Sorry for the late post. I just got back from Springfield, Illinois where I was lucky enough to be part of the judging team, along with Scott Murkin and Doris Goins, for the 2017 MQX Quilt Festival Midwest.
In case you don't know, The MQX shows (www.mqxshow.com) are the work of Janet-Lee Santeusanio and Mary Schilke, both of whom are machine quilters, who had the insight that machine quilters needed an opportunity to exhibit their work, get together, teach, learn and generally whoop it up. Twice a year, these two, along with family and long term staff, load a whole lot of stuff into big vehicles, travel long distances, and set up as professional a show as you would find anywhere, from much larger organizations with way more staff. This show attracts not only frame (longarm) quilters but also domestic machine quilters as well as piecers from all over the country and abroad. Over the years, a wider range of classes have been offered, beyond the initial focus on machine quilting, to include topics such as use of social media in a quilting business and surface design techniques.
Oh, and while they were doing all that, they created their own point system to use for the quilt competition’s judging. Just like that….. well, maybe not just like that. They continually refine the system with input from Scott Murkin, a CJ who has been with the shows for 10 plus years and is the permanent head judge for the MQX shows.
Here’s my quick judging system review: There are basically two systems used in quilt show judging: Elimination and Points. The elimination system is the most common. Quilts are entered into categories. Each quilt in a category is evaluated by the judge(s). The quilts in the category are judged against each other, not against an ideal quilt. (This is another reason why a quilt may do very well in one show and not in another; the quilts it is competing against may be different from show to show, depending on what else was entered in that quilt’s category.) After the quilts have been evaluated, the less competitive quilts are released (eliminated) and the more competitive quilts are held for consideration for ribbons. First, second, third and honorable mention are selected from the held quilts.
In a point system, the judge(s) are working from a pre-determined list of judging areas and a quilt may be assigned a range of points based on how well each area is addressed by the quilt maker. The quilts are not judged against each other, but against the ideal quilt. The quilts may or may not be arranged in categories, but categories or not, the quilts with the most points are the ribbon winners.
Both systems have their strengths, weaknesses and adherents. As a judge, I was trained almost exclusively, and a little self-righteously, in the elimination system. I always had a vague feeling that point systems were set up to make the job of judging easier for the scribes, the judges, or for the general administration of the show. I often wondered if the point system was in the best interest of the entrant. So when I bravely assert that the point system developed by MQX to address the needs of a show dedicated to the art of machine quilting is awesome, it’s really saying something.
MQX has developed a system that does exactly what they need and want it to do, which is focus primarily on the overall workmanship of the quilt, with a slant on the quilting. There are 12 judging areas, with 1/3 of those about the usual judging concerns of design, color, construction, borders, finishing, etc. The rest are all about machine quilting (frame or domestic). Two thirds of the judges’ evaluation is focused on machine quilting. This is far more attention in this area than an entrant might get in other national shows. This means that more of the feedback that goes to the entrants of this specialized show addresses their personal or, in many cases, professional area of interest.
The judging team using this system is made up of three certified judges. Scott is on every team and not only knows the system inside out but has had creative input with regard to descriptions and judging criteria. The second judge is one who has previously worked for, and is experienced in, the MQX system. In general, the third judge is a rookie, who will then enter into the pool of potential second judges for future shows. In a time when the trend in show judging is to move toward smaller teams or solo judging, having three judges with the experience explained above, ensures that the points awarded are the product of combined expertise, built on solid experience.
I honestly cannot think of a better way to do this. But what I think isn’t all that important, because I’m not tasked with tweaking the wording, addressing new trends, and making sure that the show judging remains relevant to the realities of the machine quilting industry. That’s their job, and they do it really, really well.
Next: Learning to See...Design
Stacy Koehler, Secretary, NACQJ
NQA Certified Judge
Qualified to Evaluate Masterpiece Quilts
Stacy Koehler became an NQA Certified Judge in 2005. She is a current member of the National Association of Certified Quilt Judges and has served as the new organization's Secretary and Editor of the CJ newsletter. She loves quilts and quilters and believes that a well-judged quilt can be a positive influence in its maker's individual development and contribute to the continued growth of the art of quiltmaking.