Thursday, December 11, 2014

Accepted or Rejected... Thoughts About Quilt Con and The Modern Quilting Movement

Yesterday and today while looking at my Instagram feed, I am seeing lots of posts showing either acceptance notices or rejection notices sent to those who entered this years's Quilt Con, and it brings up lots of feelings for me. I am excited and happy for those that get in, and want to hug and comfort those that did not.

While I have occasionally entertained the idea, I personally have never entered a quilt into a show. Any show. Part laziness, part fear the quilt I so love would be lost in the process, and part conflicted feelings over the whole process, which I will discuss more in a bit.

First let me say, I applaud anyone who had the organization, and the courage to put their quilts out there. If you got accepted, congrats, I can imagine how very excited you must be! If you got rejected, please remember, your camp is the bigger one... due to sheer volume of entries, most quilts are going to be rejected. 

And now for that word rejected... sounds like the judges took one look at your quilt and tossed it on the "No" pile. But for all you know, your quilt was neck to neck with another... the judges went back and forth... which one would it be...??? For all you know your quilt was heavily fought for, but in the end the other one squeaked in over yours by just a hair. And I hope you realize that if other eyes were doing the judging, the whole outcome could have been vastly different. So don't look at your quilt as "rejected". I want you to look at your quilt as the one that was sooooo close! And most of all, love that quilt. Love what you did, love your courage, love your vision, love, love, love. And keep sewing.

Did you know that Agatha Christie went through 5 years of continual rejection before landing a publishing contract? Most successful artists go through a lot of rejection... thanks goodness that they keep believing in themselves and keep trying!

Ok, so here are my conflicted feelings about the whole process... 

We need shows because art and craft and creativity needs to be seen and it needs to be seen up close and personal. We also need to have some level of quality, and craftsmanship and editing, or we will be virtually overwhelmed, whether you are one of the shows organizers or one of the attendees. There is just no way that everyone can be accepted. 

Being a judge, (I sure wouldn't want the job) must be extremely difficult... especially when you have to judge something on so many varied criteria... what if esthetically it knocks your socks off, but technically, eh, not so much? I might be committing a sacrilegious modern quilt offense here, but case in point... have you ever really looked at the technical aspects of some of those Gees Bend quilts that we all covet... not so great in some respects. Poor quilt stitches sometimes, unwanted puckering on others. With out the Gees Bend pedigree, those technical boo-boos could be cause for disqualification in a juried show, and what a truly sad thing that would be, for it would have robbed us of some amazing, visually powerful work!

Are you getting what I am trying to say here? The whole thing is a slippery tight-rope. We need shows because we need exposure to art. We need editing because we need to keep things from snowballing out of control. Editing is difficult and subjective to personal preference and ultimately will always dismiss something that very well should have been accepted. 

Another area that I have conflict is with the whole Modern Quilt Movement... don't get me wrong... I am so happy that it came along! I am so happy that it is not only doing well, but is thriving! My gosh, who would have thought just a few years back that it would have grown this far, this quick! I so applaud those founding visionaries. Not only did they light a fire, they hauled the wood and cleared the site and invited everyone to participate. Fabulous!

However, as I have stood by the sidelines, (I am by nature an introvert) watching this all morph and grow, I can't help but observing, (from my sideline perspective) that the more folks wanted to come and sit around the modern camp fire, the more rules seemed to be required and after awhile a whole uniform has seemed to be adopted.

This causes a lot of those conflicted feelings for me. 

The way I see it the most important thing in the Modern Quilt Movement is that it is a movement. Just like that camp fire, it is in a sense a living thing that should be continually morphing, changing, ebbing and growing.  Out of all great artistic movements came other ways of looking and thinking... What happens to the Modern Quilt Movement if it defines itself too narrowly? Will it forget to shine light on new off-shoots, new ways of approaching quilting? Will it become come static? One note?Wouldn't that be the exact opposite of what it originally was meant to be? 

My worry isn't that the Modern Quilting Movement will die off... I think it is here to stay, and I again am happy about that. My concern is that too many quilters wanting to be a part of this modern camp fire circle will limit their own creativity by trying to conform to what some camp leaders define modern to be. My worry is that the camp leaders will forget that the healthiest trees not only grow tall and straight but also have multiple branches, and that some of the best discoveries have come forging new trails, and looking under hidden rocks.

As quilter's, let's keep growing. Let's keep morphing and experimenting. Let's keep  encouraging ourselves and other's. Don't let rejection get to you. Your path is an important one, keep going. xo

46 comments:

Michele Bilyeu said...

