Monthly Archives: October 2019

Another Set of Judges’ Comments

My quilt “Arches” was juried into this year’s Pacific International Quilt Festival in the modern category. I just got it back (fast turnaround) and opened the judges’ comments. As with many large shows, most of the comments sheet is taken up with specific design and technical aspects that are given a letter grade (from E – excellent to N – Needs Improvement.)

This time my letter scores were higher for my quilt’s technical aspects than design. That was a surprise. Overall, I was scored six Very Goods (three in design and three in workmanship) and three Goods (in design.) I view the Goods as the equivalent of a low to medium B. The Goods were for artistic impression/graphic impact, use of design/pattern in quilt top, and use of color & fabric.

The brief comments were: the shapes are visually very pleasing; more contrast, more dark gray fabric would add contrast; and what would it look like hung vertically?

Here’s “Arches” hung horizontally.

Here it is hung vertically.

What do you think? Horizontal or vertical?

What intrigued me about the comments was their design focus. Either the judges really got the importance of design in original quilts or my design had issues beyond those I knew about. I think more white in the right (or top) part would have helped the contrast. It’s always good to review your work after a break from it and see where it could be improved.

So, kudos to the judges for not focusing on straight edges and the like.


Filed under Modern Quilting, Quilt Shows

Summer Is Done

I realize the title makes me sound as if I’ve been seriously out of touch with reality, but I’m talking about my Nova Scotia tidal marsh landscape series. The fourth one, summer, is close to completion, some five years after I began the series with autumn.

There was no logic to the order I worked in – autumn, spring, winter, summer. It was up to what fabrics appealed to me at the time. All except winter are relatively small, about 15 inches high and 32 inches wide. Winter is roughly double the size of its companions because I goofed when enlarging my drawing. You can read about the earlier landscapes here, here, and here.

Summer presents the same scene – a tidal marsh in Annapolis Royal – from a slightly different perspective. I used the applique construction method I learned from Vikki Pignatelli, with fused applique for the small details like the grasses.

Starting from the bottom, my enlarged drawing with piecing numbers and color notations; my colored pencil drawing; and my piece before fusing applique on. The strips on the left are my freezer paper pattern pieces, made from the bottom drawing.

I had fun making the grasses from slivers of fused fabrics.

Now the fused bits are in place and I plan to add paint/Inktense pencil highlights in a few areas before I quilt it.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Fridays.


Filed under Art quilts, In Process

Weird Fabric Finds A Home

Several years ago I snapped up a yard of odd mottled rose/gray fabric because it was just $5. Ever since it’s been hanging with my yardage, being passed over each time I look for a new quilt palette.

Finally I had two project palettes that actually worked with my long overlooked fabric – a bowl and a small quilt.

My second fabric bowl has subdued colors and I couldn’t find anything to cover the rim until I remembered that fabric. It slipped in nicely with hand dyed fabric from Vicki Welsh, hand painted pole wrapped shibori, and batik scraps.

My small quilt, named “Concrete” because of its inspiration, used some of that fabric as well, mostly in the column near the right side.

The inspiration? This magazine photo of Boston’s City Hall. The building is considered an outstanding example of Brutalist architecture, which features lots of poured concrete.

My piece doesn’t capture the depth of the photo and the receding diagonal lines, which are probably what attracted me in the first place, but I can always make another version. Maybe I’ll use less pink next time.


Filed under Art quilts, Commentary, In Process

How Are Show Award Winners Picked?

If you’ve ever attended an art quilt show or any art show, you may have wondered how the winners were chosen. You can get the perspective of one judge, Julie Fei-Fan Balzer, who summarized her experiences as a show judge in a recent blog post.

She began with her criteria for works to consider for awards:

  • Be well executed.
  • Have a point-of-view.
  • Make the viewer feel or think or react in some way.
  • Be unique in some way.

Then, she narrowed her choices for top awards by asking herself which pieces stayed in her mind the next day. Finally, to choose the grand prize winner, she asked herself, “Which of these works shows complete mastery over this person’s craft?” and, “Which of these works do I not have any suggestions to give the artist on how to make it just a little bit better?”

Her takeaways from the process were:

  • Art is subjective (obviously).  I like seeing the hand of the artist.  Another juror might not.
  • It’s often attractive to go towards creating work that is like what everyone else is making, but standing out is often about standing alone. 
  • Titles matter.  Is your artwork about something?  Can the title add meaning to what the viewer is already taking away from the work?
  • For me, pretty is not enough.  I need story, emotion…something more substantive than pretty.

While these points may not apply to a craft oriented show, I think they work in an art show context. They also remind us that judges’ preferences vary. One judge may love lots of hand stitching and raw edges while another may prefer a more polished look. Please note that Julie fully recognizes the importance of craftsmanship, but feels that the story a piece tells and the emotions it evokes are what make it award-worthy.

I tried to apply the above criteria to choose my work to enter in future shows. I do pretty well on titles and written overviews. I think most of my work is sui generis and doesn’t follow the latest trends. I worry whether there’s a story and substance to my work, other than I liked the fabrics and colors together. I do know if my husband calls a piece pretty, I won’t enter it. As to level of craftsmanship, that’s the opinion of the judge. No one will ever gush over my fine workmanship.

Here’s an example of a piece that was juried into a national show. The juror must have liked my title, “The Language of Pink Elephants,” because there are many, many workmanship errors in the piece. That silk bias tape should have been handled better, and the bottom has waves when it’s hung. I’ve never entered it in another show, nor will I. And I will never use silk crepe bias tape again.

The Language of Pink Elephants


Filed under Commentary, Exhibits


For the past several years I’ve joined other quilters on a yearly retreat in Ohio’s Amish country. I just got back from this year’s, and am happy to report progress on a few projects.

I began another fabric bowl, this time in purple/brown/pink shades. I want to try quilting it from edge to edge rather than in a circle. I’ll finish the outer edge after the quilting is done.

Then, I made every mistake in the book with a bias tape project. I had planned to make an orange peel type design with bias strips, but I forgot I needed to draw my sewing guide lines (in red pen) in the opposite direction for half the blocks. So, my peels only went in diagonals. I decided to add three additional rows of bias strips to half the blocks to create petals.

The photo shows the effect I’m going for. The background fabric is an ice dyed rayon tablecloth that’s backed with fused on interfacing. I will be using narrow black sashing to sew down the blocks as the corners would be too bulky if I sewed the blocks directly to each other – another operator error.

Of course, I had other projects – embroidery (gasp) and a needle felting experiment. Both got started, but it’s early days to know how they will turn out.


Filed under In Process