Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Loving Stitches Award

I recently judged my first quilt show.  I was a little scared to say the least.  I have a lot of experience being judged, but to judge others is quite another thing.  The first thing I did to prepare was to Google how to judge a quilt show.  Then I asked friends who have experience on this subject for guidance.  But still,  it really comes down to me and my artistic opinion and eye.  But how and what am I going to say?
The quilt show was for Tennessee Quilts, in Jonesborough, Tennessee.  This is the oldest town in Tennessee and the storytelling capitol of the world.   So it was appropriate that I was there.   I have been told that I am full of it (stories) before.  Tennessee Quilts is a great quilt shop that has a show and festival every year in July.
The quilt show was held at the University Gallery.  I was dropped off at the gallery full of quilts and had them all to myself, except for a preschool class there for, of course, story time.   Remember, this is the story capitol of the WORLD and they start the children off early.

I took a deep breath and jumped right in.  As I walked up to each quilt, I was reminded about what judges have said about my quilts in the past.   Some critics are very vague.  Others point out the flaws under the guise of where I can improve.   But to me the judging is very subjective.  I always thoughtfully consider their remarks but don't let it stop me.  I have had quilts that were full of mistakes win Best of Show and quilts that were the best  I could do technically come away with nothing as nobody saw all the hard work I had done. So now I just do what thrills me and don't worry about if I win or not.   But, to be on the other side and  judging is a little intimidating.

I could see that each quilt was so different.  There weren't many categories, either.   Just Best of Show, Best Group, Best Machine and Best Hand Workmanship.   It took me about 2 hours to go through 38 quilts.  I found my winners.  There was no going back.  Did I pick the right ones?  I don't know.  I just let my eye and heart guide me.  But that was not the end.   The next night they had a Gallery Talk and Walk.  Guess who was doing the talking?  Right, it was me.  I was supposed to walk around to each quilt and comment on that quilt.   Oh, My God!  I had forgotten that part in my contract.

We walked into the gallery and it was packed.  What are all these people doing here?  What am I going to say and is it a hostile crowd?   They looked nice, but who knows,  I have never been to Tennessee.
I introduced myself and started right in.  I walked to the first quilt.  They followed me.   For a split second I thought What if I ran out the door right now, would they run after me?  Then, as if by magic, I remembered all that I had written down about the quilts.  How I thought the colors sparkled, the complication of the design, how perfect the points where.  I saw the crowd's faces soften as I spoke.  They had no idea who this crazy woman from California was judging their quilts.   But I am an encourager.  I was born that way and I feel that you make a better impact with praise rather than harsh words.  I save my harsh words for the politicians.
I knew what went into each quilt.   The time they spent, the thoughts they worked out while working on the piece and the love.  It was touching.  As the gallery group followed me from quilt to quilt, I came to a quilt I will never forget.  It’s hard to describe.  It wasn't as well executed as the others, far from it.  But I knew the love that went into this quilt.   Its sashing was quilted and full of wrinkles.  She had used puffy batting.  The blocks where made up of the back of Sunbonnet Sam, in his overalls.   She had lovingly made each little sunbonnet boy out of clothing from her son’s baby clothes.  There were overalls made with Bob the Builder, Oshkosh B'Gosh overalls, a John Deere tractor t-shirt, even a Wiggles t-shirt.  As I was talking about this quilt I looked up and there in front of me was the mother and her son, about 7 years old.   I knew it was the quilt maker and the son right away as they had made there way to the front of the crowd.  I got a lump in my throat because I knew that this quilt was made with love for someone very special.  The boy looked lovingly up at his mom.  As I stated that fact I thought of my son, now in the Marines. Soon he will be off to Afghanistan.  How much that quilt will mean one day when that small boy becomes a man, I told the group before me.  To me this was the most important quilt there.  Because I also made a quilt for my son that was made with love and no skill.  Puffy batting, very big stitches and more than one wrinkle in the sashing. But it is the best quilt I have ever made because my little boy, like hers, napped with it, cried on it, and was warmed by it.   I knew what this mom felt.  I saw the pride in her eyes when her boy looked up at her with love.    How many mothers have made quilts out of love, not skill, just love to say I love you son and will always be there for you.
So, for all of you who have made that same quilt, I give you, now that I am a real judge, The Loving Stitches Award.   It’s a priceless award, worth its weight in gold.
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