Well written and well thought out, not to mention timely and yes, even a very necessary discussion. Especially like new venues like Quiltcon where shock value seemed to reign initially. It will certainly be interesting to see how it develops from year to year!

Jessica said...

Thanks for writing and sharing this. I wholeheartedly agree. ♡♡♡

cauchy09 said...

Such a warm and thought-provoking post. I agree whole-heartedly. Of course, we have lots to discuss!

Alexis Deise said...

The adoption of strict rules and criteria governing "modernity" has always bothered me about the current form of the modern quilt "movement;" not solely in connection with the QuiltCon show, but overall. Your point about the Gee's Bend quilters is so well put. And imagine, were such hard and fast rules adopted as a bar to entry to visual artists, imagine the scale of work we might have been deprived of. Of course, a juried show is by its nature viewpoint-oriented and the organizers have every right to adhere to their own aesthetic viewpoint when selecting works to show. But the narrowing of the "acceptable" definition of what is "modern" is a troubling trend.

Monica said...

itto tally agree.. we are seriously risking to turn modern quilting into another 'fashion'... like shoulder pads or permed hair... let's stop the rules and hail individuality instead!

Nifty Quilts said...

All so well thought out and written. I wholeheartedly agree! Those Gee's Bend quilts would have never made it into a juried show these days because they lack technical merits. Also, I wonder if some have forgotten that those quilts are OLD! There are those that prefer a "modern" look. That's fine. I'm more interested in the innovation of makers who fashioned quilts with limited means and had to "make do." But I, like you, applaud those who are inspired and making because of the modern movement.

Samplings from Spring Creek said...

I don't think I will ever have the courage to enter a quilt or needlework in a show.


and then there was J K Rowling author of Harry Potter (she has a lesson for everyone about rejection)

patty a. said...

What bothers me the most is the regurgitated tradition quilt designs that are accepted as modern just because of the fabric choices. To me that is not modern and says so little about the art and modern quilt movement. My three pieces were rejected without explanation. Was it because I used prints? I know I am going to go to QuiltCon and see some piece that doesn't hold a candle to the amount of work I put in my pieces. I plan on bring one of my rejected pieces to QuiltCon, carrying it everywhere and show it to anyone who wants to see it. I know they had 1,350 pieces to choose from so chances were slim that one of mind would make it, but it doesn't hurt any less. I just don't think they get my work.

Brenda said...

Thanks for this Victoria. I'm watching from the sidelines, and sometimes it seems there's more discussion about what is outside of the rules than inclusion. I know people who are "modern" quilters sometimes set themselves up against "traditional" quilters, but I'm not clear where all the rest of us fall. I've been making improv and free-pieced quilts for a long time, but if they don't have matchstick quilting, will they fit in? Do my quilts have to have negative space? or solids? the whole conversation makes me a bit weary. I appreciate the innovation I see in the modern quilt movement, but I don't like dividing camps. AND I can't afford to go to QuiltCon!

Peppermint Pinwheels said...

Thanks for writing this post! I also totally agree with you. I thought the whole point of the Modern Quilt movement was to work outside the rules of "traditional" guilds. That's what made it so exciting and different from the beginning. I'm so much more excited when I go to quilt shows now than when I would go only 5 years ago because there is quite a bit more variety. I hope we can keep innovating and making interesting work, not get stuck behind rules, regulations, and the fear of being judged.

Barbara said...

You nailed it >>>My concern is that too many quilters wanting to be a part of this modern camp fire circle will limit their own creativity by trying to conform to what some camp leaders define modern to be. My worry is that the camp leaders will forget that the healthiest trees not only grow tall and straight but also have multiple branches, and that some of the best discoveries have come forging new trails, and looking under hidden rocks<<< I think this is already happening ...

Marie said...

Thank you for this, you've diplomatically articulated what I've been feeling for YEARS, regarding both judging and the whole 'modern' thing.

I totally agree with you that shows are important and I'm very grateful to see others' work, however I also choose not to enter shows. It's mainly due to expense (I'm in Canada, adding a whole other level of associated costs and headaches when it comes to shipping).

Regarding Modern Quilts, I don't really see it as a 'movement', precisely because of the very, very rigid rules they impose. As it currently stands, I see it as a trend. No different than trends throughout quilt history such as Baltimore Albums, Crazy Quilts, pastel floral applique in the 20's and 30's, strip pieced landscapes, Stack N Whack, etc, etc, etc.

