The Sandia Mountains and Turquoise Trail committees for Albuquerque Fiber Art Fiesta have decided to do just that--to make another subdivision in all the categories for awards. So there are ten more categories, all of which need a professional to enter them.
The AFAF is now open to all fiber artists in the USA--not just members of the supporting guilds. Consequently the Fiesta will be advertising nationally to bring more artists to exhibit. This is really a wonderful idea. The AFAF is a tremendous venue for us to see such a huge range of fiber art and meet fiber artists. The vendors are spectacular with their huge variety of wares that we rarely see in one place all together.
Admittedly I am a little late to put to put my 2¢ in, but I have written about this before. And it may seem self-serving that I, as maybe the only professional who enters the embroidery categories at this point, make this protest. On the other hand, if I am the only person in the categories, maybe I will win more ribbons. Maybe. But this is not my point.
My point is that a person can best improve her skills and creativity by exhibiting against the best there is. If professionals are the best (and separating them out from the amateurs seems to confirm this belief), then the amateurs have no real goals to achieve except to excel as second-best.
A long time ago in a city far away, right after I joined the EGA, I was in an exhibit put on by my chapter, the now disbanded Creative Needlework Chapter in Collingswood, NJ. We were a young, very active chapter who could get nearly 100% participation in a show. The exhibit was held in a large department store that gave us space in some upstairs rooms with glass cases on the walls. We had an embroidery teacher come down from Princeton, I believe, to judge the show. There was no professional category, just original and non-original in the various types of needlework. I was the newest member and really didn’t expect to win anything, but I did original work at that time, almost exclusively. I had entered a needlepoint-covered brick doorstop. It was an ocean scene with crashing surf and beach with sea creatures crawling on it. Someone in my family still has that brick. I was delighted with it, but I knew that I still hadn’t mastered the medium.
A woman by the name of Sherry London was also in the chapter and she was a professional. She had published a book and she had designed several kits that sold at least locally. Her needlepoint was of a lion with a mane of bullion knots. It was cute thing. She won. I was not disappointed (there were no second and third prizes--only best in category), but I had several women come up an actually apologize to me about my “loss.” They felt that I should have won just so that I would be encouraged to keep working originally. My work was good, but in a show where technique counted for three points and originality counted only for two, Sherry was bound to win. I did not begrudge her the win. But she never beat me again. Second best should not win: only the best should. It was a valuable lesson to me.
I know as a professional that I cannot devote the time to stitching that an amateur can. In the past year I have been writing classes and my embroidery output has dropped enormously. Everyone needs to practice to keep up skills for exhibiting. In the last Fiesta I did not win three blue ribbons for my three entries. An amateur has every opportunity to study as much as a professional, to work as hard as a professional, and to practice hard. What is magic about that? What is the difference? I personally know of several people right here in Albuquerque who are better at some needlework skills than I am. The way to win blue ribbons is not to exclude people who may be better than I am from the categories, but to include them, so I can hone my skills for next time and bring home the blue!