The Quilt Shows Rubric


"Critics have a job to do. They do not criticise you without reason."

Abhishek Bachchan


This fall I entered two quilts at the state quilt festival. One of these quilts was selected by Nancy Prince and given the  shows' National Teacher Award. I was surprised and grateful for Nancy’s kind words. 

As an art quilter I have many quilts in galleries and museums that feature fine arts. Those shows are juried by digital image and often judged by digital image or as the juror tours the show.

San Antonio

Quilt shows use a difference process. Although quilts may be accepted by viewing a digital image, they are juried using a specific set of predetermined qualities which are evaluated by close inspection. In teacher speak this is called a rubric.

A scoring rubric is an attempt to communicate expectations of quality around a task. In many cases,scoring rubrics are used to delineate consistent criteria for grading.

Luckily the judges included the completed rubric when my quilts were returned. It was valuable information. Their rubric  used two categories: "Appearance" and "Workmanship". Each judge circled a grade from excellent to fair after looking at the specific attribute. There was also an option of not applicable. The rubric was used for all categories from patchwork to art quilts. 

The appearance category had six attributes: fabric choice, color/value, scale/composition ,border, quilting pattern and condition. Workmanship had seven categories and  eight subcategories: piecing, applique, quilting (even stitches, amount, visible marking or knots, tension) amount of quilting, borders, finishing (binding, corners, filled binding, stitch) and special techniques or embellishments.

My quilt San Antonio, which got the national teachers award ; received no exceptional marks in any category from any of the states judges.  The reason for this is because the judging process was very different. 

It was clear from the rubric that the judges area of expertise was traditional or functional quilts. Judges wrote a note asking if the quilt was a photo or was it painted. Because the judges were unable to read my artist statement to help them fill in the gaps in their knowledge they were at a disadvantage.

Many of the attributes could not be evaluated because art quilts are not bound by the limits of function or the deeply embedded craft tradition associated with the quilt. I did not have a border. The quilt is whole cloth so there were no fabric selections, no piecing or applique. The fabric itself was unique and created with recent technology. Teams of judges assembled to examine quilts had no frame of reference to look at a creative or non functional entry. 

The national judge was not bound by the rubric. She had experience viewing and making quilts that were decorative and not functional. She also was given the freedom to look at the selection of quilts and pick one that spoke her aesthetic sensibilities. She was selecting a quilt in the same way a judge at art quilt exhibition would select a quilt. Their selection is based on visual qualities and not held hostage by a the rubric.

Alamo Gate

When I explain the difference in the judging process  to an audience, I often hear people say, that’s why I don’t enter quilt shows. I don’t need to be judged. 

It's important to remember that judges have a job to do. The are not judging without reason. I am going to use the rubric from the state show to help me select some areas of technique that I can improve.

I am also keenly aware that the selection process at an art venue  is different than quilt show. Finally I am confident in my current abilities and in my ability to constantly grow as an artist.


Until next time...
Margaret