It's the attitude irks me, as though something revolutionary has been invented. Ummm, no. It's just minimalism. I actually adore minimalism as an aesthetic (in quilting, decorating, architecture, paintings, etc) but the narrow attitude of this trend turns me right off (no prints, or only very specific prints, specific colours, etc). Isn't the supposedly narrow attitude of the traditionalists what the modern quilters railed against in the first place?

Venus de Hilo said...

Thank you Victoria, for this post. I spent a good part of the day yesterday wrestling with the disappointment of not getting a quilt into the QuiltCon show -- in spite of strong confidence in the value and quality of my work, and knowing that my "modern" quilts, while they would hold their own in the exhibit, are probably not mainstream-modern enough for the gatekeepers of the movement.

I am super excited about going to QuiltCon for the workshops and lectures and meeting blog friends in person; whether the show will be a delight or a let-down remains to be seen. The Houston MQG showcase (as seen through online slideshows) was sadly underwhelming. I hope the QuiltCon show will include more than more of the "same old mainstream modern."

lelandavestudios said...

Loved reading this! Thank you!

smazoochie said...

Well said.
I find the Rules & Requirements of this group that was formed in reaction to the Rules & Requirements of the Traditional quilters a little head-scratching. They seem to want to keep a tight hold on what is & is not allowable -- rather sad I think.
At this year's Quilt Festival, there was a display of Traditional quilts curated by Karey Bresenhan. It was a breath of fresh air! So broadly interpreted!
I also find the Moderns to be very personality-driven. Because everyone's work is 'out there' for all to seen, the recognized pieces made by friends seem to be shoe-ins for display. Maybe it was like this before, I don't know. I just find it hard to get anyone to allow my voice to be heard.
Thanks for writing this. Thanks for listening.

Sujata Shah said...

Victoria, Such a great post and thanks for giving a platform to discuss this further.

I find the Modern Quilting Movement a little bit confusing too. I for one will be a misfit for sure. In my opinion,everything we do today is modern. Whenever I see quilts in the museums that are not to the perfection by today's standard, I get doubly encouraged to not focus on perfection but let my mind and heart flow through my hands. I refuse to box myself in with fabrics or style.

Art is supposed to be expressed freely and I sure hope that those who are creating freely do not get disappointed. I shy away from the shows because then my focus would turn to perfecting the art of quilting instead of being free, and to explore and experiment.

By the way, I did enter three quilts in the show, none of them were accepted and one of them was the Sunset quilt from the book. I can not take anything personally, because i know what that quilt is about and what it conveys as far as my own message is concern. That's all that matters.

A lot to say about this at a later time. Thank you for opening the dialog.

Sujata


Corinnea said...

Beautifully said!!

layitonmebaby said...

Thank you for this post! Very well said. I entered one quilt to QuiltCon for exhibit only, not to be judged, because what do I have to lose other than the fee to enter! It was not accepted. I love the quilt I entered and was encouraged by some local MQG members to enter it. While I can say I was initially a little bummed out, I do realize the effort and hard work of the judges. If only they could give feedback for 1350+ quilts, but it would be near impossible. The word "rejected" seems harsh, but I do like being able to use the hashtag to find other AMAZING quilts! I will continue let my own flag fly and create quilts that I love. If people want to love them too, I will welcome them in my quilting journey!

Kitty said...

Fabulous post!! I love the idea of thinking of the "rejected" quilts as "soooo close to making it". I didn't submit any quilts this time around, so I'm watching all of this from a fully third person perspective, but with the amount of love and work and vision and dreaming that goes into making a quilt--any quilt!--your take on it is the way to go.

Sel said...

Perfectly expressed my thoughts! Thanks for this! (found it through the #quiltconreject hashtag on instagram)

Beezus said...

I, too, am afraid that the "modern quilt movement" will stifle creativity - I have actually eliminated some of the modern quilt bloggers from my feed because I noticed that there were too many advertisements (not overt, you understand, all very understated and offhand) for "modern" fabrics and "modern" techniques. It took a trip to a fabric store with my 19-year-old niece to realize that I had become very limited in what style of fabrics I would buy. Things that I saw were no longer pretty to me because they didn't fit into the modern category (or at least, in my interpretation of it) so I had begun to discount some beautiful fabrics on that alone. I am happy to say that I am now starting to move back to a place where I do what I want in quilting, instead of what I think is expected. Not everyone is going to love every quilt I make, but I at least should be able to do so. This is also part of the reason that I decided to sit this year out from the MQG. I needed to rethink what quilting means to me and move away from being such a fabric and quilt bigot. :-)

susan718 said...

