QuiltCon judging and jurying feedback from the spring 2022 Survey

by Karen Cooper

In the spring of 2022, we conducted a survey about the QuiltCon Judging and Jurying process and did a review of the policies. Members were invited to join a committee to look over these policies. The feedback from the 20 individuals who completed the survey was reviewed carefully by staff and much of the feedback was incorporated into our published policies and our internal processes. Many of the changes that were made are noted on the QuiltCon website and in our updated policies for jurying and judging, which were made available in early summer 2022 but were not published widely in a newsletter. The lack of sharing was an oversight on my part and not an intentional slight. I can assure you that the feedback from the 20 individuals who completed the survey was reviewed carefully by staff and there was no intentional hiding of our process.

Below is some information about changes we made in response to suggestions or comments made by survey respondents:

  • The top item that was mentioned in most of your responses was related to a lowered limit on the maximum number of accepted quilts. We lowered the maximum from five to four for QuiltCon 2023. There were fewer than ten makers who had five or more quilts accepted. The jury then reviewed each of these makers’ entries and chose which ones to accept to keep them at or below four. We will continue to monitor this number and consider it for future revisions. Quilters remain free to enter as many quilts as they wish.
  • Many of you provided detailed suggestions on how to clarify or simplify the written policies and this was done for the 2023 event. I urge you to review them here: https://quiltcon.com/judging-jurying/. If you see something that is still unclear, please let me know and we can consider it for our next round of revisions.
  • There were many comments about the overall MQG definition of modern quilting as published on our website and specifically the use of the term “functional” or “functionality.” We conducted a member survey on those items this fall that is currently still in the review process. We anticipate releasing an updated definition and updated, more clear descriptions of the categories prior to the opening of quilt submissions for QuiltCon 2024. 
  • More clear, specific instructions were given to the jury this year regarding blind jurying. While it is not practical to either ask makers not to share their entries prior to jurying nor to expect jurors to completely refrain from social media prior to the jurying process, discussions were had about the importance of being mindful of the integrity of our jurying process. Jurors are and will continue to be instructed to recuse themselves from jurying quilts when they have a personal relationship with the maker or are otherwise unable to make an impartial decision.
  • More clearly, specific processes have been enacted that involve having the entire jury view photos of the final selections of the show at the end of the jurying meeting to help ensure variation and the evaluation of quilts that are repetitive or similar.
  • We are reviewing the overall award categories and talking with sponsors in regard to the fact that hand-quilted quilts are excluded by definition from two of the four overall awards and we hope to announce a new award in time for QuiltCon 2024.
  • We have eliminated the requirement of the participation of a certified judge in our judging panel, beginning with QuiltCon 2023. We have had several experiences where the certified judge has not been up-to-date on modern techniques or the importance of design at QuiltCon and this was unacceptable to us. We are working with the National Association of Certified Quilt Judges to increase their knowledge of and exposure to modern quilting and will continue to evaluate their participation in future QuiltCon judging panels.
  • We are working with some previous jurors to host a webinar or other educational event to discuss the jury process in an attempt to demystify the process and help MQG members understand how different jurors approach the process. I do not yet have a timeline for this event because the MQG will not release jurors’ names so will be contacting some recent jurors to find individuals willing to participate.
  • We are planning a webinar to be broadcast prior to the September 1, 2023 opening of quilt submissions where a panel of makers can discuss how they have chosen the categories in which they enter their quilts. We know this is a daunting process for many so we hope that hearing points of view from other quilters can help make the process more accessible.
  • Judging sheets will continue to be sent via email after QuiltCon. We will continue to review the judging sheets to ensure that they are accurate and reflective of the judging criteria.
  • The emails to all entrants were updated this year to include information on how many quilts were entered and how many were accepted.
  • We are working on various ideas to feature more MQG members in various platforms. Space and cost limit how many quilts can be displayed at QuiltCon but we want to find ways to create more connections amongst the MQG community of makers.

There were some responses upon which we are not acting at this time and I wanted to provide some additional information on those as well, in the interest of transparency. I read each and every comment and discussed many of them with the staff to ensure that I was considering each issue completely. As you can imagine, planning and managing QuiltCon requires a great deal of time and at any given moment, the MQG staff (four full-time employees and three part-time employees) is working on some part of the event, including securing locations, negotiating hotel blocks, vetting service providers, creating a class schedule and setting up the registration system, identifying and contracting vendors and sponsors, receiving all the quilts, organizing the quilts and preparing them for judging, having those quilts and all the other necessary supplies transported to QuiltCon, and countless other activities not listed. 

It is truly a pleasure and an honor to work for the MQG but also a responsibility. There are many operational decisions that are made that are necessary for us to carry out the entire rest of QuiltCon (as well as ongoing MQG activities) in a timely and cost-effective manner. I say this not to be dismissive or disrespectful but instead to help each of you understand the expanse of our efforts.

  • There will continue to be five jurors for the foreseeable future, including three modern quilters who are MQG members with a demonstrated understanding of modern quilting principles, one current board member, and one current staff member. The entire jury is new each year, although staff members may eventually repeat once every current staff member has cycled through the jury. This panel was defined by a member-guided task force in 2017 and remains in place. The jury is chosen by staff, who strive to ensure the inclusion of quilters from a variety of backgrounds.
  • We will continue to allow jurors to access the submissions for review prior to the end of submissions. While I hear the concerns that were voiced by some, the fact is that it takes a tremendous amount of time to look at and fairly consider the nearly 2,000 entries. Jurors are able to go back and review or change their ratings up until the end of the jurying process and are in fact encouraged by staff to do so to feel confident in their scores moving into the jury meeting. Also, because of the amount of time it takes to look at and fairly consider these entries, we are not able to implement a rubric or scale beyond the current 1-5 rating.
  • Because we are not able to display the backs of quilts at QuiltCon, we will not be expanding the photo requirement to include quilt backs.
  • The process to send nearly 500 quilts back to their makers in one day is daunting and through several years of experience, we have streamlined it as much as possible with an eye toward accuracy (it is most important that we do not lose anyone’s quilt), efficiency (we only have one extra day after QuiltCon to get the quilts out of the convention center), and cost-effectiveness. It is simply not possible in our process to allow some makers to provide their own prepaid shipping labels.
  • As a clarification, MQG staff only moves a quilt from one category to another if it is one of the categories with strict rules or requirements. This applies to small quilts (any quilt with a perimeter of 119″ or less must be in small quilts), group quilts (any quilt with more than two makers or contributors is considered a group quilt), and youth quilts.

If you have questions or concerns, I urge you to contact me so we can discuss them. Again, while I regret that we did not share this information earlier, I can assure you that your responses were read and considered and many actions were taken. We take the responsibility of hosting QuiltCon very seriously and we are continually reviewing processes and procedures to ensure we are doing the best job possible. 

I welcome your questions and also appreciate your support of QuiltCon, the MQG, and our hardworking staff!

Karen Cooper, Executive Director of the MQG