showing your work – more about rejection

In Search of True North  © 2004, 9" x 12"  David Walker

In Search of True North
© 2004, 9″ x 12″
David Walker

“For me, my artwork is the spiritual expression of who I really am and what I really believe. I only need to read over my artist’s statement to refocus upon this truth. My statement has always contained the essence of why I make art and why it is so important in my life. My artwork cannot be rejected by anyone unless I give them the power to reject it. I can listen to what others have to say, and I can learn and make changes, but I don’t have to be destroyed by their rejection of my honest effort. Others might consider this assertive confidence as egotistical and self-serving, but I don’t see it that way. If my creative expression has been the result of an honest effort to visually communicate an idea or feeling and if I feel that it successfully speaks to me, then I must conclude that the resulting self-approval should be viewed as healthy and life affirming.”

David Walker

I encourage you to read his whole article here.

In the Shadow of the Cathedral 2013   20 x 33 Terry Grant

In the Shadow of the Cathedral
2013 20 x 33
Terry Grant


“Rejection is always a little setback, but learning to deal with it is really so important to moving forward with your art and, as Lyric said, letting go. So many factors go into choosing work for a show, that the reason could be almost anything, and nothing you could have anticipated, nor even what the juror may have anticipated. Could be that most of the entries were in a related color pallette and your totally unrelated piece died alongside them, or any other unexpected development. It could also be the case that your piece was not your best work and just didn’t hold its own with the rest of the show. It is always good to reevaluate a rejected work, not necessarily to find fault, but to spot its weaknesses if they are there. It doesn’t do you any good to simply assume the juror just didn’t know good work when they saw it!”

Terry Grant

She also wrote a lovely post about the topic here.


showing your work – shipping your artwork

I’ve worked for a number of shows, curating, hanging, organizing – climbing right up on that ladder and hanging the things on the wall. I’ve hung shows in public art galleries,  cafes, local and national quilt shows. I’ve worked with local guild shows, the International Quilt Festival (in chicago), and group shows that traveled around the country.

The part I like the least is the packing and unpacking of the quilts. I’m grateful that there have always been others to make the checklists and make sure that everyone has sent all the stuff. Let me talk just a bit about ways that you can make things easier for the show organizers and for yourself.

You know how to roll your quilt right? Swim noodles are a textile artists best friend. Lay down a sheet or cloth, lay the quilt face down, then roll the whole thing onto the noodle, tie it up and throw on a plastic sleeve. Or -use the grey pipe insulating tubes from the hardware store – they are a bit thinner than a noodle and might let you wrap more quilt into your box. I have to say that I prefer square long boxes to tubes for ease of handling. We can stack them on top of each other or against the wall without their rolling away.

If your quilt is too long for the box, lengthen the box.

I have heard of instances of pieces being accidentally thrown away, mistaken for garbage. If you have no other choice a garbage bag will protect your work from moisture. Just label it in great big letters. It’s much better that the bag be clear.

Please don’t use packing peanuts. They come out of the boxes all over the place and are a major mess to clean up. Bubble wrap is better if you need to fill some space in the box.

(I’ve blurred out all names and addresses by the way – these are all well labeled!)

Here is one of the best packaged pieces I’ve seen. Multiple pieces were packaged in one box. Each was placed in a clear plastic bag. One quilt was wrapped on a swim noodle, wrapped in cloth. A smaller piece was creatively sandwiched between two pieces of foam core. Every last piece was labeled with the artists name, address, contact information, and the name of the quilt. Noodle, cloth, bag, box, hanging apparatus – every piece labeled!!! And (I thought this was clever) they all had a visual so that you could take a glance and know that they all belong together.

This was wonderful. A smaller piece that needed to be shipped flat was pinned to a thick piece of foam board then protected with another piece of foam board. They were held together by stick on velcro straps. It was simple for us to undo the velcro unpin the artwork and keep everything in it’s box so we could find it later.

Some other tips – include a self addressed stamped postcard for the show to send so you know your work got there safely.

Any other tips for packing quilts?

Here are some of the nightmares for any show organizers:

  • A quilt pinned to insulation board. Pinned every inch. I got stuck a million times. And it wouldn’t fit back into the super tight box it came in. (That said – the quilt itself was my favorite piece in the exhibition.)
  • Peanuts, peanuts, peanuts. A very large box for a small piece… peanuts, peanuts, peanuts.
  • No labels anywhere. No hanging stuff. I could go on. I’m sure you could go on.

Tell me what you think. If you’ve been involved in the packing and unpacking process what was your best and worst? How do you pack your pieces? Did I leave anything out? Let me know.

showing your work – at a fine craft show

I thought it would be worthwhile to hear Roxane Lessa’s experience. She was juried into the Carolina Designer Craftsmen Guild and has had a booth at their Thanksgiving weekend show for several years. and now in her own words…

First off, let me say that I’m not an expert at selling my art work. Not even close. That being said, I did sell 4 large expensive pieces and many smaller works at these fine craft shows. I got into doing the Carolina Designer Craftsmen Show at the Piedmont Craftsmen show because of the generosity of one of my favorite artists and friends, Marina Bosetti. You see, she had the booth set up (walls, lights, etc.), and you need a picture of your booth display to apply to the show. She offered her set up so I could take the pics. And so, I got into both guilds.

Screen Shot 2014-03-04 at 11.39.20 AM

Unfortunately it was 2007, and the economy was just about to tank. But I decided to forge ahead. I invested in some booth walls,lights and flooring, packed up all my art work and learned how to set it all up. ProPanels makes the best hard walls that are fairly easy to set up. If you want to do lots of shows, they are worth every penny.

What did I learn?

How to speak about my work without being bashful.
How to set my retail prices.
How to find a credit card merchant (now I just use Square).
How to get my resale license and charge tax.
How to look busy and not bother people while they are “just looking”. How to set up an attractive booth.
How to take care of yourself during a long show.
How to sell your own work without lowering your prices, creating value.