A few weeks ago I spent hours looking through my collection of Quilters Newsletter magazines, going back to the early 90's. The quilts that were shown, discussed etc. throughout the years included many that could be considered "modern" by today's standards. However, most were the subject of historical articles and showed that quilters have always been individuals. I have several books by Gwen Marston, who was discussing and making unique quilts long before the "modern" movement came along, as a result of her study of the history of quilting through the years. It seems to me that ideas percolate throughout the years and sort of re-cycle themselves, influenced by new thoughts but still very recognizable as the original. I love many of the original quilts of the modern movement, but it's time to accept that if there is no change throughout the years, it can't really be called modern anymore. I think it's time to move beyond aqua, red and white. Nothing will say "dated" more than that color combination in a few years. What was modern in 2010 will look very retro in 2025. Let's just all agree that there are many styles of quilting and all can be beautiful. Sometimes I wonder if some people just don't take themselves too seriously in their attempts to compartmentalize "modern" as totally separate from quilting in general.

Quiltdivajulie said...

For now, just one word -AMEN!

I'll be following this dialogue .....

Nifty Quilts said...

Whoo-hoo! I'm really enjoying reading these comments. Thank you so much, everyone, for having the guts to speak your minds.

christaquilts said...

Thanks to adding to this conversation. I think our community is so passionate and vibrant and I love it!

I think some of the confusion stems from the fact that there are really 2 issues here - the movement itself and the show.

I think the movement can be very inclusive because online we are not limited by space. However, when it comes to putting on a show, there are physical space limitations which naturally means not everything can be included.

I think it's going to be an amazing show!

The Calico Cat said...

Without knowing how they were juried, & based on who "I" know did or did not get in, it feels like a popularity contest.

Mary Keasler said...

Perfectly said. You are the best, Victoria

Victoria said...

Many thanks to each of you for taking the time to join in on this discussion. Please feel free to continue to do so.

It's obvious that we who quilt are a passionate and diverse group. We care deeply about our craft, its history, its present moment and its future. What a wonderful thing.

I hope that we can continue to have meaningful, respectful dialogue, here and everywhere, and that by doing so we can continue to foster and encourage a safe and welcoming environment for creative self expression and exploration.

Also want to let you know that Latifah Saafir, one of the founding members of the Modern Quilt Guild as well as one of the jurors for the last QuiltCon, has written a wonderful post on her blog that gives us some insight to a quilt show's jury process. There is a lively discussion going on over there as well. You can find her post here: http://www.latifahsaafirstudios.com/former-quiltcon-juror-tells-all/

pforgerson said...

amen

Poppyprint said...

Great post. I share many of your thoughts. Two of my quilts were accepted and one not. I am already bracing myself for potentially negative backlash at the show. Will the 26% of quilts that did make it in be subject to much scrutiny and questioning when compared to all of the equally excellent work that isn't hanging?

Ginny said...

Wonderfully thoughtful post, and comments. Such diversity, and the issue of technically correct vs. visually/creatively appealing - so important. It will be interesting to see what impact if any these discussions will have.

Danielle said...

Thanks for the post, and to everyone for very insightful comments. It is heartening to know I am not alone in my concern that the MQG is narrowing down the definition of modern. There is so much amazing work going on in our 'community' (far and wide), and from what I've seen, the show will not be a true reflection of the diversity, but a reflection of the vision a few people have about what modern quilting is to them. It feels like a club that we've been invited to join but then told our work doesn't fit. I feel quite sad about what's happened and that it's dampened the excitement of going to quiltcon.

Little Island Quilting said...

I agree with your comment re definition of 'modern.' Have written something similar on my blog.

entropyalwayswinsblog.com said...

So well put. I hope that everyone comes away feeling like they are part of this virtual creative campfire whether they were "accepted", " rejected" or otherwise because in the end it IS about inspiring the best art in all of us whatever form that may take. (And I too haven't entered a live quilt "contest" and Quiltcon will be my first one to visit-excited to see what this is all about.

Hillary

lvkwilt said...

