Why Bother?

By Carlene Harwick and Inez Giles, 2014 Exemplary Administrators

This article first appeared in NANthology, the NAN newsletter, in fall 2013.

Why would anyone want to go through the hassle of packing and shipping needleart pieces just to enter an exhibit? First, you need to watch the deadline closely, ensure you finish the stitching, and then get the piece to your framer or finisher so they can work their magic. The finished item needs to be back in your possession so you can take it to a shipper to have it carefully packed (no peanuts, please!) and shipped in time to meet the show deadline. Always deadlines!!

Next there’s the issue of the fees. Most exhibit entry fees are nominal and barely cover the cost of the display, but they still must be paid. In addition to the cost of having the piece shipped, if you’re not attending the show and picking up the piece in person, you must pay to have it shipped home. Why would anyone want to go through all of this bother just to enter an exhibit?

We decided to pose our question to past Exemplary judges in an effort to develop an insightful and meaningful response – one that might motivate you, our readers, to make the effort to enter your artistic treasures in this year’s Exemplary.

The initial response from our interviewees was, “To share our art!” One never really knows how a piece might inspire others to start a project, to finish a project, or to use a completely new technique. In addition, we want to celebrate our needleart not only with the stitching community but also with non-stitchers. NAN has worked hard to spread the word about the Exemplary, posting notices in local papers in Kansas City, Colorado Springs and Troy that invite everyone to visit the Exemplary – needle artists and general public alike. One judge told of her efforts to enter her needle art pieces in community art exhibits. Her goal is to educate the general public about fine needleart, which is different from “fiber art.”

Reflect for a moment on your personal experiences, whether at a local guild meeting or in a class. If you’re like most of us, you’ll walk into a room of stitchers and just naturally begin to check out all of the projects everyone is working on. What design? Which technique? What are the fibers used? Our needleart not only brings us joy but bonds us together as a special community.

Another judge made the point that stitchers always make time to stroll through Exemplary because we love to look at the art. “It’s not so much about the judging and the ribbons. It’s about the art of the finished pieces.” She made the interesting point that many times the People’s Choice award winner is not the piece that wins for technical excellence. Rather, it’s often the piece that resonates most with the viewers. After all, art is about personal choice.

All of our interviewees agreed that everyone should experience having a piece judged and critiqued. The critique tells us not only how to improve our stitching skills, color and stitch choices but also tells us what we are doing well.

Another judge reminded us to remember to develop and include an artist statement. This narrative tells the judges the creative vision you embraced, and why you stitched and finished the piece as you did. Reflect for a moment on the number of times you’ve read an exhibit artist statement and said, “Oh! So that’s what they were thinking!”

Our interviewees reminded us that we should demand the highest quality work from finishers and framers. That means paying close attention to and working with them. In a class piece category, there are only two areas to judge – the technique and the finishing. Make sure no points are deducted for poor matting and framing or for finishing that sags!

One last point made by past Exemplary judges is that entering an exhibit piece helps us grow as artists. We can reflect on our work and on the work of other exhibitors. The goal of the judging process is education. The feedback we receive is part of the educational process. We can learn by studying the pieces that have won an award – and it is a very nice surprise to discover you have won a ribbon!

So, to answer the question Why Bother? please consider entering your needleart piece so that we all can enjoy your creativity and work. To quote another judge, “exhibiting indicates your arrival at a level of achievement.”

We wish to express our thanks to the judges who so graciously shared their thoughts in the preparation of this article: Dorothy Andrew, Barbara Loftus, Bob Jordan, Beverly Booker, Pat Rusch, Gail Sirna, Judi Di Carlo, and Patricia Tector.