And, most importantly, I learned what people responded to and liked, and in some cases, liked enough to fork over their credit cards. All of that interaction also helped me get teaching gigs at guilds.Screen Shot 2014-03-04 at 11.42.39 AM

Was it worth it? I’d say yes, because of everything I’ve learned. There really is no substitute for interacting with your buying public. And it forced me to focus on producing a larger body of work to get ready. Was it labor/time intensive? Yes, very.

Was it worth it financially?

I think before 2008, artists could make a much better income from doing shows like this. Now, with the rise of online sales, I have the feeling that the amount of time and effort involved doing shows like this is better spent elsewhere. For me, I think it was a wash financially, but I still have the contacts with people I have met or sold to. And I still have everything I have learned in the process. So I think I came out ahead. I also met some very hard working and amazing artists, who are still my friends today.

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Finally, if you want to do fine craft shows, do your research. Ask artists who have attended the show who work in your media if they have had good success. Don’t just ask one, ask as many as you can. Don’t rely on the show promoters- they get your money in booth fees whether you sell a lot or not. After all, you are investing a lot in time, energy and money to do these shows! 

Screen Shot 2014-03-04 at 11.40.16 AM

As luck would have it, you can see my booth and me at the Vintage View Quilt show in Raleigh, NC in less than 2 weeks, ack! Here’s the info: Visit us at…

Vintage View Quilt Show 2014
March 14-16, 2014
Kerr Scott Building, North Carolina State Fairgrounds
Raleigh, North Carolina
Hours: Friday & Saturday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Admission $5
Over 450 Judged Quilts, 50 Vintage Quilts,
Demonstrations, Vendors, Prizes, Special Events

If you would like to learn more about the business of selling your art, I am participating in a webinar with 2 other fiber artists on March 25th. It will be hosted by SAQA, Studio Art Quilters Assoc.. You can go to their website for details. SAQA is also a terrific organization to belong to if you are interested in learning more about our fabulous medium- fiber!

Roxane is a full time studio textile artist and teacher with two girls and 1 fat cat. She is a 2012 Niche Award Winner and exhibits her work all over the world. Her work is in several private collections and she loves doing custom commissions. For more info go to

showing your work – organizing your entries

Now that you’ve chosen which kinds of shows to enter (quilt, art quilt, fine art) how do you keep track of it all? You’ve seen the list of shows that feature art quilts. You’re pretty sure you know which ones appeal to you. Now what? Well there are myriad ways to get your act together – here is how I do it. I like to see the big picture with my lists – all the dates on one page. I’m very visual. Waaaay back when I wrote an article about the topic for Quilting Arts Magazine, called Where and How to Show Your Artwork. April/May 2007.

I kept a notebook back when I was in the swing of things. Front page and pack page had two lists, one with shows by entry dates as seen here. This one is printed right from the list on my website. The other described below.


First – make a list of shows you are thinking of entering in order of shipping deadlines Make sure you note entry dates and which are postmarked and which are “received by.” Note any other pertinent entry info such as size requirements or expiration dates (my personal pet peeve!) I also noted prized money, commission fees, or anything out of the ordinary such as a live jury (in which you are required to send your actual quilt in for a second jury round.) Oh! Don’t forget the virgin quilt rule!!! If any images of your piece filter out anywhere, and I do mean anywhere – like blogs or your Aunt Martha’s Facebook page included, you are OUT!

Second – choose which quilts might go to which shows and note them. The reason my first list if by shipping window is so I can make absolutely sure that shows don’t overlap. It’s a BIG no-no to enter a quilt in a show, have it accepted, then to withdraw it because it already got into an overlapping show.

Third – when a quilt is accepted into a show I put the shipping date on my calendar in big bold letters. My worst nightmare is to forget to ship a quilt. Funny story. As I was packing down one show I had curated I noticed that there was a quilt missing. As far as I knew, it had never arrived and somehow I had missed seeing that. Immediate panic. Had the quilt been lost in the mail for months? I took a big gulp and called the artist. She had completely forgotten about the show and hadn’t sent it. I was SOOOOO relieved. At the same time, I had to laugh because that is so like something I might do.


Inside the Notebook:

  • Sleeve protecter for copies of entries I had sent out. I wrote big and bold on the top corner of the form the names of the quilts.
  • Sleeve protectors for accepted entries. I wrote (again) big and bold the shipping deadline and filed them in order.
  • Sleeve protector for entry forms of quilts that were currently out.
  • Sleeve protector for quilts that had come back in.
  • Page with all the vital stats for my quilts: date, size, price, insurance info.
  • Page for each quilt with a sow history and awards, yes – I also fear I’ll enter the a quilt in the same show twice. I have a sieve for a brain.
  • Sleeve for appraisals and their copies.

Of course all of this information can be kept on your computer now. (Then again, when is the last time YOU backed everything up?) It’s getting easier with digital entries and burning a CD or mailing off a jpg is much easier than sending slides.

Robbi Ecklow’s article Use Calendars to Keep Track of Your Show Submissions in Quilting Arts Magazine  February/March 2010 brings things quite up to date. In it Robbi shows you how to use any calendaring program (she uses ical) to list the entry deadlines as well as shipping and show dates.

showing your work – a traveling “trunk” show


At the Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art
Jamie Grant, Cindy Ondrak, Carol O’Bagy, Pam Wells, Karen Burton, Sue Anne Iman, Judy Hartz, and Joyce Ferrie

Today I invited Heidi Zielinski to share her experience with traveling a lovely group exhibit. I learned a few things from what she wrote and perhaps you might too. Here is what she has to say..

I submitted a comment to Lyric’s blog recently and she has asked me if I would expand on it and be a guest blogger, so here it is.  Thanks for the invite, Lyric!

