My Articles

I write for the national quilting publication here in Canada.   I have my own column, it is a humorous approach to quilting.

How To Improve The Juried Process

Have you heard the term, ‘fat envelope’ and skinny envelope’?   If you have, then you  are definitely my group of people.  If you haven’t,  read on and I will enlighten you.  

Let me first explain how to enter a juried show.  You usually are required to submit photos of your quilt, provide an artist’s statement that describes the message the quilt conveys,  the size of it, and a fee.  This information has to arrive  by a specific date,  and a jury looks at all the quilts and decides  who gets accepted.  There is also a date that they will let you know whether your quilt  got in or not.  Typically acceptance letters are sent first, rejection ones second.

After you enter a juried show, you sit and wait to see if you are going to get a skinny envelope, meaning it is just the rejection letter inside.   Or a ‘fat envelope’ meaning you got in, and all the instructions to get your quilt to the show are included. 

I must tell you a story that happened to me over the years of trying to enter juried shows. 

It started when  I received an acceptance email regarding my entry.   I skimmed quickly over it… ‘Dear… Ms. White, your quilt… got in.’   Yahoo, elation!   Now I better read it over more carefully.   ‘Dear Ms. Joyce White’, hmm, that is not my name, oh must be a simple mistake… continuing, ‘your quilt ‘Around the Lake’, hmm, that is not the name of my quilt either. 

Oh dear, what exactly does this mean, I better email the jury coordinator.  Looks like I got this Joyce White’s acceptance email and she got mine.  

Later that afternoon I received an  email from the  jury coordinator, ‘So sorry for the mix-up, but as a courtesy I am attaching your rejection letter even though you will soon receive it in the mail.’   Well, that was thoughtful, now I  will have the pleasure of feeling like a loser twice.   When I opened up the attached letter it said, ‘Thank you for applying, we only accepted excellent quilts this year.’   That does make me feel better! 

They say you are to study the jurors and the quilts they make, so you know how to get your quilt accepted.  Why would I do that?  I am not making them a quilt.  It’s not their birthday.   They are not supposed to be picking quilts that they like for themselves.   If that was the case, they should have their own solo show.  

Then there is this entry fee thing. Can you just charge the ones that got in?   I realize it is to cover costs, but mine didn’t get in, so it’s not like you are paying to ship it back.  

Quilting is so subjective.   I am also a competitive swimmer so my ability  in this area,  is determined by my time.   If I go fast, I win.   Perhaps quilting can take on this attitude.  Instead of asking for the dimensions of the quilt, just ask how long it took to make.   And why not remove  the best workmanship award and put in a  speed award.   What?  You finished your  quilt in four days?   Red ribbon to you!
 Who cares if it looks like it should adorn the window on your outhouse.  You won!

I also think there should be a B division like in hockey.  If you don’t get into the big juried show, why not let those rejected quilts  get accepted into the B show?
And many shows often send the comments of the jurors along with the rejection letter.  I know this is the juror’s way of absolving themselves of guilt as to why they didn’t pick my quilt.   Here is an example of a juror’s comments I received, ‘Your quilt does not display symmetry.’  Okay, if I didn’t get in, chances are I don’t know what symmetry is.    Why not just say, ‘your quilt sucks’. 

And another thing, these artist’s statements, how much importance is given to that, versus the actual quilt?  I think if you can write a good story, it doesn’t matter what your quilt looks like.  I wonder if the jurors are so intimidated by the terminology of some of these quilters, that they just select them. Figuring their quilt must be really deep and wonderful, and they would be missing something if they didn’t  let them into the show.   Jurors, here is  a tip… we just make that stuff up to get in. 

 Let me give you an  example.  Picture a big piece of black cloth with a red strip running through it.  Here is the attached artist’s statement:  ‘This quilt is a reflection of when I rescued a dog swimming in the ocean with only one leg.  It made me realize that  we as humans are but a small particle on this planet. How  we come to struggle and survive without destroying the balance and harmony of this universe is a quest unknown.’
And you know what?  That quilt would get in.   I have no idea what it means, but neither would anyone else.  

I have tried to explain how I feel about the jury process. Now I would like to offer some suggestions to the jurors.  

If we actually manage to get in one year, can we please get a pass to get in for the next year?   It probably took us 10 years to get in and if we have to wait that long again, we may not be around the next time.  We are an aging bunch.

