During a period of about a week and a half in May of this year, I had three separate quilters, involved in a variety of roles in the quilting world, approach me with questions about quilt judging. The gist of all three messages was that they didn’t understand the feedback they received on the comment sheet when some of their quilts were judged, and, in spite of attending lectures and reading, they really weren’t sure what the judges were seeing.
I am an NQA Certified Judge and a current member of the National Association of Certified Quilt Judges, the more-or-less heir of the National Quilting Association’s Judges Certification program. I found it kind of distressing to hear about these folks’ confusion on the topic. Whenever I have been given an opportunity to talk about judging, I have always jumped at it, and I’m sure other CJs (Certified Judges) have done the same thing. But judging is a huge topic, and a 45 minute lecture is a very short time to cover even a fraction of it. Apparently, we may not be as successful as we had hoped in getting good, clear information out there.
Around the same time, I was lucky enough to have an opportunity to have dinner with a group of other CJs. There are less than 70 of us, spread out all over the US, so getting 5 of us in one restaurant booth at the same time is kind of a big deal. And of course we had to talk about quilts, and judging and adapting to a judging world that does not include NQA (If you’re confused about all the different organizations and designations, please keep reading for a capsule explanation.) And one judge, in a fit of enthusiasm, said something like “We should have a blog! We could do that!”
So here’s the first posting of The Quilt Judge’s Eye.
My goal is to help demystify and humanize the judging process and give you a glimpse into what’s going on in the judge’s head when they’re looking at your quilt. I plan to write about specific well-illustrated quilt judging points and concepts, as well as topics that influence the quilt judging process.
As I was growing into quilting, I gleaned a lot of helpful information from the judging comments I received. (Being honest, I have to say I got some information that I didn’t know what to do with, too.) In general, when the comments were ‘constructive’ …very ‘constructive’ in some cases … they were honest but kind. And sometimes I was surprised to read good things I had not imagined. Weighing both positive and negative, getting my quilts judged has been an overall plus for me. If this blog can help other quilters experience judging in a more useful light, I’ll be satisfied.
Before I sign off, I would like to make one important designation clear. When I refer to Certified Judges in these postings, I am referring to those people who have gone through the certification program offered by the former NQA (National Quilting Association), or now by NACQJ (National Association of Certified Quilt Judges), having demonstrated an extensive knowledge of quilting and who conform to professional standards and ethical behavior.
Anyone can be a quilt judge. Anyone at all. All you need is some quilts to look at and someone to let you say which one is best. However I firmly believe that a quiltmaker’s hard work, time and financial investment deserve something more than someone else’s opinion. Your quilt deserves a skilled, objective and professional evaluation.
While I am very conversant with certification, I cannot address the thought processes and actions of people who have not earned the CJ designation. I have worked with non-certified judges who do excellent work, as well some who don’t.
I am hoping that as you follow these posts, you will begin to see the merits of certification, either when your group hires a judge, or better yet, if you decide you might pursue certification yourself. I’m speaking from the heart when I say it was a major undertaking, but certification is one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever done.
And now, as promised, a brief history of professional judging organizations and their alphabet soups:
Decades ago, the National Quilting Association (NQA) was formed and one of its contributions to the quilting world was the Judges Certification Program. The program was developed to answer the need for a more uniform and professional approach to quilt judging. It was designed, not to teach people to be judges, but to certify that people who were already judges were able to meet rigorous qualifying criteria to be given the organization’s designation of NQACJ (National Quilting Association Certified Judge).
A few years ago, bowing to the current climate and market realities of the quilting world, NQA was disbanded. The certification program for judges no longer had a home or a sponsor. With the backing of the CJ membership, our leadership at that time took on the huge task of transitioning the old certification program into something independent, self-sufficient and built to last: the National Association of Certified Quilt Judges (NACQJ).
All the previous NQACJs retain that designation. (To paraphrase a fellow CJ, just because they tear down your old high school doesn’t mean that your diploma is no longer any good.)
Most NQACJs have chosen to become members of the new organization. And after a little more than 2 years, we have certified the first NACQJCJ (National Association of Certified Quilt Judges Certified Judge….I know, it’s a mouthful, but I felt like I had to write it out at least once!) We are looking forward to many more joining our ranks.
I hope you come back to this blog often. I’m looking forward to writing it and I hope you’ll look forward to reading it.
Feel free to respond to the posts. Questions and comments are welcome.
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.