I belong to a small informal group of fiber artists called Montana Bricolage Artists (MBA) and we live in the Missoula and Bitterroot Valley area of western Montana.  In 2011 we were inspired to create “The ‘Trunk’ Show”, our first exhibition.  The pieces hang suspended from the ceiling and are long and narrow like trees and include many techniques and styles—each as unique as the 13 artists who created them.  Because of the way they hang viewers are able to move through the “trees” as if it were a forest creating a unique interactive experience.   The theme and interactive nature attract a diverse audience to this exhibit.


A “Trunk” Show at the Montana Art and Framing gallery in Missoula, Montana

An MBA member arranged for us to exhibit in a Missoula art gallery for two months.  The exhibit was well attended and we had two sales, both of which pleased the gallery owner—always a good thing!  The next venue was a local annual three day fiber art show, An Affair of the HeART, in Hamilton, Montana in February of 2012.  Two of the “Trunk” artists are organizers for this show.  

Contact Sheet Full 1

L to R: Carol O’Bagy, Brooke Atherton, Mickey Frissell, Diane Bierwagen

As unofficial “curator” of “The ‘Trunk’ Show”, I reviewed submission requirements on the internet for potential venues in Montana and sent information and images to a number of them.  I also contacted the Pacific West Quilt Show and they accepted it as a special exhibit.  MBA members transported and hung the “Trunks” at that show in Tacoma, Washington in 2012.   We had a response from the Hockaday Museum of Art in Kalispell, Montana who said they couldn’t accommodate the unique hanging space required for this show, but would have interest in considering future shows from us.  

Trunk Show 1

“Trunks” at Montana Art and Framing, Missoula, Montana

As a result of the submission mailing, the Missoula Art Museum (MAM) proposed to us that they present our exhibit to the Montana Art Gallery Directors Association (MAGDA), a group of galleries and art museums across Montana and into North Dakota.  These groups would have the opportunity to book our show and as our sponsor, MAM would create a shipping crate, signage, and handle the logistics of getting the show to the venues.  We were booked for 2 six week stints by The Paris-Gibson Square Museum of Art in Great Falls, Montana and the Holter Museum of Art in Helena, Montana.   The museums requested additional work for the walls so a piece from each artist was added and the show hung in Great Falls last summer and goes to the Holter Museum later this spring (2014).   The Paris-Gibson had strong local interest and a diverse audience for the show including groups of children who particularly enjoyed the interactive experience.  One of the Trunks sold at this venue as well.


Paris-Gibson Museum of Art, Great Falls, Montana

Last year we were contacted by the Provo Utah Library who had found our show on the internet and were interested in it for their large new gallery space.  They booked it for November/December of 2014 and will pay all shipping costs and MAM is going to allow us to use the crate they created and help us ship it to Provo.  

This may be the last venue for our “Trunks”, but who knows?!!  The artists originally committed to two years for this show but have welcomed the opportunities that have arisen to share their art with the public.  I believe that the professional way we have interacted with the venues, the quality of the art, and the interactive quality has helped to make this a successful exhibition.  We are establishing a  reputation which we hope will help us find venues for our next exhibition!

Heidi Zielinski

showing your work – rejection

It’s going to happen sooner or later. The envelope or the Email that says, “sorry – better luck next time” arrives in your mail box. You followed all of the directions in the prospectus to the letter. You dutifully researched the venue, past shows, the jurors. You have the best possible images of your artwork and yes, you did send in your best work. And still – you don’t get in.

Malachi’s Promise
rejected from half of the shows entered  (mostly abstract art gallery type shows)
received a “Best of Show” at a local quilt show

What does it mean? Why do you feel like a failure? I discussed the jury process and the many reasons work is rejected from shows in my last post on this topic in case you missed it. What being rejected does NOT mean is that you are a failure as an artist. If you go into a blue funk because you did not get into a show you need to examine why. Do you think everyone will reject your work if it did not get in to one show? Do you think that all of your work is unworthy?

Failure can be a friend if you are willing to learn from it. Easier said than done but if you can learn to see failure as one more step towards success your life will be easier – and happier. And you will be growing!

First off – are you entering venues appropriate for your work? I’ll talk more about this in a subsequent post. A cutting edge and provocative piece might not be appropriate for a traditional quilt show and a traditional Baltimore Album isn’t going to make it in a Soho gallery.

never juried into a show quilt but shown in several art galleries

Also, the higher the quality of the show that you enter, the more likely it is that you will be rejected simply because of the higher number of applicants. Quilt National is what many of us Art Quilters call “our favorite charity.” It has an overwhelming number of entries compared to the number of Artworks that it can accept. It is also one of the most respected showcases of the Quilt as Fine Art that there is. A hardcover catalog is published every year and the show travels to respected venues. It is still on my list of “hope to get in before I die” shows so I continue to send in work and take my chances.

Second – are you pinning all of your hopes on one piece? As a serious artist you want to be continually creating. You need to build up a body of work. (I’m preaching to myself here!) If you think this one piece is the best you ever have or ever will make then you have stopped progressing. Try to create enough work that you can have several pieces out there at the same time if entering shows is a path you wish to follow. Third – take an objective look at both your photographs and your work. If you have someone whose opinion you trust, ask them for a critique. Use this as an opportunity to learn and to improve. The work just might be fantastic and the photography impeccable. It still never hurts to examine and to find areas for improvement.

Circle 3
juried in to only one show – where it sold

Here is a lovely blog post about entering shows by Elizabeth Barton. It includes a conversation with a juror about why some pieces were accepted in a nationally juried show. Well worth reading.

And here is a treat – Robbi Eklow’s wonderfully witty answer to rejection letters. READ IT! It will brighten your day.


showing your work – photographing your art

Remember when I said that  one of the most frustrating things for a juror when looking through a pool of entries, is trying see past poor photography. Having unprofessional photography simply makes your work look bad. Hiring a professional photographer is expensive and I believe YOU can figure it out. The minimum equipment you need is a tripod and great lighting.

