Anna Hergert, Art & Design

Judging the NJS: Reflections on what goes on behind closed doors….

IMG_8031I am often asked about quilt judging, the process and procedure and after an intense week of teaching and judging in Mississauga I am finally home, While the memories are still fresh I decided to reflect on my experience from last week.

The examination of quilts from across Canada, careful deliberations between three CQA/ACC certified judges, and the final selection of award winners was the primary focus only one week ago at the International Centre in Mississauga.

Any quilt maker who sent their juried submissions to the 2016 NJS was anxiously awaiting Awards Night. The excitement was building… The winners were determined and behind the scenes work was taking on a new level of urgency. Tuesday night the “secret” was out and all awards, including the much anticipated “Best of Show” winner had been publicized.

Delegates to the annual Quilt Canada event witnessed the well orchestrated awards ceremony and might have wondered what was involved in creating this exciting event.

It is at this time that I feel the need to thank the countless volunteers who work tirelessly on behalf of quilters across Canada. We are familiar with board members’ faces and often know local guild members who contribute volunteer hours. More often than not we are remiss in remembering and honouring those helping out for a day or a few hours. Today my gratitude goes to those volunteers who quietly drift in and out, fly across the country on their own dime or drive several hours to lend a hand holding up quilts for judging, not to mention the volunteer who sacrificed her birthday to ensure judges’ critiques were professionally typed for each entry. Thank you to all!

But I digress… Back to the topic at hand, insights into the judging process:

It all began with the call for entry in the 2015 Autumn issue of the Canadian Quilter Magazine. Information pertaining to categories, deadline for submission, jury and judging teams were publicized for reference. Quilt makers across Canada responded to the challenge with enthusiasm.

Images of quilts with details were electronically submitted to the jury coordinator in early 2016. Once she ensured that all information, including the statement and the images were organized the jury of three (two apprentice judges, one certified judge) were provided with secure access to the information. During a set time frame individual jurors carefully reviewed the information supplied. Employing a scoring system aided in narrowing down the selection. Jurors then connected via Skype to compare and discuss their first results. With approximately 275 submissions life came to a halt in three households… Primarily based on overall design and visual impact the jury proceeded to reach consensus and ultimately selected 135 quilts for this year’s NJS.

Note: Pre-selection is an important step in the NJS planning. Jurors based their decisions solely on the images and information supplied. It is easy to understand why photographing one’s entries to their best advantage was vital.

The Canadian Quilters Association’s practice has always been unique in that the quilts not selected for the National Juried Show (NJS) received constructive critiques from each juror. Critiques are not formulated between cooking dinner and running to the grocery store. 😉 Countless hours and several rewrites were part of the jurors’ tasks.

Fast-forward to the NJS Coordinator who received the information about all quilts submitted to the NJS. Soon quilt entries arrived at the NJS Coordinator’s door. She was responsible for receiving, unpacking, documenting and organizing the submissions. Meanwhile she toured the exhibition venue, recruited volunteers, communicated with the judges and CQA/ACC board when she was not working a regular job and caring for her family.

Judges were provided with the judging procedure and the necessary forms to make notes and record prize winners approximately six weeks prior to the event. Judges, volunteers and CQA/ACC board representatives gathered on June 12th, and after introductions and a brief organizational meeting proceeded with the task at hand. We soon established common ground in examining and evaluating each entry, followed by a brief deliberation and summarization of our findings. Constructive critiques were formulated individually and dictated to our personal scribes.

How do I ensure staying within a reasonable time frame? I cannot speak for my fellow judges, but am happy to share the four-step process I have devised over the years to help me stay focused and work in an organized manner:

  1. I view the quilt and determine its visual impact based on its composition, colour and value contrast.
  2. I evaluate construction techniques and their complexity.
  3. I examine the execution of these techniques to ensure sound workmanship, and;
  4. I determine how well the quilt has been finished.

With practice these four areas are assessed within seconds. It opens up the lines of communication between judges using educated observations which ultimately lead to the formulation of constructive feedback.

IMG_8032Easy you say? Far from it! Each quilt submission is treated with the greatest respect. We wear white gloves, use reducing and magnifying glasses (when necessary), look the quilt over front, back, determine whether the quilting stitches are balanced and check whether the binding is full. My co-judges and I repeated this 135 times in 14 hours (not including short breaks). It works out to approximately 10 quilt entries per hour.

Each time I have the privilege to judge a quilt competition I am humbled that professional judges personal biases don’t enter the judging area. Quickly helpers, scribes and judges connect and engage in mutual support for a successful outcome.

This was my second time judging an NJS. In 2008 in St. John’s, NF I was relatively new to the scene when the team came together quickly in pursuit of a common goal, the fair evaluation of approximately 90 quilts. Last week’s experience confirmed that I have significantly deepened my knowledge in quilting over the past 9 years. I have gained a better understanding of evaluating quilts, and with the common goal of honouring quilt makers across Canada we build community. An educational environment is fostered through professional conduct by CQA/ACC Certified Judges and committed volunteers who give freely.

I would like to thank the CQA/ACC board for the opportunity to be a vital part of the judging team this year. I have shared any judging results here but I sincerely hope anyone who attended the awards ceremony last Tuesday and/or the National Juried Show between June 15th and 18th, 2016 would have consider the commitment and passion invested in this showcase of Canadian Quilting.

Here is a link to the official list (with images) 2016 NJS winners. Congratulations to all – well deserved. Enjoy! It was a privilege to get to know your quilts up close.

This entry was published on June 19, 2016 at 2:12 pm. It’s filed under Art, Design, Exhibition, In the News, Journaling, Motivational, Networking, Quilt Judging, Special event, Special Project, staying in touch and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

5 thoughts on “Judging the NJS: Reflections on what goes on behind closed doors….

  1. Pingback: Maple Leaf Rag | The Snarky Quilter

  2. Gillian on said:

    Thanks for sharing the NJS process with all of us. It does indeed sound daunting and exhausting. Kudos to all involved. Thank you for the link to the winners. Congrats to all, especially Jaynie and Paula (because I know them). Looked like a fabulous show.


  3. Elinor Burwash Designs on said:

    Anna, thanks for taking the time to recognize all the work within the process to get to hanging of the NJS. Thanks also for generously sharing your considerable knowledge and skill along with the other two judges in crafting constructive feedback to entrants. I am sure that each entrants own work will move to a higher level by applying the feedback to their future work.


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