Judging Lace: Education and information for better lacemaking.
Dianna Stevens March 2002
Purpose: To educate and inform in the intricacies of judging laces for competition.
One of the questions I hear from lacemakers who enter competitions is: "What are the judges looking for?" And occasionally, "What were they thinking?" "Why does that piece merit higher marks than this one?" "What are the criteria for judging?" I would like to shed some light on what those judges really are looking for. Today we will take some of the mystery out of the judging process. This will do two things. 1. To show you a process of judging. And 2. Give you an opportunity to judge an article of lace.
What makes a good judge? A judge should be knowledgeable in all the fine nuances of their field or fields. Usually, they have taught and published in that field. Sometimes, they have attained ‘master' status or achieved the maximum number of ribbons in that field locally and/or nationally. Judges are chosen for their intuitive eye for elements of color, design and technique/expertise in their field.
In some venues, judges have taken classes to obtain certified status. Any one of you could become a judge in your field of lacemaking. There are few qualified judges throughout the states that have the experience of lacemaking as you do. Some judges know absolutely nothing about the forms of lace they are looking at.
A judge must have integrity and must be able to put aside personal feelings and preferences in the judging process. In variably, the judge may recognize a hand or design. In large lacing communities this may be unavoidable. The judge must put all fore knowledge aside and judge solely on the criteria and standards given.
What a judge looks for. A piece of lace is entered at the fair or other competition. The lacemaker is proud of their entry and believes it fits all criteria stated in the Premiums manual for that competition. What are the judges looking for?
1. Cleanness/neatness in appearance.
2. Is it displayed properly? Presentation.
3. Does it have any pet hairs or extraneous fibers?
4. Does it fit the appropriate categories?
There are different judging systems used in each fair program. The most common methods are the Danish and American judging systems.
The Danish system of judging will compare each exhibit on its own merit against a scorecard or recognized standard and award as many first, second and third places as are merited.
The American system of judging will rank exhibits against one another and award one-first place, one-second place, etc. Of these two systems, the American system may be the more difficult to work with.
Cleanness and neatness. You have taken much time and effort to create the piece of lace you are entering. Take measures to keep the piece clean and free of foreign and external fibers, such as pet hairs. Block the piece appropriately. Look the piece over thoroughly with a magnifying glass. The judge will be looking at your piece under a magnifying glass too.
What the score card may look like for the Lace Arts. This card may look very generalized but can cover each lace art form. Total points are 100 for a perfect score. 95-100 blue, 94-85 red, 84-75, white, 74-65 fourth.
a. Even stitches/tension. 10pt
b. No tag ends showing. 10pt
c. Buttons, zippers, snaps, velcro, etc- are they properly attached?
d. Suitability 10pt
2. Degree of Difficulty
a. Balance of all components. 5pt
b. Complexity 10pt
c. Correct dye lots 5pt
3. Design compatibility 20pt
a. Blocking, mounting, matting, framing, finishing 10pt
b. Attractive to the eye. 10pt
Let's break this down further. When we look for workmanship we are looking for an even hand in the stitches. Are the ends properly finished? Are there any thread ends showing that should not be? If the piece is attached to something, i.e. a garment, is it attached properly and neatly? Does the piece have extra things added to it for embellishments? Are they attached properly? Does the piece fit the category it is entered in? Is the piece suitable for its purpose? Does the piece have a front and back by design?
Degree of Difficulty:
This is where you look at the overall piece for balance. Does the piece have symmetry? This might require you to interpret what the participant is trying to convey in the piece being judged. Balance does not necessarily mean a literal evenness through out the piece. Some pieces of lace will not be exactly symmetrical by design. You will, however, look for uniformity of stitches and tension. Does the piece have incorrect dye lots? Colors used must be well suited for each piece. Not all laces are done in white. In the case of multiple colors, look to see if they are well suited for each other in the piece.
Next look for complexity. What ‘difficult' means can vary from judge to judge. If the piece required multiple sewing, or complex stitches, i.e., split rings and chains, or non traditional mediums used to create the lace piece, can all be considered in this section. Look also at the execution of these difficult/complex stitches or techniques. In your expert opinion, is this a difficult lace to create? The finer the fiber the more difficult it might be to hide ends properly, for example.
This is where you decide whether the piece has used the appropriate medium or extraneous embellishments (beads, buttons, etc.) that fit the design. Is the gimp appropriately proportioned to the rest of the lace? If the beads or buttons are too large in relation to the threads used in the piece, it could look heavy and out of balance. The heavy beads or buttons can distort the lace as it is examined.
Presentation: the WOW factor.
This is where the judge looks at the overall look of the lace. Is the piece blocked and mounted properly? How is the overall finish of the piece? Is the piece attractive to the eye? What is the WOW factor? That is to say how does the piece strike you. This factor may vary from judge to judge. Presentation is just as important as the expertise in technique.
All these things the judge will take into consideration for each class and category. The judge must also be able to make some constructive positive and negative remarks for the participant. Many fairs would prefer you made more positive comments when pointing out the errors of the piece. For that matter, so would the participant receiving the comments. Be helpful, be precise, be kind.
Remember the exhibitors worked very hard on their pieces and the judge must respect the workmanship and treat the pieces as if they were priceless.
Every competition will have an outline or list of what is expected in competition. Take the time to look for those criteria and these given to create a ribbon winning piece of lace.