I submitted a quilt to QuiltCon and didn’t get in. I meant to write about this a long time ago but it’s good that I didn’t, not that I would’ve ranted about it — ew — but now that I’m at the show, my feelings went from bummed to 100% okay-ness with the decision the jury made.
“Welcome To Nolandia” is the oddest quilt I’ve ever made and one of the quilts I’m most proud of. The quilt depicts a town, and the story is told from top to bottom. The sky/gods are above, then come the houses of the people. (You can’t see them in the picture, but all the houses have little fussy-cut pieces in the windows: pink pigs flying, frogs fishing, faces, flowerpots.) The sidewalks and streets come next, then the vegetation and trees. Below that, the dirt — that’s the improv-pieced purple and black. There is buried treasure down there, represented by gold and yellow pieces; there are old bicycles and metallic fabric, too, striations of sediment. Then comes deep bedrock, limestone. This picture doesn’t show the last row I put on, which was the water far below; I pieced flying geese in light and dark blue.[Note Yuri’s feet. This picture was taken in our East Village apartment this summer.]
Now that I’m at the show, I realize how inappropriate this quilt is for QuiltCon. It’s not modern at all. It’s bizarre, it’s got a few elements of the modern style, but it would stick out like a funky, misshapen thumb at this show. The jury knew what they were doing, of course, and if I were on that jury, I wouldn’t have accepted my quilt, either.
As a writer, I get a lot of rejections. A writer has to submit to magazines, has to try and get an agent, has to “put herself out there.” Any writer that has succeeded in any measurable way will tell you they have a stack of rejection emails and letters. The good-natured ones refer to them with a certain sense of pride.
I understand the QuiltCon organizers got something like 2,000 submissions. There are like, 100 quilts in the show. (I should verify that, but it can’t be many more.) The quilts are stunning, inspiring, and each quilter brought their A game, big time. The quilts are perfect specimens of this aesthetic and hats off to each one of them. I mean, dang, y’all.
At the risk of sounding like a motivational speaker, I say unto thee: if your quilt didn’t get into the show, shake it off. Rejection usually means you tried something hard. Good for you. Most of the time, there is a good reason your work was rejected: your article wasn’t right for the magazine, your pottery style was already represented by three artisans at the art festival, your quilt wasn’t appropriate for the show. You didn’t get the job because the hiring person thought you’d be miserable if you were hired or you don’t know Excel well enough or something.
Enjoy the quilts here, quilters. If you’re not actually in Austin, enjoy the tsunami of social media reports all over the quilter web. And if you aren’t in the show — like 1,900 of your comrades — let yourself feel lucky. You can sit back and enjoy while all the quilters who did get in bite all their fingernails off hoping they’ll get a ribbon or prize money.
And remember why you make quilts anyway. I don’t have to tell you why. You know.