I have read with great interest a number of blog posts regarding choosing quilts, judging quilts, photographing quilts. I have judged a few graphic design shows in my days- enough to know that judging can involve a bit of serendipity. 

Items that I think effect selection:

1. Placement. If there are 6 great quilts in a row there is a good chance the 7th great piece will not get in. Conversely, if a group sees 5 mediocre pieces in a row and then a good piece- not a great piece, there is a chance it will get in... Judges are humans. And there is always in the back of one's mind-"Am I being too critical? Am I being not critical enough?"
2. Time. Exhaustion- visual exhaustion is a factor, and woe is the piece that is viewed at 4pm when your energy is running out, and your enthusiasm starts to wane.

3. Personality. How do the judges interact? Is there any competition between any of the judges, is there any "pecking order." Do all of the judges feel comfortable with each other? Is one judge more overbearing or one judge meeker? Personality and composition- no matter how collegial the group is- matters. 

4. Trends. It is amazing how fresh some of the early pieces look- when an idea seems original and new- and how tired it may look  after seeing the same look appear over and over.
5. Not wanting to have the same people in the show year after year.

Of course there are ways to get around some of these problems. Blind judging. Having judges start at different places in the show so the same set of quilts is not left until last. Judging by consensus. Judging on line. There are a many ways to circumvent judging bias- but  in the end- judges are human and it is impossible to factor that out entirely. And so many people will spend untold hours of trying to game the system. Good luck.

Awards mean different things at different parts of a designer/artist's development. My firm has over 675 design awards that we have amassed over the years. But nothing is as sweet as those first few years- when I got in my first shows. After a while, this thrill is toned down a bit- as one starts to understand the judging process, understand that a good design piece is a good design piece if you know down in your bones that you have solved a problem in a unique way- and most importantly solved a client's problem.

Yet I would be lying through my teeth if I said that getting into a quilt show does not matter to me. As I start my journey in quilting, I feel the same excitement and nervousness that I felt 30 years ago entering my first design competition. And I daresay, if I am fortunate enough to get into a show, I bet the butterflies in my stomach will feel the same!