It's so nice to hear from an "encourager!" Too often, we only hear negative comments and I find it very refreshing that you took the time to encourage those who made quilts and were "rejected." I, too, don't enter quilts into competitions--since I started quilting in 1978 (yes, I really have been quilting that long!), I have been reticent to let anyone steal my joy. I have taken many classes and made many quilts and have learned from each one. I love the infusion of enthusiasm from young and modern quilters and I applaud their creativity. Don't forget to enjoy the process..that is where the joy is! Thank you for writing this piece!

lindaroo said...

So much wisdom here, in your observations and in the comments.
"...the healthiest trees...also have multiple branches." Lovely.

Margo said...

Excellent post - love how you share your perspective without criticizing others' opinions.

I am much better at the artistic, colorful side of quilts than the technical aspects. Each quilt I make improves, sure, but I think the imperfections are part of the handmade charm that reminds the viewer that this quilt was not made in a factory. I've always loved the Gee's Bend quilts because their quilters didn't let lack of technique get in the way of their artistic vision.

Pretty sure I would never enter a quilt show, either :) I love my quilts on their own terms and don't need a show or an award.

Bonnie said...

And really, just where did this "Modern Movement" come from if it weren't for someone "putting themselves out there and trying something new"?
Hail the individual and her/his creativity. And their courage to show the world, even a small part of their world.

We won't all be famous, even for those 15 minutes, but we all put ourselves and our love into our craft, whatever it may be.

Kudos for such an eloquent piece Victoria.

Angela said...

There is nothing new under the sun.

Stephie said...

"Uniform". I think that about sums up the 'modern quilt movement'. To me it's all very commercially driven. As someone mentioned above, I'm dropping some bloggers from my feed because of too many ads, too many 'giveaways' and looking way too much like the blog next door. How is that creative? Thank you for a great read :)

momiji said...

I just came across the blog and wanted to say "thank you" for such a thoughtful and carefully considered post. I love my MQG for all of its creative energy and warm-hearted camaraderie. At the same time, I've always been ambivalent about the whole "modern quilt movement," for many of the reasons that you mentioned. Too often, here's a certain faddishness and commercialism that doesn't appeal to me, and sometimes the quilts start to seem a bit one-note. At the same time, the sense of enthusiasm and community is wonderful, and that's what I treasure.

Stephanie said...

Having just seen your recent IG post I thought I'd come by and read your blog post. I appreciate every word. I also appreciate the following that I cut and pasted from the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild.

"The concept of modern quilting is not meant to divide or segregate. It is meant to welcome new quilters, of all ages and abilities, to the world of quilting in a style that they can relate to. In many ways, modern quilting takes us back to the basics of the early quilters, when women of the day used the colors and styles of their time to express themselves creatively."

Why are should there be any "rules" in creativity? I have found that many people are sheep...having to follow wholeheartedly a "new" trend so they can be in the "in crowd." The modern movement confounds me. The ladies of Gee's Bend are amazing women of their time but they quilted for utilitarian purposes and now it's a style. There is nothing new, perhaps just "reimagined."

I lost track of you and now I'm glad I've found you again.

Quilteuse Forever said...

I am very interested in your post and comments because, as a French quilter, I know Modern Quilting mainly through blogs. So I discover here the narrowing interpretation of the MQ Movement for the wonderful flow of creativity initiated by so many artists. Love your image of the tree with many branches and leaves,the modern movement is like a living being and not a formated status. I personally feel attracted to works with a sense of creativity accepting experiment and an own style, showing feelings more than a formated perfection.
Sorry for my English, and a big thank you to all of you!

Victoria said...

Thanks to all the above commentators from when this post first ran last year. And thanks as well, to you, Stephanie, and Quilteuse Forever, for helping to currently continue the conversation. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts.

Lisa said...

What well thought out comments you make. Like you I had never ever entered a quilt into a show until last year, when challenged by a friend, I entered a national show. Not a juried show, just a "all comers" show, but a national one and I was still petrified. And when I sent my quilt in, I felt as though I was waiting for something great but terrible to happen; for the world to end. I was sure I would hear the quilt police saying "did you see her quilt". But nothing happened. Absolutely nothing. My little quilt has quietly traveled around the country, and I have actually forgotten about it for weeks on end. Sometime soon it will come home to me, and I will hang it on the wall and know that it was my quilt that went in a show. And I think I will be a little bit proud!

Victoria said...

Congratulations, Lisa on having your quilt in a traveling national show! I think it's a wondrous thing to make something and send it off to have a bit of a life of it's own. I appreciate you verbalizing the angst that one feels when putting their work out there to be seen, appraised, judged... It can be a very vulnerable act.