. Thanks a million!

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  8. I couldn't agree more and from the comments you have, many quilters feel the same. Seeing something on line whets the appetite for more - and no photo can let you see all the detail (and of course I'm always interested in the FMQ and very frustrated that most photos don't show that at all).
    I also live in the UK and we do have about 10 quilt shows around the country. As far as I am aware, none of them forbid you to blog about or show the finished quilt on line, and I certainly have had comments from quilters saying they would look out for my piece at a show, having seen it on my blog.

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    1. Hilary: Great to hear the UK shows don't require this old school restriction. Maybe that is a solution, we should only enter UK shows! But many of the big international ones I have studied (hosted in US and also outside US) all have this requirement. You are so right about not being able to see the detail... there is no replacement for the real thing. Appreciate your comments! Hope we can get some momentum going.

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  9. I'm with you! It's so frustrating not to submit a quilt or design idea to a show or book because it was previously posted on my blog. All that a side, though, CONGRATS on the Houston show!! That is awesome! I can't wait to see your quilt in person!!!!!!!

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    1. Thanks Emily! You might find me standing by beaming.... that is the good news. This other issue is just crazy. Thanks so much for your comments and support! Aporeciate you stopping by.

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  10. Yep. I know bloggers by what they make, sometimes even more so than their names. I love to go to a national show and spot a quilt I know from across the room. It is sort of like running into an old friend I've never actually met. There's surely a bit of an emotional connection and personal connection too.

    I also really hate it when people are working on "secret" stuff. Here's what I read between the lines: "I'm working on something so awesome that I'm brimming around the edges to tell you about it. Since I can't, I'm going to mention it in code words at least 10 times as sort of an excuse to why what I *am* showing you isn't as interesting"

    Bring on the transparency! :)

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    1. You are so right. Everyone puts an enormous amount of pressure on politicians, corporations, non-profits, etc. these days and they demand transparency. Somehow, this trend has escaped the quilt world. Strange. Also, like you I love the blog posts about things they can't show - my favorite photos are the ones of the piles of scraps "look here, I did make something today, I just can't show it." Crazy! Thanks so much for your comments! Appreciate you stopping by.

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  11. As an art quilter, I have no problem making work and entering shows with a "no publishing" rule as part of entry. I feel this levels the playing field for me as an artist who does not have a substantial body of work. I also feel that I can use the process to promote my work after the show with putting the process on my blog after the show is done. I find other ways to give back to the art quilt community while working on these projects by my other blog posts and art tip videos I put together. I would not want a jury to have prior knowledge on the work and base their decision on anything other than the work itself. If you cannot abide these rules, don't enter that show. There's many others with no such restriction.

    I think it's the show venue's prerogative to not show work that has been shown a million other places. It gives challenge to artists like me to create new work for exhibition. A show with work people have seen for a while is a museum collection, not a show with the latest quilt art and artists. The same with magazines and books, why would I pay for content I could get for free on my browser? I think showing work that is never seen before is the mark of the best of the shows I go to. I'm delighted by what is there, and sometimes, thrilled that my work is counted among it.

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    1. Cheryl: Thank you very much for your comments! I truly respect your point of view and I feel that you make some very good points. Yes, we can always blog about the work after the show, but as Susan Lenz points out in comments above - sometimes that is odd because it is out of order. But I love that you endorse this and are also finding other ways to blog and give back. That is great! I agree that there is of course a huge difference between a historic museum exhibition and a fresh art quilt show. Most art quilt shows have a time span in which the work must have been made so that it is not old work, and that is a good thing. I just think that by showing it on personal blogs, you are giving viewers just a taste - like a preview of an upcoming movie or a blurb about a new book - which is in no way a replacement for seeing the real thing. But, your views are very well stated and I truly appreciate and respect your perspective on this and I am so thankful you took the time to comment! This means a lot. Love the differing viewpoints on this.

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  12. I've heard again and again that there needs to be more modern quilts in quilt shows but it seems to me that requirements like this are what keeps them out.

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    1. Yes, this is quite possible. I will check into this. Planning to attend QuiltCon in Feb, so I will ask around and see what others there feel. Thanks a million for your comments and for stopping by!

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    2. I also will be at QuiltCon, so looking forward to the show.

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  13. As Cheryl said, the main reason quilt shows demand that the quilts have not been published, or posted to a social media, has to do more with fairness of judging. You don't want someone (or yourself) to get a blue ribbon simply because a judge recognized a quilt or quilter. It protects the judges for the very same reason. This was one of the things that I disliked about a certain modern quilt show. Many of the quilts with ribbons on them, were publicly known before hanging in the show. It gives known quilters an unfair advantage over unknown quilters. I agree that the quilt shows selecting and judging process is a fabulous way if beating down ones confidence. I am happier hanging out with my fellow instagram, Flickr, and blogging friends. Their words mean more to me than any ribbon I have won in the past.