The fabulous Sarah Ann Smith recently posted a really wonderful tutorial on photographing your artwork that I think is really useful. She links to several other great articles, all of which I have used. (Reposted with her permission.)

I just read a fabulous article on photographing your artwork here, at  I highly recommend it!   I was thrilled that they link toHolly Knott’s instruction page for textile artists and art quilters, and they also had embedded a very useful YouTube video put up by the folks at Saatchi Online (see the video at the bottom of this post).  Those posts inspired me to share with you how I do my own photography.
2014.02.28.PhotoQuilts004-2I’ve become adept at photography through self-education and practice, and you can too.  My photographs have been used in my book (AQS even gave me a photography credit!), in Quilting Artsmagazine (which has some of the best photography out there),Machine Quilting Unlimited magazine, and a number of Lark Books including 500 Art Quilts, so I think I’ve reached proficiency–at least with the best of my shots.  Here’s a little of what I do in hopes that it will help you!

Set-up and level:  In the photo above, I’ve shown how I set things up in my studio.  I am very fortunate to have a LARGE (vast!) design wall, which I had built and installed when we moved into this house three (!!!) years ago.  I can pin my quilts to the wall and photograph them easily.  If you don’t have a design wall, you can create a temporary set-up easily and inexpensively:  purchase either foam core or rigid foam insulation.  Place the foam core or insulation flat (or as flat as you can get) against the wall (poster tacking putty may be helpful).   If you have to tilt the board, make sure the camera lens is parallel to the surface (see the Saatchi video, at the bottom of this post).


Hotshoe bubble level and first screen on my camera. The hotshoe (if your camera has one) is where one attaches a separate flash mechanism. On my camera, it is on top of the built-in flash. These small bubble levels are inexpensive, about $15. Mine will show you level whether the camera is positioned in landscape or portrait orientation.

I purchased a small “gizzie,”  a bubble level that fits into the camera hotshoe (the place where one attaches a separate flash) of my camera so that I can be sure that the camera is perfectly parallel to the vertical wall and also level, because my basement floors definitely are not perfectly level.  I purchased my camera level fromB&H Photo Video, a vast emporium (a real store and online) for all things photo and video; they have really expert sales people who can help you with expensive decisions (like a DSLR!) and great prices.  They are a Jewish business, so they close for the Sabbath (Friday to Saturday evenings) and holy days, so check on the website for special closings.  Otherwise, they are there.  Type “Camera level” into the search box on the site to find their current offerings.  If my eyes are telling me one thing and the hotshoe level is saying another, I often use a small “torpedo” level to double check.  When I turn the camera to vertical on the tripod, because the barrel of the lens has ridges, I make certain the front of the lens is level (see photos below).

With this particular lens, I notice that the lower right corner isn’t sharp no matter what the focal length, so when I want ALL the quilt to be super-sharp, I allow extra room around the edges.

With this particular lens, I notice that the lower right corner isn’t sharp no matter what the focal length, so when I want ALL the quilt to be super-sharp, I allow extra room around the edges.

 If you want to get REALLY obsessive (guilty!) you can make sure your quilt is exactly vertical using a small bubble level from the hardware store:

Making sure the sides of the quilt are vertical (or that the top is horizontal)

Making sure the sides of the quilt are vertical (or that the top is horizontal)


If you have the option, turn on a grid in the viewfinder. This will help you see if the now-truly-vertical sides of your quilt are parallel to the grid on the screen or at an angle. If they are at an angle, you can adjust the camera so everything is squared up correctly.

If you have the option, turn on a grid in the viewfinder. This will help you see if the now-truly-vertical sides of your quilt are parallel to the grid on the screen or at an angle. If they are at an angle, you can adjust the camera so everything is squared up correctly.

To obsess a bit more, you want to make sure that once the QUILT is vertical/level, that your camera LENS is also vertical/level.  The floors in my basement studio (painted that grass green!) are anything but flat and level.  So I triple check with not only the hotshoe bubble level, but I use the small red torpedo level (seen in the photo at the side of my quilt and below) to check if the camera LENS is vertical.  If the lens tips up or down, you will get distortion called keystoning, where a true rectangle appears wider at the top or at the bottom.

Using the bubble level on the top of the lens is a challenge because of the grip and changes in the surface.

Using the bubble level on the top of the lens is a challenge because of the grip and changes in the surface.


Instead you can use the hotshoe bubble level to make sure the front of the lens is in fact truly vertical (assuming of course that your wall is truly vertical!)

Instead you can use the hotshoe bubble level to make sure the front of the lens is in fact truly vertical (assuming of course that your wall is truly vertical!)

2014.02.28.PhotoQuilts011Distortion:  Through trial, error, and observation, I have learned that when I use my Nikon DSLR with the extra long zoom lens, the lower right of the lens has some distortion:  it just isn’t sharp in that lower right corner.  So when I set up and take photographs, I know that I need to have my tripod far enough away that I can avoid having a corner of the quilt in the not-so-sharp zone.  Next on my agenda:  take out the shorter zoom lens that came with the camera and see how that does.

A focal length on your zoom of about 50 is optimal. If your camera doesn’t tell you the focal length, just don’t do way zoomed in or really wide-angle.

A focal length on your zoom of about 50 is optimal. If your camera doesn’t tell you the focal length, just don’t do way zoomed in or really wide-angle.

Focal length:  I’ve also read that the optimal focal length for still photography like this is 50 mm (well, the digital equivalent of what 50mm was on old film cameras).  You definitely don’t want to go wide-angle because you will get distortion:  a square quilt will bulge out like a fish eye, the sides will appear to push out in the middle.  When I set up the tripod, I set the camera to 50mm, then I move the tripod so that the quilt fills the viewfinder (while avoiding that odd spot with my particular lens) but still allows me room to crop the photo in Photoshop Elements.