Instead of advising us to study the quilts made by the jury, why not publish their likes and dislikes so bribes can be sent in?  That is something a little more realistic and helpful.

Don’t mail the rejection letter, email it to us, we want to be able to delete it right away and pretend it didn’t happen. Who needs a paper copy to remind us we are a failure?

How about a free pass?   After 5 rejections, you get a coupon to get into the next juried show.

Why not mix it up a bit and have an ‘opposite juried show’?  All the ones that got rejected get to be hung in the show, and those that were good enough to get accepted, mail them the rejection letters.   Now wouldn’t that be a nice switch.

Can you just find a venue that can host all the entries?  Why do you always have to say, ‘We loved all the quilts, but we could only choose 4 of the 5,000 due to limited space.’   Find a bigger area.   That would be smarter.   Then when you cash all those entry fee cheques, you don’t need to feel guilty that half of them totally wasted their money applying.  

Lastly, can you please post on You Tube  the jurors doing  the  jury selection?  I just want to see that  they are not drawing names out of a hat. 

Now I must go and check my mail for a fat envelope… one can always hope.

This article was published in the Winter 2010 CQA/ACC issue.  Please don't copy without written permission.  Thanks so much!

The Fabric Phenomenon

There is one thing that every quilter needs in order to create a quilt.  I am not referring to chocolate, although that is an important tool in quilting,   I am talking about  fabric.

We need fabric to make our works of art.   But it is more than that.  We need it to sustain us.   Every quilter has some experience in this area.   I have met hundreds of  quilters, and each is different in their fabric needs and wants.  After careful research,  I have come up with several types of quilters.  

I will start with  those quilters that buy fabric at the onset of every quilt.   They must purchase new material  as they start a new quilt.  I call this group the  Methodical Quilters.   They have the same practiced method each time they begin a new quilt.   They find a pattern, decide on the size of quilt, jot down the amount of fabric needed, and immediately drive to  their  favourite quilt shop.  After a set amount of time looking at material, they purchase it, drive home and begin cutting it up.   These quilters I admire.   They set goals, work at it, and finish the quilt in a timely manner.   They are a very rare breed.   I don’t  qualify for this group, chances are you don’t either.  

I love  the ‘Oh my gosh,  I can’t believe I just found a quilt shop’  Quilters.  The members of this group  boast extreme politeness and  thoughtfulness.   Upon stumbling  onto  a new quilt store,  (that they had secretly spent hours researching ,  then acting completely surprised when they find it),  they go in and feel it is only courteous to buy something from this business to show their support and thankfulness that there was a store in the area they were shopping in.  Guaranteed you know someone who fits into this group, as you probably always offer to  go with them when they say they are going shopping. 

There are some  that take the scientific approach to quilting.  I call this group the Fabric Scientists.   These are the quilters that will pull several pieces of fabric out of their stash and look at them together, then separately, make notes,  move them around in another manner, mix them up again, take more notes,  and finally come up with a synopsis that they simply must purchase more fabric in order for this experiment  ( quilt) to work.  

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the  Scholarly Quilters.  These women study the many  topics of quilting.   For example, one area is colour.   In theory the colour wheel is discussed along with values, hues and intensity.   When it comes to doing the practical, you are forced to go into your stash and create different examples showing the hues and values of several colours.  At this point, the Scholarly
 Quilter realizes that in order to achieve a better mark, it  is  imperative that they  purchase more fabric.   I sometimes take a course just to provide a more innovative  excuse to my husband as to why I need more fabric, usually ending with the comment, “You don’t want me to fail the course, do you?”

The new trend is the Enviro Quilter.   This person is the one that knows how important it is to recycle and reuse fabric.  This is becoming very popular.   You will find this quilter in second hand stores, rummage sales and even looking through your garbage.   They produce fantastic quilts and save a lot of money.  And what a great way to increase your stash.

Then there are the quilters that I envy.   They are the ones that have worked hard their whole lives, raised their children, looked after their husbands and now it is their time to enjoy life.   I call these ladies the Golden Quilters.   They are the ones that go into a quilt store and buy whatever they want, whenever they want.   These quilters deserve it, and I applaud them for getting to this point in their lives where they can enjoy themselves. 

