In my last post, I stated that quilt judging certification is essentially an independent study. However, you're not entirely on your own.
NACQJ does offer opportunities for learning. The queen mother of which is the Quilt Judging Seminar. The seminar has evolved over the years, responding to changes both in the organization and the quilting world in general.
Kate Eelkema, our liaison to the seminar instructors, has provided us with both background and current information about the course and upon which the following post is based.
The founders of the NQA were committed, from the very beginning of that organization, to advance the quality of quiltmaking by sponsoring an annual show with objective judging. Almost immediately it became apparent that there should be some way of preparing and certifying judges to ensure that consistent criteria were used by all judges hired for the show.
A committee was formed to create a certification process. The first group of judges were certified by submitting resumes, answering oral questions, and doing mock judging exercises. These elements are still currently part of the certification process.
Eventually, it became apparent that some formal preparation would be helpful and the “Short Course”, as it was called, was developed.
The first course offered by the NQA met for one evening, three full days, plus an additional morning to take a written final examination. Topics covered in those five days included how to format helpful positive critique statements, the advantages of the elimination method over the point system, and hands-on judging practice. In time, the class was shortened to three days and the exam was sent home and mailed back.
Eventually the seminar was modified and became a two-day “Introduction to Quilt Judging Seminar”, which is what it is today, even though the material covered could easily fill at least three days. This course was offered once a year at the NQA’s annual quilt show. Topics covered include: the job of judging, duties and responsibilities of everyone involved in the quilt judging process, ethics and professionalism, evaluating design, workmanship, quilting, special techniques, and quilt finishings, defining categories and awards, systems of judging and various judging forms, how to formulate positive critiques, contracts and paperwork, and information about the quilt judging certification process.
In 2014 it was decided that the seminar should be offered at other venues besides the annual NQA show, where it had been taught by the same small team of instructors. A group of interested certified judges met together to decide how this would be accomplished. There was a great deal of information sharing to create a pool of material for the seminar, and standards of instruction were established so the quality of the seminar would be consistent across the country. Those CJs became the first group of “Qualified Quilt Judging Seminar Instructors”.
Other interested CJs may become Qualified Quilt Judging Seminar Instructors (after their first three-year certification update) by submitting a detailed seminar lesson plan to the QJSI Standards Committee, which should include all of the topics listed above.
When the NQA disbanded in 2015, the original group of QJSI created a website, www.quiltjudgingseminar.com, and a Facebook presence to continue promoting the Introduction to Quilt Judging Seminar. Instead of one opportunity per year, the seminar is now taught in multiple locations across the country. These locations are listed on the website. A request for more information will put you in touch with Kate Eelkema, who can answer any questions you might have.
QJS instructors each have their own style of teaching, but today’s seminars include a combination of small group and large group learning and discussions, multimedia presentations, handouts, and some homework. All seminars include judging practicums on both days so participants can actively practice formulating positive, helpful, concise judging comments.
The Introduction to Quilt Judging Seminar is not intended solely for those individuals who plan to become Certified Judges. People sign up who are beginning quilters and want to learn how to make better quilts, long-arm quilters who want to know more about what judges look for to better advise their clients, and people who are or will be helping with a quilt show. Some individuals take it to help them decide if they want to pursue certification.
It is important to remember that this seminar is not required to become a certified judge. Nor does it confer certification. However, it is, to the best of my knowledge, the most comprehensive source of quilt judging information out there at this time.
Personally speaking, I could not have gotten through the certification process without taking the course. It was packed with valuable information to add to my knowledge base. Even more importantly, it showed me what I didn’t know, ranging from points of mild confusion to total ignorance of some topics. After the course, I had a much better idea of where I stood on the road to my goal.
One of the most pervasive difficulties for candidates in the certification program is accurate self-assessment. Quilt judging is a funny little world. Only a few of us do it, we’re spread all over the place and when we do get together and talk judging, we can only be so specific in our discussions due to the confidentiality of the judging room. Because of this semi-isolation, it’s easy to think we know more than we actually do. Unless you are very lucky in your location, there is just not that much contact with other working CJs to be had, so therefore not a great basis for comparison to evaluate your own skills. While this is true for CJs, it is especially true for candidates. The seminar is an excellent opportunity to see the big picture, get your questions answered by knowledgeable teachers and plot an individualized course for your independent study. Don’t miss it.
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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.