Center focus on center of quilt. Note hotshoe bubble level. Notice that the tripod is about ten feet back from the design wall and the quilt of Pigwidgeon dancing for supper nearly fills the screen, but avoids that lower-right area.

Center focus on center of quilt. Note hotshoe bubble level. Notice that the tripod is about ten feet back from the design wall and the quilt of Pigwidgeon dancing for supper nearly fills the screen, but avoids that lower-right area.

Tripod:  I cannot overstate how important it is to have a perfectly still camera.  As you push the button, your hand introduces shake to the camera.  My first tripod was purchased used for $27.  Yep, that inexpensive.   And photos from that set-up made it into books!  I eventually replaced with an “enthusiast” level tripod, but which still didn’t cost more than $150.  Since this is my business, it was a business deduction (and honestly, the only time I’ve ever used it for anything other than work is to film Eli at a few wrestling meets–I can videotape from the tripod and take still pics sitting on the floor!) and well worth it.  My tripod head has a built in bubble level on it, too, but I rely on the level on the camera to make sure the camera isn’t tilted on a level tripod.  If you don’t have a tripod, find a ladder, chair or other stable surface and put your camera on that.  Use the self-timer, press the button, then let the camera trigger the shot; this avoids wiggling from your hands pushing the button.

At the enthusiast level, tripods and heads are sold separately.   Some photography books urge you to buy a tilt-pan head, which swivels on a ball head.  I have found for photographing a quilt, I prefer the heads that allow you to level horizontally, then vertically, using two separate knobs.  I know that once I get horizontal level if I have to adjust for vertical, I would knock it out of level.  By having the head have two separate knobs, I can adjust in one direction, get it right and lock it in, then adjust for the other direction of level.

Tulip bulbs in inexpensive shop light reflectors. The bulbs cost about $35 each, so I store them carefully! But they are the most expensive part of your lighting set up and are still far less expensive than hiring someone to shoot your quilts! Unless you drop them, they last a long time.

Tulip bulbs in inexpensive shop light reflectors. The bulbs cost about $35 each, so I store them carefully! But they are the most expensive part of your lighting set up and are still far less expensive than hiring someone to shoot your quilts! Unless you drop them, they last a long time.

Lighting is CRITICAL!   I followed the information on Holly Knott’s website (paragraph and links below) to purchase the tulip bulbs that give even light when correctly positioned.  I screw them into inexpensive shop fixtures from the big-box hardware stores (about $9 each).

If you use only one light, or have it too close to the quilt as in this photo, you will get a “hot spot” or uneven lighting. Notice how bright the right side of the quilt is compared to the other three sides. This inconsistent lighting does not show your quilt at its best!

If you use only one light, or have it too close to the quilt as in this photo, you will get a “hot spot” or uneven lighting. Notice how bright the right side of the quilt is compared to the other three sides. This inconsistent lighting does not show your quilt at its best!

Instead, follow the info on Holly’s site and move the quilt stands (made from a 2×4 and four basic shelf brackets each, construction details on Holly’s site) back from the quilt to get good, even lighting.  Play with the White Balance on your camera to adjust for the type and color of light in your studio combined with the tulip bulbs.  If I recall, they recommend NOT having the overheads on, but I find that my studio is so dark that I really need my daylight-bulb overhead lights on to get a good shot.  Experiment to see what settings and lighting give you the sharpest, most color-correct photo.

Light stands and tripod set up at a good distance from the quilt.

Light stands and tripod set up at a good distance from the quilt.

Holly Knott’s Shoot That Quilt:  For fabulous instruction on how to “Shoot That Quilt,”  visit Holly Knott’s very helpful site, here.  She collaborated with a professional photographer, and I can say unequivocally that her information–especially on lighting–has made a key difference in improving the quality of my photos.  In particular, take a good long look at the “Gallery of Wrongs” which shows common errors and how to avoid them.

And watch this video prepared by Saatchi Online, a mongo huge online art gallery.  It is very well done, with a lot of good information.  I hope you’ve enjoyed this post!  Now go make art, then photograph it well! 


showing your work – the jury process

I thought I’d continue the subject of showing your work by reposting an earlier series of articles. Be inspired! Enter your work and get it out into the world!

It takes a lot of courage to put your work in front of a judge or juror, or so I’ve been told. I’ve done it many a time and paid good money for the privilege. Why? Because I want people to see my work. Some artists might create their work entirely for their own pleasure, happy to let the art live in a closet forever, but I haven’t met them yet. Most of us have a message to send with our art – even if that message is as simple as “smile.”

Do I find it scary to submit to the jury process? No – but not because I think my art is great or because I always get into the show. This year I’ve been accepted to two out of four of the shows I’ve entered. Part of my “courage” is having seen enough jury processes that I know what is involved. Part of it is that I am able to emotionally let go of my work once it’s done. Let me explain.

In a juried show artists submit either images or the actual artwork, and a juror chooses which out of all the submissions will be in the actual exhibit. Jurors are usually professionals in the art field; established artists, gallery owners, professors, curators.

You fill out a form, you pay a fee. It’s not unreasonable. It costs money to advertise the show, to staff the exhibit, to pay the juror. Most of the shows I’ve worked with just barely break even.


What happens on the other end? Imaging receiving hundreds of files, some of which might actually have followed the guidelines in the prospectus. You’ve already answered what feels like hundreds of Email questions and helped people format their files or simply restated what is already written in the entry guidelines.

All of the entries are now organized into a slide presentation and you have prepared numbered sheets for the jurors. The most common process that I’ve seen goes like this: A full and detail image for each entry is shown on the screen either side by side or one after the other. Most of the time the jurors will be shown a quick run through of all of the entries so that they can get an idea of what they are looking at. If the show has a theme the jurors might be told what it is and asked to find pieces that adhere to that unifying idea. Sometimes the jurors are given free reign to choose whatever pieces they think will make a wonderful exhibit. They will usually be told the number of artworks that can be accepted.

