Tuesday, July 8, 2008


The topic of judging has popped up in several places lately, so I've been thinking about it a lot.

A guild member sent me an email recently, expressing concern that one of the items which won an award in the fair was not an original design - that she remembered later that she had seen it on the cover of a weaving book. She wondered whether something that was not original should be so honored. I replied, saying that in my opinion, the fair has never really been about totally original designs (at least, not in the Home Arts Division, which is where they put spinning and weaving and knitting and sewing and quilting and embroidery and lacemaking and basketry and pottery.) In this arena, excellence of execution is the main focus. You even see lots of items made from kits, so they are definitely not original designs.

There are, however, other venues where it is indeed not kosher to submit items that were copied. The main one that comes to mind is Showcase - an exhibit associated every two years with the southern California regional weaving/spinning conference. This is sponsored by the Association of Southern California Handweavers, ASCH, and each guild that is part of the coalition gets to submit a number of items to Showcase based on the size of the guild. The items that get submitted are "juried" by the guild, meaning that they are set out on tables and members get to vote on which items they think should make it. I do recall one time when a beautifully woven item was submitted, and in retrospect, it probably shouldn't have been, because it was woven exactly like an item in Weavers Magazine. On the other hand, what constitutes an original design? Many people could converge on the same weave structure, without necessarily having copied anything or anyone. Who judges that?

The truth of the matter is that judging is subjective, and is based on the guidelines given the judge, along with his/her own personal filters of perception. So perhaps the key is not to take any of it too seriously, and definitely not to allow yourself to take offense.

I learned years ago that I personally do not want to be a judge. I was asked to be one of the judges for a sample exchange at a conference. I was flattered to be asked. As I gazed across the tables of samples I felt a little overwhelmed. Some of them were exquisite, some didn't appeal to me. I was required to methodically examine each one, giving it points in different categories. As I did this, I commented on some of them. Picking up a piece of satin weave, I commented that it was a bit "sleazy." Now, weavers know what that words means in that context - it means the sett is a little too open and the fabric is not as firm as it should be. Who knows - maybe I was showing off my knowledge of that word, and its frequent application to satin, or maybe it really was sleazy. The main thing I remember is the slight flinch in the hostess, and then realizing that it was her sample. That was the instant in which I promised myself I would never again judge creative activities. I want to be the cheerleader - the enthusiastic supporter who celebrates achievement and passion, not the harsh taskmaster cutting someone off at the knees and finding a loving creation wanting because it doesn't fit my standards.

Back in the late 1960's, when I was in high school, I wrote a poem in a writing class. The title and body of the poem are long gone, but one line has, for some reason, stayed firmly etched in my brain.
For who am I, that could be robed and wizened,
to judge whose sins be worse than mine?
That was written in response to my first dysfunctional relationship, but they were wise words for a young girl, and I wish I had lived by them all these years.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

San Diego County Fair

I debated what to title this, and settled on the simple choice.

On Thursday, Taryl and I went to the San Diego County Fair to demo in the guild booth. (We're both members of San Diego Creative Weavers Guild.) It was okay. I enjoyed weaving on the Baby Wolf for a while. It was threaded for a tartan in 8/2 cotton - colors blue and green with some black and touches of yellow and red. I wove in straight twill - played for a while with changing colors, then got tired of that and settled on using blue weft, but that washed out the warp colors, so I switched to black weft for the remainder of my time at the loom. Part way through our 3 hour shift, Taryl and I switched. The booth has an old Ashford spinning wheel - took me a bit to get situated so treadling was comfortable. The roving supplied was nice soft stuff, though unfortunately had a lot of veggie matter in it, so I paused rather frequently to scrape my fingernail along the length of spun yarn to pop out the crud.

The booth is titled The Zen of 100 Scarves. Nice title. Nice font in the banner. Some really lovely scarves were displayed. My picture chopped off the top banner for my guild. Palomar is our sister guild up in Escondido in the northeastern part of San Diego County.

What were the alternative titles for this post? "Fair Apathy", no "Mapathy" perhaps. "Fair Apathy" could be misunderstood - Is the whole fair apathetic? Just the people working there? Nope, just me, hence "Mapathy" - a contraction of My Apathy because it takes less effort. Why apathy since I did have a good time?

Well, when I joined the guild in the early 90's, demoing at the fair was one of my all time favorite activities. We had a large guild booth, with a table at one side, but with the loom and wheel near the front of the booth where people could see them clearly - they were much more likely to stop and ask questions. Also, the placement we used to have put us in a spot where you could frequently get a nice breeze coming through. Our fair runs from mid June to around July 4th, so cool breezes are much appreciated! But..... the PTB gave our wonderful large booth space away to the machine knitters. We now have a very small booth in the center aisle, surrounded by cabinets. A table almost completely takes up the front of the booth, so the loom and wheel are back behind that. Few breezes unless the door nearby is open, but that's often uncomfortable for the booth across from us with the lovely ladies who knit preemie hats.

For the last few years, I haven't been as enthusiastic about demoing at the guild booth, but since we seldom have much of a celebration on July 4th at our house, I often demo on that day. The first year I did that, I got a bonus - I was able to reuse my parking pass to go back that night and watch the fireworks from the parking lot - very close to where they were being launched. Very loud, but absolutely spectacular. Can't do that anymore - they punch the parking passes now so they can't be reused. This year, someone else had signed up to demo that day. I considered not signing up at all, but waited until they had an almost full slate - and picked a day that was empty which turned out to be July 3rd.

One of the women working at the fair stopped by to complain that we often have volunteers in the morning when there are fewer people who wander through that exhibit and nobody in the afternoon. A few years ago, I suggested that we limit demo hours to noon to 3pm, and then publish that in the fair booklet. Our guild is shrinking, so it's harder to get a full slate of volunteers if we try to have someone there all day. I think we did that one year a while back, and got complaints about that, too. In fact, that might have been the year that caused us to lose our original booth spot.

Enough whining on my part. The booth was nice, and Margaret, the guild member who set everything up, did an absolutely fantastic job. Mostly, it is still a thrill when you recognize that look in someone's eyes as they stop to watch what you are doing - that look that says "Oh my God that is SO cool and that is something I just now realized that I have ALWAYS wanted to do and wow she makes that look easy and I wonder if I could do that?" It's a twinkle, a hopeful gaze, filled with wonder and affection, and it is the reason that, even in my current apathetic state, I still love to demo weaving and spinning.