Today My Quilt Was Rejected by Ricky Tims



My son, a high school senior, is currently applying for scholarships. While there are a lot of scholarships out there, we are narrowing his search to scholarships that are realistic and offer the best chance of him being awarded some money.

I have the same philosophy in entering quilt contests. I know that I am not ready for Peducah; I have not yet won at my local quilt show. However I select challenges that will help me grow as a quilter, but in which I still have a chance of being selected.

When I heard about Ricky Tims’ Improvisational Quilt Challenge, I decided to enter. Ricky Tims is among my favorite quilters — he is talented, creative, innovative and, at the same time, extremely humble. My friend and I endured Hurricane Earl and attended his seminar in Cape Cod. As expected, the seminar was exceptional. ( My favorite part was Ricky’s display of his work — including his first quilt that was no quite show-worthy!)

This morning, when I received an email showing the list of quilts chosen for  the Improvisational Challenge, I was not surprised that my name was missing.  He had almost 120 entries and selected 26. Looking at the quilt world giants on the accepted  list (Laura Wasilowski, Libby Lehman and John Flynn), I could see that some of the competition was above my level.

However, in analyzing the list of 26 winners, 18 of them were easily identifiable as some of the quilt industries big-name winners, teachers and authors. Of course their work is better than mine. I would never have entered if I’d realized Ricky was drawing from a group of my quilt heroes.

I’ve been thinking about this all day. I feel that this challenge was misrepresented. It almost seems like Ricky called his buddies and asked them send in quilts for an exhibition. I’m not sure why he issued an open challenge.

Not being selected for an exhibition is no picnic. Rejection hurts. It would be more fun to enter a quilt show and win a ribbon (preferably a blue ribbon, and ideally “best of show”), but that doesn’t often happen.

Sometimes we create great work, but it is not what the judges are looking for. My daughter used to show dogs. One week, a dog would win. The next week, the same dog wouldn’t even place in the top five. The dog hadn’t changed, but the judges’ preferences and prejudices varied from week to week. Some loved the coat color; others didn’t. It was totally subjective. I believe that it is the same in the quilt world.

On the other hand, I would not expect to compete with a national dog show  champion at my local ring. The same with quilts. I would hope that a Peducah winner would not enter in our local quilt show. That would certainly discourage most of my friends from entering, because it’s not a level playing field. That’s how I feel about this challenge. I wouldn’t have entered if I’d known the competition.

I heard an interview recently from Kathryn Stockett, the author of “The Help.” She had more than 60 rejections before an agent agreed to promote her book. Sixty! She said she was embarrassed to tell her friends that she was still writing. But she kept on. It is hard to put yourself out there and I have great respect for her perseverance.

Not winning is not the same as being a loser. I learn and grow from these challenges.  Congrats to those who were chosen. It will be an awesome exhibit and I’d love to see it.


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