The next run through is usually silent but takes more time. Each juror looks carefully at each piece and simply writes down “yes” or “no.” At the end of this run the jurors compare notes and any piece that has unanimous rejections are, well, rejected. Harsh? Not really. There are many, many reasons pieces are rejected that have nothing to do with the quality of that particular piece.

I’m sure the most frustrating reason for rejection is poor photography. When the jurors cannot see the artwork clearly it is impossible to judge it. Having anything at all showing in the background of the photograph is distracting. I remember one photograph in particular where the piece was pinned to a piece of bright purple foam core set on an easel. You could see half the living room and the jurors couldn’t tell if the purple was part of the quilt or not. Truly, if you present your work in the the most professional manner possible it will make a huge difference. Your work IS your best effort is it not?

Now things get difficult. After the rejected images are deleted from the pool the jurors once again view the pool, this time either meticulously rating each piece, or conversing with their colleagues to come to an agreement on the final selections. There is a good bit of cajoling, campaigning, and compromising that goes on here. Things get really interesting when you get more than one strong willed artist with an opinion in the room. I have yet to see anything but good manners and a willingness to work together in the best interests of putting on the best show possible.

Reasons for rejection at this stage? Numerous. The theme could be “Trees” and they reject the artwork depicting fishes and candy canes. The pool of entries might lean towards abstract and one photo-realistic piece, no matter how spectacular, just isn’t going to create a cohesive show. Perhaps these particular jurors love politically challenging pieces whereas another set of jurors might shy away from them. The venue for the exhibit might also issue guidelines regarding things such as nudity if children frequent the site.

You see, it really is simply the luck of the draw. There are so many factors that go in to the process that there really is no guarantee that you will be accepted into a show even if your work is truly wonderful. There are things you can do to raise your chances of being accepted.

1 – Research the show – what type of artwork has been exhibited in past shows?
2 – Research the juror – find out what other shows the juror has put together and what they look like.
3 – Take the best possible photographs of your work possible. Neutral backgrounds. Good light. Focused!
4 – Follow the instructions on the prospectus to the letter! Do not expect the organizers to resize your images or accept late entries.
5 – Stop worrying about it and just enter the show if you feel your work fits. Let your babies grow up and go out into the world.

Here is a short list of articles and a book that can help you with the tasks above.

Shoot That Quilt by Andy Baird and Holly Knott
A wonderful tutorial on how to digitally photograph your quilt including plans for building your own nifty light stands. Yes, it can be done!

Digital Essentials by Gloria Hansen

This wonderful book clearly explains how to prepare your digital files for entry.

A list of art-quilt shows to enter compiled by yours truly
Listed by entry date, includes title, website/prospectus, show dates and shipping windows.

Judge and Jury: What to Expect When Entering Art Shows by Annie Strack. This is a great overview of how the entry and  jury process works in the general fine arts world.

And finally – cut the apron strings. Let your babies grow up and venture out into the world on their own. Make enough work that all your hopes and dreams are not riding on one piece. Put your heart and soul into the work while you are creating it and then release it. A rejection of your work from a show is NOT the same as a rejection of you as an artist.

Look for more on this topic over the next week or two. I’d love to hear your experiences, opinions, and suggestions. Have you been involved in a jury process that worked differently? How do you think it can be improved?

showing your work – judged vs. juried

Just a quick post delineating the difference between a judged and a juried show. Because I am a word junkie and a dictionary geek….



1 – a group of persons sworn to render a verdict or true answer on a question or questions officially submitted to them.
2 – to judge or evaluate by means of a jury: All entries will be juried by a panel of professionals.

1 – a person appointed to decide in any competition, contest, or matter at issue; authorized arbiter: the judges of a beauty art contest. (although I love it when art is beautiful!)
2 – a person qualified to pass a critical judgment: a good judge of horses art. (honestly now, judging art is SO subjective and I think it’s a great thing that we all have different opinions!)


If an art show is juried, one or more people will be looking at all of the submitted works to choose which will be accepted.

If the show is judged, the accepted artworks will be evaluated against each other and prizes of some sort of recognition will be awarded to a few of the pieces. Prizes range from ribbons to cash awards, and purchase awards. Sometimes a future solo show at the venue is awarded. If the award is a purchase award check to see if there is a certain amount that will be paid. If your artwork is priced higher than that amount you might not want to enter the show, or at least check to see if there is an option to opt out of consideration for the purchase award.

Sometimes the juror returns to judge the show after it is hung, sometimes the jury and judges are different people.

Many smaller shows are not juried at all but accept entries based on membership, media, or location. Many shows have judges that award prizes even if they are not juried. Many shows are juried but not judged.

And for all your fabulous quilt show fanatics out there – here is an excellent article – a conversation with a quilt JUDGE. Click the link then scroll just a bit to read. Remember, these are the criteria QUILT judges are trained to look for.  She talks about QUILTING techniques as having priority over COMPOSITION because she is a QUILT JUDGE. If you are an artist making quilts and entering quilt shows, this is something that you need to understand. It is quite seldom that a traditional quilt show will hire an artist as a judge. I personally, don’t think it’s a bad thing at all because it’s a QUILT SHOW my friends. If you want to be judged as an artist enter an ART show. (I enter both, just so you know.)

an invitation: the NC Artists Exhibition


If you are anywhere close to the area next Sunday, March 2nd, I’d like to personally invite you to this wonderful event.
Screen Shot 2014-02-23 at 4.59.54 PMOne of my pieces will be on display.

