Monday, 21 October 2013

Dealing with critique

How do we deal with quilting critique? Friends and family's comments on our work tend to be very 'nice' as most people will find something nice to say rather than pick something that needs improving.  Even if we ask for constructive criticism most people will not have the skills to critique or choose not to because of  fear.....fear of saying the wrong thing,  fear of getting it wrong,  fear of hurting our feelings,  fear of damaging a friendship.  

Critique is an important part of the quilting process.  In Lyric Kinard's new book Art + Quilt found at a whole section is devoted to critiquing art work.  This is an excellent resource which can really assisted us in looking more closely at quilt art.  

But like anything in art practice is the key.  Practice at looking at all art with a critical eye.   Sometimes though we need another persons opinion as they can look at our work with a fresh and clear perspective.   

Lets take a look at a critiquing experience of mine

"I have received back the judges sheets from a judged quilt exhibition.  I had very mixed comments.  Some very justified  i.e. Finishing needs more attention (I always rush this bit to get on with next idea I have buzzing around my head)  and raw edged binding needs to be even and straight.  I am the first to admit that I need to work on this part of my work. 

 I felt some parts of the comments were definitely just the judges opinion and it is those comments that can sometime sting because they can seem unfair.  i.e. More quilting needed in bigger spaces/uneven amount of quilting.....I put no quilting there for effect and contrast,  Backing should compliment quilt top.....I was recycling fabric.  Next time I might over dye or paint the quilt backing to try and satisfy the judge and my need to be ecologically friendly and a 5 out of 10 for design and colour use, but wonderful comments about the design  in the comment section.....ummmm...  not sure on this one!!  This is were thick skin comes in.  take what I feel is justified and improve on it and let some of it bounce off my skin and try again.  "

We all need critique as without it we cannot improve or work as well or accurately.  How we choose to accept critique is key in using it to our best advantage. If we chose to take all of it on board whether it is accurate or not we may end up not being creative at all. Criticism when it is untrue can zap all creative energy and make people paralyzed by the fear of being wrong all the time. The skill that needs to be practised it the one of being able to stand back and to see the critique for what it is and to choose what is critique we want to take on board and what is just someone elses opinion.  This takes time to do and lots of practice.

With my critiquing experience I chose to take on board and to work on my finishing techniques and to try dying the backs of my fabric but I ignored the quilting comments and design marks as the comments weren't relevant or important to me.  I have worked hard at finishing better and in my next show I was praised for good quality finishing. But more importantly I was really pleased with my quality of work.  

When we use critique positively and productively it can really help produce higher quality and more technically demanding work and give a great sense of accomplishment.  


  1. I find it frustrating when you don't get any critique at all. How can I know what to work on when there are no comments to that effect? I understand in some shows that it would be just too huge a job for the judges to give everyone a critique, but when you get a rejection or even an acceptance with no knowledge of what you did well or what you didn't, it makes it hard to know where to focus some more energy next time.

    1. I agree with no critique is very difficult to deal with too. I have a few of those judges sheets too :) It would be a hard undertaking with a large competition, but without that feedback it is really hard to know where to go next.


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