Only as Good as Your Last Quilt?

There’s a cynical phrase, common in professional sports, that is used often in other arenas as well: You’re only as good as your last game. It’s a commentary on public opinion. Unfortunately, there’s a corollary in our everyday judgments of ourselves.

Michael Miller Challenge 2013

This little quilt, “Packet of Posy Seeds”, did NOT win anything.

One of the modern guilds I belong to had an interesting discussion last meeting about which quilts are selected for QuiltCon, and why.  We pretty much all agreed that the show is used to further the MQG’s own definition of modern quilting rather than to reveal the depth and breadth of the modern quilt movement.

modern quilt

This little quilt was published, along with an article I wrote

So, am I a good quilter because my quilt was juried into an AQS show? Or a poor quilter because SEVERAL quilts were rejected for a QuiltCon show? A good quilter because I’ve designed quilts that were published?  Or a bad quilter because every magazine doesn’t love every one of my proposals?  There’s a temptation to feel great when a quilt wins a prize and to feel a bit down when one is rejected.  But does that make sense?

modern quilt

Happy Squares, designed and made by me. I love it, but nobody wants to publish the pattern.

Of course there are some “competitive quilters”, but most of us quilt because we enjoy it. My quilts are made to please myself, not to please other people.  Even when I make a quilt for a challenge or show, I make it the way I want it, and I expect that is true for most people.  I doubt that quilting is a road to fame and fortune for most of us, and that’s fine.

Modern Quilts Unlimited magazine

Zippy Star quilt for Modern Quilts Unlimited. I won a contest with this design.

So, if QuiltCon didn’t accept my quilt, it is NOT a personal judgment about me, it is a programmatic judgment about where the MQG folks want the definition of modern quilting to go. And if some of my quilts are published or win prizes, that’s dandy, but I still made them to suit myself.

improvisationally pieced quilt

“In Fairyland” has been in 2 shows but won no prizes.

So much of life involves following other people’s rules, sometimes for good reason and sometimes not.  Although I’m a serious quilter, I want to do it by my own rules.  I’ll still submit to shows because I like to see my quilts displayed.  But really, the quilt is an end in itself.

Spring Sun, a design by me, using blocks paper pieced from a totally different Judy Niemeyer pattern!

I designed Spring Sun using blocks paper pieced from a totally different Judy Niemeyer pattern. It was juried into an AQS show.

My friend Melanie has written a couple of posts on why we quilt.  You might enjoy them:

Make Good Art

Saturation Point

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13 thoughts on “Only as Good as Your Last Quilt?

  1. Beautiful quilts first and foremost! I like reading that you are happy with your work, as you design and make your projects. I attended a workshop & lecture with Maria Shell ( http://mariashell.com/ )this week, and she describes herself as a traditional quilter that does things in an “untraditional manner”. She also said she has almost stopped entering quilt shows and does gallery shows instead as a Fiber Artist. That means she is not “plugged into” specific style parameters for judging. Her class on curves was very freeing, no rulers, no pins etc. Your work is very artistic, and you might consider another avenue for displaying your pieces. Myself, I am a traditional piecer, and love that process. I am always scared to death I will ruin a project I painstakingly pieced by letting go with the quilting, so I tend to quilt “straight lines”. I would not enter my work in a show for judging, because I could not take the stress of the rejection/ criticism of the work that I put my heart and soul into. I love your Happy Squares; and it looks like something I would make as a scrappy quilter. Enjoy your art! I love your work..

  2. Yes, every one of these quilts is pleasing and interesting, well-balanced for composition. But rejection of your work in shows or publications is not a rejection of you (which you clearly know.) All it means is that the show or publisher doesn’t want to go that way. It’s about them.

    This: “the quilt is an end in itself.” Yes.

    Thanks for linking my posts. 🙂

  3. The judges possibly don’t have the same innovative take on what makes a prize winner that you might. I was crushed one time when a friend whose sewing and knitting I greatly admire, made an offhand remark about how a quilt binding that wasn’t a solid color was unacceptable. Say what? Maybe in her mind but not mine. Your designs and color combinations are joyful and breathtaking. Don’t let the negative perceptions of some fuddy-duddies faze you!

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