This blog is intended to be quilt judging from a certified quilt judge’s perspective, which will require looking at a lot of concepts and terms. I think the one we should start with is Certified. What does it mean to be certified and what does one have to do to get there?
When NQA first started their certification program, it was with the intention of awarding a credential to people who were already working quilt judges. The credential (NQACJ) was to indicate that the person who earned it had a broad and in-depth knowledge of quiltmaking, held themselves to professional and ethical standards and would, through their words and actions, reflect well on the organization and others who shared their designation. Passing the requirements for certification bestowed a professional legitimacy on a quilt judge.
Notice that, in the paragraph above, I did not mention training or teaching. Acquiring knowledge was the responsibility of the not-yet-certified judge. No one in NQA taught the Candidate (someone in the program but not yet certified) how to be a judge. Candidacy was a major independent study; and under the new organization, it remains so.
This does not mean that NACQJ does not offer opportunities for learning*, but the Candidate is definitely in control of and responsible for their own judging education. This is an extremely important point. The ability to work under this condition is crucial to a candidacy that leads to certification.
Once an individual enters the program and begins their candidacy, they have 5 years to complete the process. Generally, a successful candidate is one who has been actively involved in the quilt and quilt show world prior to program entry.
A candidate’s experience outside the program lays the groundwork on which they will continue to build their professional skills. It’s important for the candidate to carefully document that groundwork, assess if it has the necessary breadth on which to build, and fill in gaps as they are discovered. Virtually all candidates will find they have gaps, no matter how well prepared they feel they are when they enter the program.
Given the need to bolster their skills and experience, and the fact that life can get in the way of anyone’s plans, suddenly 5 years starts to look a little skimpy.
The certification program has requirements for time spent judging, observing, working as an aide and attendance at NACQJ partner shows. (Another post topic!).
In addition to judging activities, there is a paperwork component in which the candidate demonstrates the state of their quilting knowledge, their understanding of how a quilt show runs, their understanding of professional and ethical behavior and specific judging points across the entire range of quilting techniques.
The paperwork requirement should not be underestimated; it is rigorous. Each candidate’s paperwork is read by 3 certified judges, each of whom decide independently if it is a passing effort. The candidate may be asked to repeat/correct the paperwork if it is not.
Once the paperwork is accepted, the candidate sits for a panel evaluation. In preparation for this, 3 different certified judges read the candidates paperwork. During the panel, the candidate may be asked to discuss points drawn from their paperwork. Finally, the candidate participates in a mock judging, in the role of the judge. They must demonstrate professional demeanor, the ability to think on their feet and appropriately assess any technique placed on the table in front of them.
If the panel is passed, a newly minted NACQJ Certified Judge joins the ranks. And there is general rejoicing!
Once a judge is certified, it isn’t over. Each CJ is required to file an update every three years documenting their continuing education and commitment to professional activities. The techniques, materials, tools and trends in quilting are constantly evolving. A judge who doesn’t work to keep their skills relevant quickly loses his or her edge. This will eventually become apparent on the judging floor.
Continuing professional development is an investment in each judge’s career. After all the work needed to become certified, maintaining one’s hard fought skills only makes sense.
NACQJ is a small organization. We encourage CJs to go on to be active within the organization as board and committee members, mentors, paperwork readers and panel evaluators, as well as working within their home quilting community.
If you are thinking of pursuing certification, don’t let all the above discourage you. The challenges are real, but they can be met steadily, step by step. Here is a link to the Judge Certification Program FAQ page on our website. If you scroll down to the bottom of the page, you will find a link to the program application. At the end of the application you will find the contact information for our Judge Certification Program Candidate Coordinator (Yes! Another mouthful of words, many of them beginning with C or J, for extra added confusion!) She’s a lovely lady and would be happy to talk with you, answer your questions and help you decide if the program is right for you.
*Next time: Quilt Judging Seminars, a great big boost to certification preparation.
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. 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.