Over the past few years I have made more of an effort to put my work “out there”, to enter exhibitions or online hanging events, and one of the things I am finding interesting is my own reaction to feedback. I have sat on these thoughts for a while now, over a month, and seriously debated saying something about it. But better out than in.
We all know the Quilt Police – or at least have heard of them. Quilt police aren’t exclusively young or old, judgemental comments know no age restriction, but they can be nasty and unwanted and best ignored. But this is about quilt judges, particularly anonymous judges and the comments they make in feedback.
The thing about feedback, is that it can be really powerful. But for this to be the case a couple of conditions need to be met, you need to be open or welcoming to it, and you need to have respect for the person giving the feedback. I work in education, and there are times that the feedback on one’s performance can be instant, highly personal and brutal, as a consequence of this I am very selective on when, on what, and by whom I accept critique on my performance.
My art and craft has always been off limits in terms of unsolicited* feedback.
Not all judged exhibitions give feedback on entries, I understand that in the United States it can be more common, but generally it isn’t the practice at the shows I have entered in. Well until a recent show, where at the end of the process I was offered a ticked box feedback form with short comments about “what could be improved”. I asked not to be given it, but alas my choice was overridden in quite unfortunate circumstances the notes ended up with me. It has been something which others entering this particular show have said is the positive, they welcome the tick-box and comments, being Excellent, Good or Other across a number of criteria, with possible comments under the headings of “what we liked about your quilt is…” and the “A possible improvement to your quilt is…”.
At no point during the process of entering the exhibition was I given the opportunity to provide an artist statement or information about the entries. There was no way to credit designers, to outline the process, or to speak to choices. There was no way for the maker to have a voice in the process.
“We hope these comments from the Judges help you on your Quilting journey“
I have been quilting a long time, and have had all types of feedback on my work. I generally ignore the bits I consider to be unhelpful, sift my way through the other bits to see what is of value, and seek out specific advice on things I want to get another perspective on.
I actually wonder if this approach to feedback stifles people entering their quilt in exhibitions. If I was a beginner quilter, had I received this feedback chances are I would have come home, packed up my things and never sewed again. Honestly, this experience has left me wondering if I actually know what I am doing.
SIGH – next year, lets see how they like the quilt I am just finishing… it is red and pink. Not colours which you should use together – or at least that is what I have been told.
*unsolicited, because there are times we do ask for feedback, from people whose opinion we trust.