Quilt National is an international biennial show of art quilts. The deadline for submitting is September 10. The purpose of the show is to stretch the limits of quiltmaking and see what people come up with. It is about innovation, not necessarily craftsmanship or making functional quilts. It is also not about narrative. I didn’t get this the first time I submitted and sent in a submission that was inextricably linked to its narrative. I got a big, fat No, Thank You from the judges.
Now I get it. The judges see your piece, a detail of it and hear the title of it. No other explanation, period. I submitted for 2007 and my Tankini quilt (above and below) was accepted. This quilt was made up of two pieces in which one was suspended by the quilting of the other. I was inspired to make it when I was a new mother, at the age of 40, looking for a swimsuit.
We were too busy with a fabric line to submit for QN 2009 but I am planning to take a break from working on the next book and commissions and will submit this time around.
I get a little frustrated and paranoid about the rules. They say that you can only show your work on your website and that you will be disqualified if your quilt appears on Facebook or someone else’s website. Huh? I’ve seen images that we’ve put on the FunQuilts website used all over the place including wallpaper of blogs without us knowing about it. I don’t think it’s realistic to think that one can control images that are placed anywhere on the internet. I just don’t get their reasoning. So because I am so confused and paranoid about the rules (having suffered the consequences before) I’m not showing any images here but will tell you what I’m working on. If I don’t get in I’ll post pictures later.
To me these competitions (and this is the only competition in quilting that I’ve ever submitted anything for) are not about winning or getting accepted. They are about pushing the pause button on whatever you normally do and trying something different. As a maker of functional quilts, this is a chance every two years to do something highly conceptual.
Here’s my thinking: it’s a long shot that I’m going to get in so I should make something that is really meaningful to me and the process of making it should in some way be therapeutic or helpful or fun or entertaining to me. The judges aren’t paying for the supplies or putting the hours in. This is about me having something to say. Of course I want to get accepted but it’s got to be with a piece that feels authentic to me or it’s a waste of time.
So this time I’m making the first thing I’ve ever made about my lungs. I began thinking last year about wanting to make something that is about my lifelong struggle with my asthma but instead of making it about the downer of the illness, I wanted to make something positive about how my lungs have withstood half a century of this cruel illness. It’s a very conceptual piece with unexpected materials and other than the title “My Beautiful Lungs” no one will be able to look at it and know it’s about asthma. To them I’m just hoping that it will be interesting or beautiful. Thinking about it and working on it, however, has been really powerful for me though so no matter what the judges decide about it, I’ve done something for myself that’s meaningful. That to me, is the point of competitions. It’s an opportunity to challenge yourself. It’s not about trying to figure out how to please someone else. Don’t we all do too much of that already?