Ammonite Dream
35″ x 45″


You can read a little bit about an “adventure” I had in creating this piece here.


showing your work – a museum experience

One lovely reader, Sandy Snowden from England, shared her experience with getting work into a museum and graciously allowed me to share with you! Here is what she wrote:

Showing in a museum… we sort of fell into this. I was with EquilArteral, a small group and we started looking at the idea of exhibiting.  We gave our name and details for entering a sort of open community exhibition at a small museum in a nearby city. We were declined. But then they got a new museum curator who found that the community exhibition was booked for the next year, but no one had been invited!  So, our details came up and she invited us.


Destricted by Sandy Snowden

Then, while there, we got really excited about the eclectic collection in the museum – things connected with the history of that city. So, we spoke to them about the idea of our larger textile art group doing a challenge inspired by items in the museum (this expanded to things about the city) They thought it was a great idea! We also offered to do workshops – which ticked their education boxes, etc.


Slough Town by Annie Hamilton

So to make a long story short, from that, our group and the museum were awarded the London 2012 Cultural Olympics Inspire mark! The mayor of the town where we meet came to the opening. Also another gallery owner who came to see the work invited us to show it in her gallery – actually in our own town.


Embrocations 1-5 by Jane Glennie

So, I don’t know if you have small eclectic museums near you, but you could approach them with the idea of making work inspired by their collection. or if your work has a theme that would fit – say a museum about music and your work with the musical instruments. On a larger scale, the V+A has similar opportunities to make work inspired by the items in the museum. I don’t know anything about how this would work in larger museums in America, though.


Some items could actually be displayed near the items, ours actually had a gallery, but they did discuss the idea of displays with the artefact. Some of the problems with that would be that your materials would have to be vetted for any off gassing or  affects which would result in harming the artifacts. 


Taplow Vase Reconstruction by Margaret Ramsay

Unfortunately, the museum has had funding cut because of the credit crunch, so have had to move to a part of the library, so no gallery, or we would do more with them. (Actually, I have had a small display of work in my local library. the larger library in town has some opportunity for this as well, but are more inclined for groups strongly connected with our town rather than individuals.)


Flat Irons (Grandad’s Kitchen) by Christine Restall

Anyway, even though it was a very small museum, now we have ‘shown work in a museum’ on our CV. Looks good to those who are impressed by those things when you want to aim for something further. You can read the Artist Statements here.


L to R, Sandy Snowden, the Bracknell Mayor, Jane Glennie


Another outcome was that there was a schools/museum liaison person (before funding cuts) who worked with Langley Academy who have a specific museums focus. Some of the work was displayed at the school in glass cabinets. the art students did a term based on the concept of being inspired by museum artefacts and our work was a main focus for their study. The blog gave them opportunity to see how other artists developed ideas. Our ‘exhibitions officer’ also had opportunities for speaking in schools.

We also exhibited the work at the National Needlework Archive (which again is not anything remarkable if you know it! but if you don’t, well, it sounds impressive!)

Most of the images of the exhibition were taken by Jane Glennie ‘exhibitions officer’. Both the blog and the website were built by her.  Somehow we start simple and the world of opportunities fall into our lap! Sort of another step on the ladder. and we still don’t feel like we are anything particularly amazing. 😉 We just started out as mostly Contemporary Quilters who wanted to think outside the box. There are back stories of the work and design development on the project blog.

The group has an exhibition called Halfway Between in one of the gallery spaces in the Spring Knitting and Stitching show at Olympia in London next month.

All the best,


showing your work – what are your goals?


So far I’ve mused about getting accepted into a show and about what local venues might be available to you. In my next post I’ll blab on about who I think attends those venues and I’d love to hear your views as well. But first….


Let’s talk about WHY you are showing your art. 


One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. “Which road do I take?” she asked. “Where do you want to go?” was his response. “I don’t know,” Alice answered. “Then,” said the cat, “it doesn’t matter.”


What are YOUR goals?


Do you just want to share the beautiful thing you’ve created with the world? Would a blog or show and tell at your local quilt guild be enough for you?

Do you crave a little recognition? What kind? From who? Are you happy with people oohing and aaahing and will you be devastated if they don’t like your work? Does your family not appreciate you and you just need to share with someone who understands this beautiful obsession that is making things with cloth? Do you want to be famous?



Are you competitive? Deep down do you want to be the best at something? Would you be disappointed if you didn’t win and think it means that your work isn’t any good? 

Do you want or need to sell your work? Why? Are you trying to support yourself entirely through your art? Do you think sales justify what you are doing? Do you want to bring in enough income to cover your costs?

Is showing your work a stepping stone to something like breaking into the national quilt-teaching circuit?

And now for a little rambling on.
Feel free to skip this and go straight to the comments to tell me what motivates YOU!

Every one of these reasons for showing your work has motivated me at some point. I know there are lots of other reasons and I’d love it (REALLY love it) if you’d share some of your reasons with me. My goals are constantly evolving so I am constantly coming back to reevaluate them.

When I first started quilting I was just terribly excited to show people something I’d finished. I got really lucky and won a ribbon for my first quilt – in the “first quilt” category at the local quilt show. Then my old competitive nature snuck up on my and I really wanted to win ribbons.  I think it was up through my second year of college that my world revolved around getting to play first chair horn in whichever orchestra I was in. Then I discovered how much fun some of the other parts were to play – and also how much less pressure there was involved. And playing my horn got a lot more fun.


I also really loved cash awards as our budget was stretched very thin as it was. I used to skip lunch so I could go buy a fat quarter. It was really nice to win enough awards and have just enough sales to cover my fabric addiction. This is still one of my primary goals. 

Then I wanted to teach and was told that I needed to have my work seen by the national audiences and especially to win awards. Looking back I’m not sure that the quilt show circuit was the most efficient way to do this. (Someone speak up if you want a series of posts on how to get into teaching.) Anyway – I’ve evolved. Now, I think, I want to be recognized more as a fine artist than as a quilt teacher, although both titles make my heart sing.

