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Ego and Irony (or When Karma Bites Me in the Butt)

Quilt Stack  

I'd been impatiently waiting for the email all week. Finally it appeared in bold at the bottom of my Inbox and I clicked on it with excitement.

"Congratulations! Your quilt "Pinocchio" was selected for the exhibition at Anacostia Arts Center from February 15 through March 29, 2014" the email read.

Say what?!?!  "They chose *that* quilt to be in the show?" I blurted out to no one in particular.

That quilt was my "throwaway" entry, tossed in for consideration at the last minute when I realized the entry fee was a flat rate so I might as well enter as many quilts as I could. I entered four.

I submitted two quilts fully expecting them to get into the show based on their artistic merit. The first one, a large throw-size quilt was a modern interpretation of looking out a window into a garden. It's stark with plenty of white space, narrow black frames containing the wild floral print, with random yet balanced pops of color throughout. It was my first improvisational design made specifically to be sold and I was damn proud of it.

The second quilt was a deeply personal one, all hand sewn in layered shades of pink and white on a linen background. The quilt was made over the course of a couple of years in remembrance of a stillborn baby. Significance aside, I thought my artist statement about the raw edges, uneven stitching and unraveling threads representing the control and chaos of birth and untimely death was compelling enough.

But the quilt judges didn't agree.

And you'd think that me, of all people, would just blithely take it in stride, having dealt with disappointed designers and their egos for many, many years.

The biggest part of my job as a non-profit director the past 17 years was managing a large regional design competition, where we'd receive hundreds upon hundreds of entries (over a thousand at times) and an esteemed panel of judges would choose a small percentage as worthy of exhibiting. Which meant that afterward, every year without fail, I'd get emails and phone calls from crestfallen designers, hoping that maybe just maybe their winner's notification letter was lost in the mail. Every. Single. Year.

Why are designers so wrapped up in people judging their work, I'd snort, after hanging up the phone or carefully and professionally drafting each return email. If they and their clients are happy, who cares what some uninvolved party thinks? Designers just need to get out of the way of their own egos, hmpf.  And on to the next inquiry it went, again and again.

One year I got The Call from a designer's secretary, who proceeded to slowly spell her boss's name out for me not once, but twice, as she was that certain that his work was chosen (or more likely dreading the idea of having to tell him that it wasn't).

It wasn't.

Like my two prized quilts.

So last week when I read the congratulatory email about my quilt being chosen for the exhibit I was happy of course, but at the same time surprised and more than a little disappointed that what I thought was my best work wasn't seen as worthy.

Then I remembered that sometimes databases don't combine entries, they generate notifications for each individual winning entry, so there could very well be another email (or two) coming with further notifications. Yes of course, that explains it! I continued to check my email approximately every 45 seconds the rest of that day.

And when late the following day someone from the gallery staff called me to confirm that I'd received their email notification, I tried to be as offhandedly casual as possible when I replied with  "Oh, yes I did, the Pinocchio quilt was the only one selected to be in the show, right?"

(it was)

Nice one, karma.  You got me. You got me good.


Visit the Anacostia Arts Center exhibit "Stitched" from February 15 through March 29, 2014 to see the work of DC's modern quilters including members of the DC Modern Quilt Guild.

When the Best Laid Plans Give Way...

Silent Sunday