On Juried shows and awards

I was honored to be juried into Quilt National 2019. On May 24th I was at the Dairy Barn Arts Center in Athens, Ohio for the show opening and awards presentation. My work, “Garden of Innocence” received the Outstanding Machine-Pieced Quilt Award sponsored by the Crow Timber Frame Barn Art Retreats. This award was particularly delightful and meaningful to receive since I have been attending retreats at the Barn since 2003, and I always enjoy the creative and artistic atmosphere there. (I also enjoy hugs from John Stitlzein).

Garden of Innocence, 2018 75” w x 77.5” h

Garden of Innocence, 2018 75” w x 77.5” h

Juried shows are important for several reasons. Most importantly these shows promote the medium of quiltmaking as an art form and help develop an audience for the work. As an artist, these shows allow me to see how fellow artists are developing and growing in their work. I can also see trends in the medium. It is also affirming and encouraging to have one’s work accepted into shows.

But what does it mean when your work is not accepted?

While living in New Zealand I experienced a lot of success with my artwork. I was juried into several national shows and had multiple works published in the New Zealand Quilter magazine. When I moved back to the States from New Zealand in 2006, it took almost seven years to have a piece accepted into a show here. I kept making and submitting. My collection of rejection letters grew. This is all part of the process. My husband has had the same experience in academic publishing. The first rejections are the hardest. But you have to keep working. Sharpen your focus, hone your skills, refine your eye. Keep growing. Embrace the journey.

When a piece is rejected from a show, it does not necessarily mean that it is a bad piece. I submitted two pieces to Quilt National 2019. Frankly, I thought the piece that was rejected was stronger than the one that was accepted and awarded. This is also part of how the art world works. On any given day the same work could be rejected by one jury and accepted by another. That does not make one jury panel wrong and the other right. That’s just life.

Inevitably we will all receive rejections. But ultimately I am not making work for shows. I am creating a body of work that is both meaningful and intensely personal to me because making brings me joy.

How do you respond to rejection? What can you learn from it? Why do you make what you make?