And way down deep, I think I still want to be famous – just a little bit. It’s an ego thing that I’ve always had and try to channel in positive ways. There is nothing like being applauded after a great performance and I guess that got under my skin a bit from an early age. Really, nobody recognizes or says “thank you” to all the mothers out there. There isn’t a paycheck or a performance review or a bonus when you finally get that stubborn boy potty trained. In fact, usually they just say, “it’s about time!” It’s quite a switch to fly out to a quilt guild where they treat you like a minor celebrity. 

Really, I do what I do because I LOVE making art with cloth and it makes me happier than anything to see students realize that they CAN do things they thought they couldn’t. That’s 98% of it. I will sheepishly admit that the “fame” part might possibly be the other 2%. And yes, I realize I am only well known in a very small art corner of a rather small quilting pond. But hey – quilters are still the nicest people I know.

Showing Your Work: part 3 – choosing venues

We’ve talked about how the jury process works and some of the reasons work is rejected. Of course, as Jamie Fingal pointed out in the comments, there are myriad factors that go into a works being accepted or rejected. No matter what – it’s a roll of the dice any time you enter a show.

Today let’s talk about what kind of shows are available to the textile/quilt artist. I’ll divide them into three general categories: Quilt Shows, Art Quilt Shows, Fine Art Shows

1- Quilt Shows
This is what the general public thinks of when you say “quilt.” A gymnasium somewhere with traditional quilts and grey haired “quilt police” counting stitches with a magnifying glass. Fortunately this stereotype. While accurate in some instances, it is in many cases a very wonderful place to show your artwork. Most quilt shows now have art categories but the judges don’t always come from an art background. If you are making cutting edge art – think hard about why you are still entering a quilt show.

I love traditional quilts and and greatly admire the mastery of technique that wins many a ribbon there. And I DO think that traditional quilts can be works of art in and of themselves. It’s one of the things I love about the quilt as a medium of expression. There is room for everyone at every level of creative expression in the quilt world.

Many quilt shows offer the chance to be seen by a large number of people in a short time. If you want to teach quilters, it is great for them to be familiar with your work. Sometimes prize money is offered. In fact, sometimes, a LOT of prize money is offered.

Most of the people that see your quilt are more interested in buying fabric than your artwork. There is rarely a mechanism set up for people to buy your work from a quilt show. Only a very few people actually win those cash prizes – but, hey, it could happen!

Do your research. Does the show have art categories? How many people see it? Does it have a great reputation for treating the quilts with respect? Are you in it for the awards, for the visibility, to make sales, to sell patterns, to build a reputation as a quilt teacher?

2- Art Quilt Shows
A show that is looking specifically for textiles but is hung and treated like a fine art show. The jurors are looking for original work, excellent composition and design. It is up to the curators how far into the innovative arena of textiles they want to venture. Some do not want work mounted in a hard frame, some require all the materials to be cloth rather than mixed media. Most are quite flexible in their requirements.

These shows can often do a great deal to educate a broader audience about the media of textiles in the fine art world. Showing a group of quilts that were created intentionally as fine art gives them presence. The works are hung on walls as art, rather than poles and pinned to drapes in a gymnasium.

Deborah Sniders‘ ENCRUSTACEANS I on the right
Photo by Debbie Bein (and more on her blog!)

Your work will be treated as fine art. Period. I know that in my middle-to-small sized town, the art quilt shows we sponsor at the community galleries draw the biggest “crowds.” The organizers of the show will know how to manage your artwork – unpacking, hanging and handling should not be an issue here.

I’m having a hard time thinking of any. Tell me some in the comments. Some of the venues don’t get a large viewership.

Just as with any entry – do your research to see if your work fits. I maintain a list of these types of shows on my website – take a look. Ask yourself all the same questions, especially the “why am I doing this?” question. Are you in it for the awards, for the visibility, to make sales, to sell patterns, to build a reputation as a quilt teacher?

3- Fine Art Shows
This is your regular gallery, museum, or whatever-space-available show but is geared primarily towards traditional paintings or sculpture. Most are more accepting of textiles these days. Not all – one show I entered (and won a prize in) insisted my work be put in the “fine crafts” category and displayed it on a pedestal on the floor with ceramics and wood pieces instead of on the wall even though it was wired and ready to hang. Getting your work into an art museum or a gallery will do wonders for your resume! The Grand Rapids Art Museum

The people who go to these shows are expecting to see fine art and will not think of your work as a blanket. Unless of course you entered a ratty old blanket as a piece of conceptual art and then they would probably give it best of show. Most of these shows have a mechanism for viewers to purchase the work. A museum or high end gallery showing might make you feel like you’ve finally “made it.”

Some fine art shows won’t even look at textiles. Some staffers or volunteers will be stymied when you ask for two nails in the wall rather than one to hang your work – even when you send in a clear and simple instructions pinned to the back of the work. The competition is tougher because your work will be more difficult to fit in among more traditional hangings of paintings and sculptures.

I’ll say it again – do your research to see if your work fits. Ask yourself all the same questions, especially the “why am I doing this?” question. Are you in it for the awards, for the visibility, to make sales? Honestly ask yourself if your work will hold its own against high quality paintings. Consider mounting or framing smaller textiles to give them more “presence.” I have tutorials for mounting and framing small textiles here.

Bottom line = do your homework. Ask yourself why you want to enter a show and then make your decisions accordingly. I’d love to hear your opinion!

The Art of the Quilt

If you are nearby, I’d like to invite you to see
The Art of the Quilt
November 13 – December 30, 2010
Sponsored by the Piedmont Arts Association
215 Starling Avenue

Martinsville, Virginia 24112

Ph: (276) 632-3221

I have two wearable art pieces in the show.
If you are lucky enough to see it I would be thrilled if you sent a picture or two my way!
I’ll post some detail shots tomorrow.
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