Inside the National Juried Show

Heather Black
Summer 2019

In early March of this year, entrants to the National Juried Show ( NJS) received letters from CQA/ACC indicating their quilt submission was either accepted or declined. Many people, through CQA/ACC social media, are asking questions. How many entries were submitted? Why are the number of entries limited? Who decides what entries are accepted or rejected? What are the qualifications of those who are making the decisions? Let me try to answer these questions. I will start at the beginning.

After each Quilt Canada, the President and Vice President, along with the Quilt Judge Certification Program (QJCP) administrators, review NJS categories and consider whether there should be any additions or changes. Entry criteria is reviewed and descriptions are rewritten to provide thorough guidelines for entry into the NJS. Changes are brought to the entire Board for approval.

The QJCP administrators put a call out for a Jury Coordinator, jury members and judges. They are selected from the CQA/ACC certified judge pool. The NJS Jury Coordinator may serve for multiple years, while the jurors and judges do not repeat their duties the following year (occasionally exceptions occur). All jury members, judges and the Jury Coordinator are paid for their services. There are three jurors and three judges hired for each NJS.

Submissions to enter the NJS commence annually on November 1 and continue until January 31. It is during this time period the Jury Coordinator begins work. She or he monitors all entries to ensure the entry is in the correct category, all entry fields are filled in, all fees are paid and the quality of the photos are checked. The process to group the entries by category is begun. After the NJS entry close date, the Jury Coordinator begins to prepare the quilt entries for jurying. All identifying information is removed from the artist’s statements; 2019 had over 300 entries! The jury members will only review entry photos, entry title and the redacted artist statement.

Each jury member receives the information and has approximately five to seven days to review all entries independently. Entries are rated and accurately noted according to a predetermined numbering system. The results are shared with the Jury Coordinator who then brings jury members together through an online video service to begin the collaboration process.

Every entry is once again carefully reviewed and placed in one of three categories: accepted, declined or undecided. It is important to remember the jury make all decisions based on the submitted photos accompanying the entries. Jurors look for qualities that make the submission outstanding, for example, workmanship, use of colour, design and finishing techniques, to name a few. Jurors are tasked with selecting approximately 150 entries to hang in the NJS. You can imagine the work toward deciding how to get to that quantity!

The number of quilts accepted is based on space available in the show venue. CQA/ACC increased the number of quilts over the past two years. CQA/ACC also considers the time and cost of judging quilts prior to the show when determining the number of overall quilts to accept. For those quilts the jury labels as “undecided”, further discussion follows to determine if they will be accepted or declined.

All declined quilts have two written evaluations from each jury member included with a letter of thanks. Critiques are carefully considered and written, in order for the entrant to learn what might be improved upon in their pieces for future entries into the NJS.

Once final decisions are made, the Jury Coordinator prepares spreadsheets of accepted and declined entries for emailing notification letters to the NJS entrants. All jurying activities occur during the month of February to meet the deadline for letters to be sent during the first week of March.

Once the accepted and declined emails are sent, the jury work is completed, however the Jury Coordinator prepares spreadsheets with appropriate information for all end users: the President, Executive Director, NJS Coordinator, editor, designers, etc. The only information given to the NJS judges is the same as for the jury members, with no identifying material. The Canadian Quilter magazine editor requires a spreadsheet with photos and other information in the first week of March to prepare the NJS catalogue, which must be edited, designed, printed and delivered at the start of Quilt Canada.

The NJS Coordinator receives all necessary information and spreadsheets related to the approximately 150 items that will be displayed at Quilt Canada to plan the show layout, arrange for the quilts to be hung on display, prepare the artist statement cards, set up a room for two days of judging prior to Quilt Canada and prepare story boards for the judging process. The NJS Coordinator oversees the judging room, its volunteers and scribes and ensures everything runs smoothly in a timely manner. Most importantly, the NJS Coordinator is responsible for receiving and caring for the entered quilts until after Quilt Canada when quilts will be carefully repacked and shipped back to owners.

Our NJS Coordinator carefully inspects every quilt received to ensure they are not damaged, host pet hair or smell of smoke, the latter of which may spread to other quilts. The utmost care is used to ensure all quilts are removed from their packaging and laid flat to remove any shipping wrinkles. Everyone handling quilts wears white gloves. Once sorted by categories, the quilts will be readied for the judging process, which occurs over a two-day span.

Three certified judges perform the duty of selecting winners in all categories, including Best in Show. During the judging process, each quilt is held in a vertical position by two volunteers, for one minute. This step allows judges a first look at the entry. The quilt is then placed flat on tables for the judges to inspect. Judges wear white gloves as they inspect the many attributes of the quilt. As they examine the quilts, the judges comment and collaborate. This process lasts only two minutes. The judges have a further two minutes to share their thoughts with their scribe, who types all comments for later review and expansion by the judges. Every quilt entered into the NJS has five minutes to be reviewed during the first round.

As you can imagine, quilts are reviewed several times in order for a final decision to be made. The judges collaborate to make their selections for first, second and third place in every category. Quilts that do not place in their entered category may still be considered for the numerous awards of excellence and are once again reviewed. While making category decisions, judges are always on the lookout for those entries that may become Best in Show.

The CQA/ACC President and Vice President act as observers during the two days of judging to ensure correct procedures are utilized and judges are not influenced by comments from volunteers in the room. Prior to the beginning of the judging process, all volunteers are schooled on the proper etiquette while in the room. All volunteers are bound by confidentiality to ensure that what happens in the judging room, stays there.

Finally, quilts are hung for display – ready for the opening of another Quilt Canada. A team lead and group of volunteers hang all the quilts according to the layout plans prepared by the NJS Coordinator. The quilts are carefully hung in less than a day! The Best in Show quilt is not hung in the actual show area until after awards are presented.

Award winners are notified as soon as possible after judging, however they are not told about the award they won. Each award winner is invited to attend the award presentation evening. The award sponsors are also invited to present awards to the worthy recipients. The general public is welcome to attend. The award presentations take place the evening prior to the official opening of Quilt Canada – winners are announced and Best in Show is revealed. This year the award ceremony is held at 7:00 pm, Tuesday, June 11, at the EY Centre in Ottawa, ON. The next morning, CQA/ACC is ready to open the doors at Quilt Canada to reveal the beautiful display of quilts.

I hope I answered some questions and provided you with a comprehensive overview of the annual NJS process. Everyone is most welcome to attend the awards ceremony and enjoy the NJS in Ottawa!

Quilt Canada July 19-22, 2023

Quilt Canada July 19-22, 2023

Quilt Canada July 19-22, 2023 in Edmonton, Alberta