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    1. Monica: I agree that the fairness of judging is a critical element of shows - and we need to respect that. As I understand it, in most cases, the quilts are judged without names of the quilters being revealed. Not sure if this is the case every time, but I have interviewed judges who tell me this is how they are asked to judge. Although, with some prominent quilters who have a recognizable "style"you can probably recognize who it is without name or any pre-publicity. I think shows have the right to restrict quilts that have been exhibited in other shows, because that could be repetitive. The quilts should be judged on their merit... and I think letting bloggers post photos of their process and their finished quilts on their own blogs or FB pages or other sites is kinda of a fundamental issues... because it is how so many of us think, work and communicate now. It is innate. But hey, I like your idea of being happier hanging out with fellow online community with no judgement whatsoever!! Thanks a million for offering a different point of view. I respect and appreciate your comments very much.

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  14. What I find interesting is the judges are trained on what to look for in the more traditional quilt elements and not on the Modern quilt elements. That said there are judges who are very capable to judge in both categories. I find a lot of my traditional guild members do not understand what makes a quilt modern. They may do a quilt that they think is modern to them but does not fit into the category of modern. It is an interesting dilemma.

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    1. Hi Marian. Yes, the modern movement is so interesting on many fronts. Thanks very much for taking time to comment and share your thoughts. I really appreciate you stopping by!

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  16. And let's not forget about the no photography rule. (Just so you buy our CD Rom or book of all the photos.)

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    1. Hi Cheryl: I really appreciate your comments and I'm so glad you took time to stop by. I find the differing photo rules interesting and confusing... every museum and show is a bit unique. Thanks!

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  17. One question I have, given my previous comments, is whether we as the artists, can do anything practical to make our opinions known.
    I thought it was very interesting that the quilt national entries this year actually said (to my knowledge for the first time) that it was ok to have posted pictures of your quilt on your personal blog or website as long as they didn't appear anywhere else. I thought that was a huge step forward, but was interested to see they were still very specific about how, for example, facebook did not count as a personal webpage or blog so if pictures got on facebook (or presumably pinterest) your entry would be disqualified. As a result I still refrained from blogging about my entry, but it was nice to see what I thought of as a bit of improvement.

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    1. Shannon, this is interesting! As always, thanks for your comments.

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  19. Do you have a list of the shows that have this 'no publishing' rule? It might be helpful to those that want to enter shows. The only show I've personally heard of having this rule is Houston but it sounds like there are more. On another note, as the owner of MQX Quilt Festivals, there has never and will never be a rule like this.

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  20. Ninety nine percent of the quilts I see leave no impression on me. I have no desire to see them again. I am at a point in life where going to shows is a lot of work physically. I don't want to see things I have seen before. Why is it so difficult to wait until the show has opened to do your blog presenting? It is not like you can NEVER post your own story.

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  21. It seems this is more a rule in the art quilting community than the mainstream shows - outside of Houston. I wonder if this in addition to preserving some integrity of the judging process has anything to do with holding a "higher standard" of sorts. The contemporary/art themed shows are trying to be seen more like that of the fine art world, in my opinion.

    I think at the end of the day there has to be a level of ethics among judges...because even with these no publishing rules there will be undoubtedly recognizable artists that any judge would be able to spot immediately. I specifically went to Quilt National last year to see a piece by favorite artist of mine Susan Shie. I highly doubt it was any mystery as to who the maker of the piece was when entered...and I'm thrilled that I was able to see it live and in person. I mean I think it goes both ways - I think some shows give a little preference to "known" artists while others are kind of hard and almost penalize them because they ARE well known.

    I agree that it's really up to each individual show and the rules are likely more self serving to the show organizers that we realize - depending on what each particular show is trying to achieve. Quilt National is a big huge show with little trouble finding entries - maybe their goal is to narrow down the pool of quilts entered...or maybe their goal is to prove their standard of judging is a high one making it a more worthwhile show to enter.

    Either way I think it will be difficult to avoid any sort of "published" works as time goes on - social media is going nowhere and in a world where we as artists are hugely connected through the internet...the prevalence and availability of our work at any given moment will only increase with time.

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  22. I totally agree with your points here. I can see why the secrecy with an upcoming book of quilt patterns but it would surely whet the appetite and be free advertising to share of quilts for an exhibition.

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