I am so happy to be sharing with you an interview with one of season 1’s participants – Lisa Penny of PennyFabricArt. Due to other commitments, Lisa didn’t feel she would have time for this season’s challenges but gracefully offered to be our third Judge for Season 2. I think her works speaks for itself in showing her qualifications but I do hope you enjoy the interview as well! What made you decide to join Project QUILTING? I love Project Runway, and I admit that a few times while working in my studio I imagined that what I was working on was a Project Quilting style challenge. When Kim announced that she was creating this on her blog I knew instantly that I wanted to do it. For me, the elements of problem-solving, competition, and a deadline tend to put my work into high gear. What is your favorite part about Project QUILTING? I’m always amazed at how different people will solve the same challenge in such different ways. While I loved doing the challenges, the most fun for me was seeing the incredible variety in how all of the competitors interpreted the themes. It was exciting to check the Flickr page as the week closed, and see the range of creativity and skill. What are you looking for when people complete the challenges? I judge work based on 3 key characteristics. First, the concept – how the artist makes the leap from the challenge parameters to their design plan. I look for that unique creative spark. Although much of my own work is quite contemporary in style, this doesn’t limit my appreciation of traditional quilting concepts. It’s about how the individuals make that artistic leap into their own designs, with their own personal styles. Second, I look at how successful the artist was in executing the design. Designs change over the course of working on them, so I want to see if the end result meets the challenge requirements, communicates the artist’s unique interpretation of the challenge, and uses color, light, movement, and good design sensibilities. Third, skill quality is obviously important. This doesn’t necessarily mean that beginners are automatically out of the running though. Clearly, this is an area where advanced skill levels will give a competitor an edge over others, but there’s plenty of room for the appreciation of smart application of the skills you have. Simple stitch work done beautifully is better than highly complex work done terribly. I love to see people try new things and push the envelope with their skills, but it’s also important to know when a technique deserves a bit more practice before putting it out there. How has Project QUILTING made you a better Quilter? In my past life in publishing and advertising it was important that all design work was clearly focused on the goal. In my art quilting over the years I’ve noticed that as I’ve gone further out of the box it’s been difficult to hold that focus on what the design is actually trying to communicate or achieve (besides being a warm blanket!), which has resulted in a pretty good stack of unfinished objects (or UFO’s as quilters call them). Project Quilting was an excellent experience for me personally in that it forced me to go back to my design roots of being very attentive to what each piece is really about, and directing the design toward that end. Doing this on a deadline each week really helped to refresh smart working practices. Just how difficult is it to critique someone’s work? Be honest. I think it’s quite difficult. I’ve been involved in organizing a juried art show and had the fascinating experience of watching a renowned artist jury a show. My work has been in several juried shows (and been rejected from several too!), and it’s never really clear to the artist what the judges’ criteria are. I’ve tried to provide my criteria above in this post. It’s important to judge work on its merits, not just on subjective personal preference. But it’s not always easy to compartmentalize your own likes and dislikes, to perhaps recognize excellent craftsmanship in a piece that you personally would never put in your own house. Art and artisan craft are subjective by nature, and are sometimes even intentionally ambiguous, which makes it hard to judge what the artist is trying to do and whether they accomplished it. What was your top piece that someone else created for the Season 1 Project QUILTING challenges? My favorite was LoveBugStudios’ winning piece for the Road Trip Challenge. The entire concept of the 3-D roll of film with individual pictures was just fascinating. That was so incredibly creative, and Ebony’s skill level really carried it off beautifully. Is there anything you’d like to add or comments you’d like to share with me and my readers? I think the best aspect of Project Quilting is the camaraderie of the competitors and the viewers in the Comments on the blog and Facebook page. The competitors range from beginner to advanced skills, and from traditional to modern styles, but every one of them brings great creativity to the projects. It was wonderful to read the comments, where everyone really appreciated each other’s ideas, and gave sincere encouragement when it was needed. This environment of genuine esteem and enthusiasm truly makes Project Quilting open and fair to everyone, which is what makes it so much fun.