To date, this is my all time favourite article I have ever written. I think because I do enter juried shows, and I do often get rejected from them. And I really want to get accepted. I did well in 2011, but still have yet to get into Houston or Quilt National. With Houston Quilt Festival just around the corner, I thought this would be an appropriate time to post it. Without further ado, here is my article.
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!