Thursday, 28 July 2016

An Inside Look at Judging Canada's National Juried Show

Anna Hergert is an incredible quilter, teacher, and certified judge. Winning Teacher of the Year in 2014 and a previous teacher of the Quilt Judge Certification Program for CQA/ACC has made her something of an icon in Canadian quilting. 

Anna was one of three judges in the 2016 National Juried Show this past June in Toronto ON. This is her view on judging the National Juried Show (NJS).


Behind Closed Doors…

Several months ago Jackie White contacted me to provide a glimpse into the judging chamber. Once I agreed to provide some general information I began to organize my thoughts and create a general overview of the judging process.

It is at this time that I feel the need to thank the countless volunteers who work tirelessly on behalf of quilters across Canada. We are familiar with board members’ faces and often know local guild members who contribute volunteer hours. More often than not we are remiss in remembering and honouring those helping out for a day or a few hours.  Today my gratitude goes to those volunteers who quietly drift in and out, fly across the country or drive several hours to lend a hand holding up quilts for judging, and the volunteer who sacrifices her birthday to ensure judges’ critiques are professionally typed for each entry. Thank you to all!

But I digress… Back to the topic at hand, insights into the judging process:

Quilts laid out by category, ready to be judged.


It all began with the call for entry in the 2015 Autumn issue of the Canadian Quilter Magazine. Information pertaining to categories, deadline for submission, jury and judging teams were publicized for reference. Quilt makers across Canada responded to the challenge with enthusiasm.

Images of quilts with details were electronically submitted to the jury coordinator in early 2016. Once she ensured that all information, including the statement and the images were organized the jury of three (two apprentice judges, one certified judge) were provided with the secure access to the information. During a set time frame individual jurors carefully reviewed the information supplied. Employing a scoring system aided in narrowing down the selection. Jurors then connected via Skype to compare and discuss their first results. With approximately 275 submissions, life came to a halt in three households… Primarily based on overall design and visual impact the jury proceeded to reach consensus and ultimately selected 135 quilts for the 2016 NJS.


Note: Pre-selection is an important step in the NJS planning. Jurors base their decisions solely on the images and information supplied. It is easy to understand why photographing one’s entries to their best advantage is vital.



The Canadian Quilter’s Association’s practice is unique in that the quilts not selected for the NJS receive constructive critiques from each juror. Critiques are not formulated between cooking dinner and running to the grocery store. ;-)  Countless hours and several rewrites are part of the juror’s task.

Fast-forward to the NJS Coordinator who receives the information about all quilts submitted to the NJS. Soon quilt entries arrive at the NJS coordinator’s door. She is responsible for receiving, unpacking, documenting and organizing the submissions. Meanwhile she tours the exhibition venue, recruits volunteers, communicates with the judges and CQA/ACC board when she is not working a regular job and cares for her family.

Judges were provided with the judging procedure and the necessary forms to make notes and record prize winners. Judges, volunteers and CQA/ACC board representatives gathered Sunday morning, and after introductions and a brief organizational meeting proceeded with the task at hand. We soon established common ground in examining and evaluating each entry, followed by a brief deliberation and summarization of our findings. Constructive critiques were formulated individually and dictated to our personal scribes.
Scribes typing judges comments.


How do I ensure staying within a reasonable time frame? I cannot speak for my fellow judges, but am happy to share the four-step process I have devised to help me stay focused and work in an organized manner:
1.     I view the quilt and determine its visual impact based on its composition, colour and value contrast.
2.     I evaluate construction techniques and their complexity.
3.     I examine the execution of these techniques to ensure sound workmanship, and
4.     I determine how well the quilt has been finished.

With practice these four areas are assessed within seconds. It opens up the lines of communication between judges using educated observations which ultimately lead to the formulation of constructive feedback.

Easy you say? Far from it! Each quilt submission is treated with the greatest respect. We wear white gloves, use reducing and magnifying glasses (when necessary), look the quilt over front, back, determine whether the quilting stitches are balanced and check whether the binding is full. My co-judges and I repeated this 135 times in 14 hours (not including short breaks). It works out to approximately 10 quilt entries per hour.

Each time I have the privilege to judge a quilt competitions I am humbled that with professional judges personal biases don’t enter the judging area. Quickly helpers, scribes and judges connect and engage in mutual support for a successful outcome.

This was my second time judging an NJS. In 2008 in St. John’s, NF I was relatively new to the scene when the team came together quickly in pursuit of a common goal, the fair evaluation of approximately 90 quilts. The last two days confirmed that I have deepened my knowledge in quilting over the past 9 years. I have gained a better understanding of evaluating quilts and with the common goal of honouring quilt makers across Canada we build community. An educational environment is fostered through professional conduct by CAQ/ACC Certified Judges and committed volunteers who give freely.

I would like to thank the CQA/ACC board for the opportunity to be a vital part of the judging team this year. I hope you will consider the commitment and passion invested in this showcase of Canadian Quilting.



Thank you Anna! Keep an eye on our website for the Call For Entry for the 2017 NJS and get ready to enter! To see the winners of the 2016 NJS, click here.

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