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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Judge not...?


The picture is 'Hidden Depths', the piece that Thelma Smith and I collaborated on, that we showed at Birmingham this year. I've never received judges' feedback before, so I was intruigued to see what would be said about this particular piece. I was disappointed by the feedback, to be truthful, because I feel more confused now than I did before I started. One judge clearly loved the piece, and marked it highly. One judge gave it good marks, nothing startling. The last, though, gave it average marks...other than the surface design, which she said 'needed attention', the lowest mark available in the marking scheme.

I found this intruiguing, that one judge could judge a piece to be 'excellent', another, 'satisfactory' and a third, 'needing attention'...particularly as the surface design is a crucial part of the whole piece. Marking it down is fine by me; if it's bad art, I need to know. But a spread of marks across the whole marking scheme could mean either of two things. The first is simple; that the marking is purely subjective, according to each judge's likes and dislikes. The second is slightly more complex; that the marking is made according to each judge's understanding of the criteria.

I used to be heavily involved in recruitment and selection, particularly in assessment centres, where people are interviewed by more than one person, and a decision is reached by consensus. I found that these decisions were made more easily when the selectors had a common understanding of the criteria we were using to judge people. Assessing the use of embellishment and surface design is a very broad area. I wonder what guidelines, if any, the assessors were using in looking at my quilt. If you pass judgement on someone else's work, it's important to define the terms, in my opinion. It would be interesting to know if these terms are defined, or if it is each person's understanding of them that is brought to the judging of pieces. I suspect the latter, and feel that it is not a helpful system. In my experience, assessor training for an isolated event can be done very quickly and easily, through a short meeting. What a pity that doesn't seem to happen. For many people, this might be the only feedback that they ever get on their work. They will have paid for the privilege of entry and showing their quilt. It seems only reasonable that they get meaningful feedback in return, or, failing that, none at all. There are times when nothing is better than something....

7 comments:

vickyth said...

It's probably a collaboration problem on the part of the judges. Having been on the selection committee for judging panels, I can see how problems arise. Some people feel that having judges who come from a variety of walks of art on a panel is fairest, others think that getting a like-minded group works best. Then there's the whole issue of judges discussing their decisions; in some shows, the judges pass in their own judgements and marks without speaking to each other. If this is the case, what's the point of having an array of experience? I'd be inclined to scrap the criticism received on this piece, as it just doesn't help at all and isn't in any way clear ("Surface design" is such a huge term - what part of it were you supposedly weak on??)

Frankly, I'd rather get criticism from an individual whose opinion I trust (even if I don't much like it) than a panel of judges moving quickly through a divergent grouping of works.

Don't sweat it - it's a great piece. i'd like to see a better photo...

Rayna said...

Oh, blah, Marion. Judges work independently and bring their own sensibilities (or lack thereof) to the piece. Most quilt show judges haven't got a clue about ART -- they are still judging as though it were the county fair. Ignore all opinions unless they are from someone whose opinion you respect.
I'm with Vicky, though - I'd like to have a closer look at the piece.

The Wittering Rainbow said...

Gosh I know those feelings! First of all, you have the judges interpretation of the criteria as one set of problems, (you have experienced these obviously)and then the criteria themselves. I really do think you should highlight these problems and let those who do the organising know. It may not achieve anything directly, but it is a rock that needs to be chipped at.

arashi said...

ssee my blog for my comment

margaret said...

Training for quilt judges is available in the UK -- the Quilters Guild has already run one course (over 2 years) and another is starting this year. It's quite a comprehensive programme and looks at more than just quilts. Linda Seward, who completed the course, talked about it to London Quilters and is doing so again at a regional day in October in London. Such training seems to be an effort to introduce objectivity - and wider knowledge - into the process. It'll be interesting to see if these courses get more people interested in judging. Certainly the process of having one's quilt judged by several (unknown)people can be confusing and sometimes traumatic!

Dianne said...

Hello Marion
Well I for one love the piece, it quite beautiful. As for Judges hmm if they all gave different grades, I guess beauty is in th eye of the beholder. If you like it thats what really matters..

Ferret said...

I've spoken to a few people and this seems to have been a fairly common experience. I agree with you it would be great if they all set out with the same idea of what standards they are judging to, but I don;t see it happneing. You aonly have to listen to how people judge their own work to see the range of acceptable, needs attention and perfect.

I can't see anything wrong with this piece so I would eb inclined to think that one judge doesn't like/ doesn't get the techniqus you used.