Rejected from a juried quilt show? Read this. 

I know, I know. It’s painful to get the “Thanks, but no thanks” email from the people in charge of a quilt show, especially when they’re writing to reject a quilt that you worked on for months or even years, and poured your entire heart into to make happen.

It’s painful to think that somebody else thinks your work isn’t good enough to be at the show.

But understand this: it is not personal.

I got four such emails today, and two of them were for quilts that have been juried in to other shows already.


It is not personal.

Right now it feels personal, but it just isn’t. It can’t be.


This anecdote may seem irrelevant, but I promise you, it’s relevant. Stay with me.

A lifetime ago, I was an anxious teenager who loved to be on the stage more than anything else. Because of this, I had to subject myself to auditions frequently, which is kinda the same– but worse in a way, because you get to watch them judging you. It’s easy to analyze every eyebrow raise, every note written on a notepad, every whisper that the people on a casting committee make while you’re up there reading cold from a script and trying to act like you’re best friends with the weird new girl they called to read the scene with you. I was a shaking, jittery mess every time. My particular poison? Musicals. So I had to sing a solo at these auditions, in front of 50-100 people who really just hoped I’d screw up so they could have the part instead.

(Aside: maybe this explains some of my attention-seeking issues… Hmmm)

Anyway. When I was about 16 or 17, I asked an adult who was one of the leads in Oliver! how she managed to stay so calm, so unaffected by the tension during auditions. She had two things to say:

Go into an audition with the attitude, “I know I’m good or I wouldn’t be here. Can you use me?”

and

Accept that sometimes the casting committee has to make decisions based less on the talent of a single actor and more on other factors that are outside any actor’s control. While it feels tremendously personal, it simply isn’t.

For example, if the most talented actor in the room is 18 and the part is for a ten-year-old that needs to look like a ten-year-old, chances are the 18-year-old will be disappointed. This doesn’t automatically mean that the teenager sucks, mind you. It just means that this wasn’t the right part.

If you are two feet taller than the best choice for the other leading role, the characters are supposed to be the same height…. Well then. Chances are you won’t get the part. Or they won’t.

But still, it is not personal.

I went on to direct plays and sat on the other side of the table, and I can promise you that there were times that I would think I knew what I wanted for the cast of a show, and then somebody who was completely different from what I had in mind would come and read so well that my casting committee and I would completely start over with a new concept. One time in particular, I was all set to cast a 23-year-old male in a part and a 7-year-old asked to read for it. When the little kid read, I saw something entirely different that transformed the story. It didn’t mean that the 23-year-old wasn’t amazing — he was and still is.

It is not personal.

You will keep auditioning if you want to be onstage, because you know you’re good or you wouldn’t do it, right?

Same for quilt shows.

QuiltCon 2016 sent out notices today to the 1800+ entrants for their show. Each of us who entered had to select the category for which our quilt was to be considered. Some of my quilts could have been in multiple categories, and I didn’t know which was the best choice. So I guessed.

Two of mine were chosen, and four were not. I’m thrilled about the two that made it, and very philosophical about the ones that didn’t.

Maybe I didn’t choose the best category for them.

Maybe I chose the category that could have 30 quilts and there were 400 entries for it.

Maybe mine would have been the only brown one and would have looked weird next to all of the others.

Maybe mine was too similar to another one that had a bit more visual impact.

Maybe

maybe

maybe …

but it’s not like the rejection letters said, “Thanks for your submission; we all had a good laugh. You suck and should stop quilting forever, you pathetic loser.” They didn’t say that. Two of those rejected quilts have been juried into shows already, and both of them have had appraisals that value them at over $800 each. One of them, A Semma Tree, is one of my favorite two pieces that I’ve ever made.

“I know I’m good or I wouldn’t be here. Can you use me?”

Any group of judges jurying a quilt show is trying to curate the best collection that they can so that the show will draw crowds. If a grouping of eleven quilts all look really good together as a collection except for one that’s brilliantly made but jarringly different from the others, and there are only ten spaces available… well, then it’s likely that the odd eleventh one will be rejected this time.

It is not personal.

If you don’t believe me, click on this search for #quiltconreject over on Instagram. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

I’ll bet you saw some jaw-droppingly beautiful works of art that you cannot believe didn’t get an invitation. Without seeing all 1800+ entries and being privy to the category breakdowns, we cannot possibly expect to understand why some were accepted and others weren’t. The hashtag is unfortunately negative in its wording and those who are taking the “rejection” as a judgment are probably even more influenced by that negativity. I wish that weren’t the case.

Bottom line is this: Keep making quilts, and keep putting them out there to the universe and try to have your works of art hang in big shows. Our international quilting community is richer for the sharing and viewing of each of our talents, even if it takes years to get the opportunity. I love that I can self-curate the quilt show I want to see on Instagram, and that negative hashtag has helped me find some awesomely talented quilters tonight.

If you got a “Thanks but no thanks” email today, chin up, and back to it. If you got a congratulations email, good for you!

As for me, I got four of the former and two of the latter. “Escapade” and “Counter-clockwise” will be making the trip to Pasadena. “Fibonacci Squared,” “A Semma Tree,” “Friday’s Quilt,” and “In Need of Repair” will stay home with me. And that’s just fine with me, because I know it’s not personal. They weren’t rejected; they just didn’t fit.

8 thoughts on “Rejected from a juried quilt show? Read this. ”

  1. Congrats on the accepted quilts AND a great post on those not selected this time. Before reading your post I did look at many of the #quiltconreject and #rejectedbyquiltcon pieces. They were a pretty terrific quilt show, worth a look.

  2. Congratulations! And a great perspective on the process, too.

    Looking through some of the “rejects,” I am amazed to have one accepted too (out of 3).

  3. Thanks so much for writing this! For creative people, it’s personal and impersonal, to have your expression be accepted or passed over. I’ve had Quiltcon rejections and now two that have been accepted. I’ve grown and become more creative because of feedback, and tenacity to keep trying!
    Keep sewing everyone – it’s fun and amazing either way.

  4. It’s a new one, called “Masquerade” — I’ll be blogging about it soon. “Ode to Joy” was rejected for the second time by Quiltcon, but even I question whether it should be considered “modern,” so that’s not a big disappointment.

    Come to the meeting in January and you can see my second reject. 🙂

  5. I sent an entry to QuiltCon for the first time and got a rejected. I’m not devastated because I’ve reached the age (finally!) when I know it’s more important to put myself out there than to worry about whether or not I’m accepted, and that I will keep trying. But it always stings a little to get rejected and it was so lovely to read your piece this morning. It helped me feel like a part of the quilting community, rather than just a rejectee.

    Congrats on the two that got in! I think all of the 4 that didn’t are gorgeous.

  6. Thank you for this! I’m not submitting to any juried shows, but I appreciate the perspective and encouragement of experience.
    Congratulations on having two quilts juried in! I look forward to seeing them in person!

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