September 19, 2004
My mushroom quilt didn’t make the grade for the Hoffman Challenge. I’ve known for a few weeks that I didn’t win any of the prizes, since those quilts were posted on the website about the same time as the 2005 fabric was announced and I’d clicked through them then, but that was okay because I didn’t really expect to. I had still hoped to get into the traveling exhibit. Nope. Mr. Karen came into the house yesterday with a box that I just knew had a quilt in it. I had a sinking feeling it was the mushrooms coming back to me but thought there was a least a chance it was the potholder finally returning after its tour. It was the mushrooms–rejected, denied a place in the show. How disappointing.
I flipped through the contents of the box looking for the judges’ comments, which was a new feature this year–you could pay a little extra for them and since I always want to know why no matter what, I paid. They were printed at the bottom of the rejection letter, which was perfectly polite and also encouraging, except for the part where I connected the dots between two paragraphs and saw that about half the people who’d entered had gotten their quilts in. Even with 50/50 odds, I hadn’t measured up. Not exactly an ego-booster there. The judges did say my work showed a “unique use of challenge fabric; well integrated in piece”, which made me feel I hadn’t entirely missed the mark. I was surprised at the other comments in the positive section: “accurate piecing, quilting evenly distributed” and “great attention to workmanship in all aspects of construction”. That’s praise for the technique, which I think of as my biggest weakness. (Obviously I covered up my mistake with the binding well enough.) On the negative side, they said “low contrast quilt, may be intentional aspect of design” and “unclear focal point”. They’re right about the contrast, no doubt. I could say I did it deliberately, since mushrooms are often found on the forest floor, obscured by leaves and shade, but that’s not really the case. I just didn’t leave myself enough time to try out a lot of options. I did think I had a focal point, though–the three big mushrooms in the center–but I guess it wasn’t strong enough. Again, I didn’t have the time to explore the ideas I had for making them stand out better. There was also a CD in the box with a video called “Judging: What to Expect and How to Correct Common Problems”. I am trying very hard not to think of this as “Try to Do Better Next Time, You Loser”. Whether everyone got these this year or if it’s part of the judges’ comments package, I’m not sure. I’ve only watched the first two minutes, so I’m not sure if it’s going to help or not.
Lack of contrast and all, I still like the mushrooms. Maybe it would have gotten in if there were a different group of judges but maybe not. It’s hard to know. Mr. Karen has a theory that it’s easier to get in your first time (which they know it is because that’s one of the fields on the entry form) because they want to encourage you, but harder to get in the second because they don’t want you to get complacent. I suppose I could use this rejection as fuel to do better next time–I’ll show them, I’ll make a quilt with so much contrast they’ll have to wear sunglasses during judging and have a focal point that stops just short of being labeled with big letters that say “LOOK HERE!”. There was an entry form for the 2005 challenge in the box, accompanied by a swatch of that fabric. I don’t have what I’d consider a good idea for it just yet, but I’m pretty sure I can come up with something, or maybe develop one of the two not so workable ideas I’ve already had into something interesting.