Karen's Musings

Here comes…………there goes………..the judge!!!

I have been super busy  – on the road ,quilting like a maniac when home – super busy.  Yep – that’s very poor writing but I hope it conveys how crazy my life has been for the past month.  Which explains my absence from the blogging world but doesn’t excuse it.

Since the last weekend in September I have judged one county fair and two quilt shows.  I usually get one judging job a year.  To have three within a five week time span was a bit mind-boggling.  I’m not complaining as I love to judge and travel and meet new people and see beautiful quilts and get paid – it’s a win win situation except for my legs and feet at the end of a long judging day.

Here is some history on how I got into judging.  In 2004 I entered three or four quilts into my guild’s (Cobblestone Quilters Guild) biannual show.  I didn’t receive any ribbons and didn’t expect to – I was just thrilled to see my quilts hanging in the show and knowing that other people were looking at them.  At the end of the show I received my judging sheets and got interested in what had been said – both the good points and the constructive criticism for improvement.  In 2005 I sent some of those same quilts to the National Quilters Association show.  I was certainly a brave naive quilter.  I also attended the show – that year it was in Peoria, IL and I signed up for a two-day class in judging (an introduction course taught by certified judges Klaudeen Hansen and Anita Shackleford).  My thought on entering the quilts was to see what another judge or judges had to say and I took the course to learn how quilts are judges and to try to improve my quilting.

I was bitten by the bug.  During the course I learned of the NQA judges certification program and thought that might be something I would like to do.  I had soaked up every bit of knowledge that Anitia and Klaudeen poured into us and I had done pretty well during the mock judging sessions.  During my education career I had been a teacher evaluator so I already had practice in applying standards and in voicing evaluations objectively and constructively.

When I got home I went online and completed that application process.  To become a certified judge requires a few years of independent study, the completion of an extensive dossier to demonstrate your knowledge, and practical experience working under and with certified judges.  If your dossier passes muster by three certified judges then you qualify to be examined orally and demonstrate  your judging ability in mock judging situations.  You can expect to devote about three years to the process.

Around the same time (fall of 2005) I did all this I also purchased my first longarm quilting machine.  My plan was to quilt all of my own quilts and those of my best friends.  Quilting as a business did not enter my mind.

Move forward to the spring of 2006 and the next Cobblestone Quilters Guild show.  Two things happened there.  First…..I entered six of my own quilts – all quilted by me and my bestie entered three – again all quilted by me.  I was amazed – I won four ribbons and bestie won two!  What?  Really?  The other event was that I worked on the judging floor crew and got to observe judging first hand.  It helped to solidify my desire to become a judge.  I even asked that judge to be my official mentor and she agreed.

In June of 2006 I traveled to Columbus, OH where NQA had decided to base its show for a number of years.  I worked the judging floor as a certified judging candidate getting experience in all areas of the judging process.  It takes a huge, coordinated team to move those quilts through the process.  If you ever get a chance – volunteer to serve – you learn so much!  I even had the nerve wracking experience of having to hold my own piece up while judges made comments.  YIKES!!

Over then next few years I traveled around serving as a scribe under a number of certified judges.  This gave me first hand experience in observing  judging and writing down the judging comments helped me learn the vocabulary and best practices of making comments.  And I judged some fairs and some small shows in my state.

But something else was also happening in my quilting life.  After the 2006 guild quilt show my phone started ringing with requests from others to quilt for them.  I was doing custom style quilting which was new to our local quilting world and I caught the eye of a number of members and other quilters.

By the 2008 show and more awards I had to make a decision……do I continue down the road to judging certification or devote my time to quilting and improving my quilting.  I chose longarm quilting. I continue to judge anywhere I’m asked to and feel I am a competent judge.  Some guilds can’t afford a certified judge and I think I offer them an excellent alternative.  I also have developed and present to guilds a program on What Judges Look For.  I usually get invited to do this at least once a year or more.

But three shows in five weeks???  I’m making judging critique statements in my sleep!!!  LOL  I have had feedback from two of the the shows already that the entrants were very happy with my remarks.

I’m happy about that and I’m happy with the increase to my bank account.  Getting paid to be involved with something I love – quilting – is the icing on the cake!



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