I think the most fun one to watch  is the Impulsive Quilter.   This one goes to every quilt show with the motive that they are not going to buy any fabric.  They are simply there to take in the beauty of the quilts, and enjoy the company of other quilters.   Nonetheless this quilter ends up in the vendors’ market every time with her wallet open.   You can always zero in on the Impulsive Quilter by the comments made.  “Oh,  I really shouldn’t get this, I already have so much fabric.”  Or “I don’t even know what I am going to use this for, but I simply must have it.”
My favourite line is when they get into the car with their friends and are doing a little show and share and the impulsive quilter exclaims, “I had no idea I bought so much!”

This article was published in the Summer 2010 CQA/ACC issue.  Please don't copy without written permission.  Thanks so much!

Traditional versus Contemporary Quilting

If this isn’t the hot topic in quilting these days, I  don’t know what is.

Have you ever overheard members trying to book a guest speaker?  “ I want a trunk show of traditional quilts!   I want a speaker who is knowledgeable on all the new art quilting techniques.”

I figured there had to be at least a few of you who were as confused as I was in determining what is an art quilt, and what is a traditional one.  And furthermore, to distinguish what clarifies a contemporary quilter versus a traditional quilter. 
I made a list of top 10 features to be able to tell each one apart.   Carry this with you and when the topic comes up, whip out your list and you can set everyone straight.

How to pick out a traditional quilter:

1.      Their hair colour, not sure of the proper term these days, but grey, white, and silver should give you the idea.
2.     They only shop in quilt stores, and most only go to the same one they have gone to since they started quilting. 
3.     Their machine is the same one they had when they left home and got married.
4.     They have made at least one whole cloth quilt.
5.     They can talk for hours on thimbles, recipes and grandchildren.
6.     They are experts at putting a quilt in a frame and marking it.  
7.     They may not have the newest tools, but they have the most dependable ones.
8.     They have mastered the techniques they use and don’t feel the need to learn new ones.
9.     They still attend ‘quilting bees’.
10.  They are the greatest group of quilters and need to be remembered as the founders of this amazing activity.

How to pick out a contemporary quilter:

1.     They ‘look’ like they are under the age of 60.
2.     They own a long arm machine and know how to use it. 
3.     They have blogs, websites, Facebook and Twitter, and do most shopping online.
4.     Their sewing machines cost more than their cars, and they have at least two.
5.     They have a stash that makes up 60% of their household contents.
6.     They have gallery showings of their work, and enter into many juried shows.
7.     They have a closet full of embellishments, most of which they have never used.
8.     Their husbands think the freezer downstairs is full of food.  It isn’t.
9.     They are outgoing, friendly and know how to have a good time.
10.   They want to promote quilting as an art and are doggedly determined to do so. 

 How to tell a traditional quilt:

1.     Colors are subdued.
2.      There are no prints in the quilt.
3.     It has to be 100% cotton.
4.     It is going to be so large, that you probably have to stand at the other end of the room to see the whole thing.
5.      It is only hand quilted.
6.     The artist’s statement is short and only talks about why the quilter made it. Usually an anniversary, wedding or birth are the reasons.  
7.     There is no fusible or machine appliqué, only the real hand method of this technique.
8.     It takes over a year to make this quilt.
9.     There are well over 1,000 small pieces of fabric in it.
10.   There is usually a red ribbon hanging off of it. 

How to tell an art quilt: 

1.     It has no less than 1,000 pieces of embellishment on it,  that do not necessarily make the quilt look better.
2.     It comes in any size, shape or form.
3.     There are various types of material in it, some may not yet be discovered by man.
4.      Good chance there is something you just threw out in your garbage  attached to the quilt.
5.     It is all machine quilted, you will see NO hand work on this quilt.
6.     The fabric will be ‘altered’ in some way. 
7.     The artist’s statement will have a list of techniques, most of which you probably haven’t heard of.   This includes stencilling, discharging, batiking, waxing, shaving, batching, mod podge, gluing, stamping,  slicing, brewing, firing, bonding, cracking,  chewing, molding, shampooing, and conditioning.
8.     The name of the quilt will in no way have any relation to the sight of it.  It probably has a number behind it, as it is in a ‘series’.
9.     A pattern is never used to make this type of quilt, mostly because no one in their right mind would buy the pattern.
10.  It makes no sense to you, has no flow, no rhythm, no theme, and that is what makes it art.

This article was published in the Spring 2011 CQA/ACC issue.  Please don't copy without written permission.  Thanks so much!