Wednesday, September 06, 2006
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....