A Gambler’s Story

As an artist, I find that I am always doing things backwards or sideways. The path has been a series of turns that sometimes leads me right back to the spot where I started.

When I began entering juried shows, I thought for sure it was leading me somewhere. Somewhere was not clearly defined–I just thought I would recognize it when I got there.

After I made my first quilt, my dream was to become one of those quiltmakers featured in major quilting magazines. I wanted to be that person.  I imagined that person spent all of her time quilting, and that seemed like a very good gig to me.

I did not understand that most of the quilters who are featured in popular quilting magazines don’t just quilt–they show their work, they teach all over the world, they attend major quilt shows and give demos and talks. They network. They put not only their work, but also themselves out there for the viewing public. In many ways, they are celebrities.

This was not a viable path for me. I had three young boys, and I lived in Alaska. And honestly, I just wanted to quilt. So, I naively thought, if I send my work out maybe that will be enough. Maybe that will be the ticket to a life time of quilting. It seems foolish now to have thought such a thing. But I did.

I started entering shows in April, 2007. In looking back at my records, I see that I got into a lot of shows and even won some awards. Between April 2007 and the end of 2008, I was accepted 31 times and rejected three times from juried quilt shows. That’s not bad. These shows were primarily traditional quilt shows–International Quilt Festival in Houston, American Quilter’s Society Shows, and the like. These are some of my early show quilts.

In 2009, I began making the cross over to art quilt shows held in galleries as well as traveling art quilt shows. My success rate immediately plummeted. This makes sense. The gallery shows have more applicants and a smaller space for showing work. The acceptance rate for a quality gallery show is almost always less than 20%. Those are the odds. I am okay with that.

In fact, I have to say that I am addicted to entering shows. It is a thrill for me. Like gambling, I am totally willing to pay my entry fee and see what happens. I like the wait, the uncertainty, the crap shoot aspect of getting into shows. I like knowing that my work is just one of the variables. Getting in is also about who else entered, gallery or space restrictions, who the jurors are, and what they like.

In 2009, I was accepted 17 times to traditional quilt shows with no rejections. I was accepted to eight art quilt show opportunities and rejected 15 times. Wow.

I suppose I should stop here and make a small aside–as you can tell, my work is still developing. I’m trying different techniques and styles–looking for the best fit for me and the work I want to make. From what I understand, you are not supposed to be entering juried shows at this stage in your career, but as I said before–I am addicted to this process, and I tend to do things in the wrong order.

In 2010, I decided, why limit myself to quilt shows and art quilt shows? I began entering both fiber and fine art shows. Again, my acceptance rate took another nose dive. Mind you, I am entering the same pieces to all of these shows. Sure, I do try to match the quilt to the show, but it is the same body of work. For traditional quilt shows, I was accepted 10 times and rejected once.

I was rejected 26 times by fine art shows and accepted six times. I was rejected 17 times by art quilt shows and accepted five times. I was rejected 11 times by fiber art shows and accepted six times. My overall track recorded for 2010 was 27 acceptances and 55 rejections.

What’s the take away? Rejection is just part of entering juried shows. You’ve got to have a super thick skin or a gambling problem to continue participating in this process.

I’d love to hear your take on the juried show. Is it worth it? What do you get out of it?

Since writing this post, I have gone on to write several more posts about entering shows. I have listed them here in case your are intereseted in learning more.

Juried Shows the Process–My old school methods for applying for art opportunities.

The Year of the Show –this is the year I entered every show I could. Exhausting!

More Talk about Shows –I obviously can’t stop talking about shows.

Show Your Work–This is a list of shows I have entered in the past.

This entry was published on March 26, 2013 at 12:46 PM. It’s filed under History and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

7 thoughts on “A Gambler’s Story

  1. Pingback: The Year of the Show | Maria Shell

  2. I bookmarked these to sit and read them all at the same time. This is am amazing journey you have been on! Thanks for sharing! Great posts and great process for all these wonderful pieces.

    • Thank you Colleen for stopping by. I am surprised at how much I am getting out of sorting through my process and sharing it. I’m glad you liked them.

  3. Hi Maria,
    I know this blog is from awhile ago, but a friend sent it to me, saying she thought I’d find it interesting–and I have. Presumably, you have the whole thing figured out by now.
    I am in the process of pulling away from juried shows, mostly because the emphasis seems to aim more and more at technical perfection, which is not my strong point, rather than design, which is. But, in reading your blog, I’m thinking you have a better attitude about the whole competition thing, and maybe I need to find your other blogs. Thank you.
    Claudia Myers

    • Thank you Claudia–There are so many variables and it takes a while to find your place. I am actually back to entering traditional quilt shows–just the big ones–because I am teaching and people seeing my quilts is good advertising. Keep at it and I wish you the best of luck!

  4. Hi Maria,

    Thanks for the repost.

    Wow! In 2010, how did you keep it all straight and avoid schedule overlap—or did you? With entry fees averaging $30 that was also quite an expensive pursuit.

    Like you, I enjoy the challenge of juried shows. I also agree that entering requires a thick skin and the awareness that rejection may have more to with space/cohesion factors rather than the juror “not liking” your work.

    I wish more shows gave us feedback from the jurors. If I were repeatedly rejected and I read the same comments over and over, I would consider making some changes.

  5. I did a lot of color coding and double checking. In addtion to the money, there is the amount of time that it takes to be this organized. Now, once I get into six prestigous shows, I am dong submitting work for the year. I am much more strategic than I was in the beginning. Thank you Beth for your input. I agree it would be great to get feedback!

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