Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Exhibiting Your Quilt At International Quilt Festival in Houston

Quilt Festival is the biggest quilt show in the United States. It's a fantastic event held at the end of October in the Houston convention center every year. Exhibiting a quilt at Quilt Festival is a dream for many quilters.

I've exhibited work at Quilt Festival for several years and I think I have the hang of the system. I've heard lots of confusion about the details, so here's my overview. Obviously, don't depend on me as the expert. Check the official website if you have questions. But I hope this provides a big picture of how it all works.

First, there are two general classifications for quilts show on the show floor.

Judged Exhibition known as World of Beauty (WOB)
organized by the non-profit member organization International Quilt Association, IQA 

Special Exhibitions
organized by the company that puts on International Quilt Festival and Market, Quilts, Inc.,  quilts.com

The similarities between those web addresses (.org vs .com) can be confusing. Now you know to note the difference.

World of Beauty takes up about 25% of the show floor. Everything else is special exhibits as seen in this map from the 2019 show. WOB is the big block in the bottom center.


Quilts Inc also has a smaller shows and market events in other locations. Some special exhibitions are also shown at those events. This post focuses on entering exhibitions in Houston.

World of Beauty
  • This exhibition is juried and judged. That means you submit an image of your quilt to be considered/juried into the show. Then all the accepted quilts are judged (in person, not from images) and prizes are awarded. Entry info here.
  • There are three jurors and three different judges every year. They are announced and introduced at the Winners Circle event which occurs on Tuesday evening before Festival opens on Wednesday evening. 
  • There are eight big awards in WOB. Best of Show comes with a $12,500 prize! The Founders' Award and the World of Beauty Award win $7500. Contemporary Artistry, Machine Artistry, Innovative Artistry and Thread Artistry all win $5000. These seven prizes also include travel and lodging to Quilt Festival.
  • There are 22 categories defined by size, theme and technique. In each category, judges chose a first, second and third place. Honorable mentions are sometimes also named. First wins $1000. Second wins $700. Third wins $300. See the list of all the winners from 2019 here
  • You must be a member of International Quilt Association to enter WOB. You can pay your $25 membership fee as part of your entry.
  • Members can enter two quilts in WOB. Entry is $30 per quilt.
  • Official information about entry isn't released until sometime in March maybe.
  • Entry deadline is usually mid to late May. Acceptances are announced in mid-July. Quilts must be delivered by mid-August. Winners are contacted in mid-September (so they can plan to come to to the awards ceremony, if they wish. They don't tell you what you've won, just that you're on the winners list.) Quilts are returned by the end of November.
  • You pay to send your quilt to Houston and must also pay return shipping. IQA uses a formula including the size of the quilt and your location to determine what you have to pre-pay for them to send your quilt back to you. (It can be more than you think it should be.) Or you can send a prepaid label using your personal FedEx or UPS account. 
  • Your quilt must not include any "work for hire" to enter WOB. That means if you paid someone to quilt it, it doesn't qualify. 
  • Quilts must have been completed after January 1 two years before the show. (Quilts for the 2019 show had to be completed after January 1, 2017.)
  • There are lots of other rules listed clearly in the entry info.
  • Your WOB quilt may be for sale. If it sells, 20% of the price will be donated to IQA. (I've sold three quilts from Festival. There is a buying audience!)
  • More than 55,000 attend Quilt Festival. It's a great opportunity to get your work seen by lots of people!
Hey! It's me and my quilt, Day Break, which was part of World of Beauty in 2019 in the Whimsical category.

Special Exhibits 
  • Every year there are several special exhibits on the show floor. Entry info here
  • Quilts Inc organizes some special exhibits that return every year including Tactile Architecture, Hands All Around and In Full Bloom.
  • Quilts Inc also organizes some special exhibits that are one-time-only. In 2020, they will include Fine China and Math and Science. 
  • These special exhibits are juried and entries are usually due in mid-April.
  • Quilts Inc is currently updating their entry system and hope to have entries open in March.
  • Size and date requirements are listed for each exhibit. 
  • These special exhibits generally are not judged and are not awarded prizes. 
  • In the past, there has been no entry free for these special exhibits. You pay to ship your quilt to Houston. They pay return shipping. 
  • Quilts Inc also takes proposals for special exhibits by individuals, organizations and companies.
  • These special exhibits include things like the Cherrywood Challenge, collections from groups like Dinner at Eight Artists, and collections by individuals like the log cabin quilts by Amy Pabst in 2019. 
  • For more info about the proposal process you can email Special Exhibits Manager, Becky Navarro at beckyn @ quilts . com
  • Special exhibits by individuals, organizations or other groups generally require a sponsor or must pay fees for shipping, handing and hanging the quilts.
  • Studio Art Quilt Associates always has beautiful exhibits in a special gallery section on the show floor. 
The Studio Art Quilt Associates special exhibits in 2019.

I hope this is a good overview. Enter your quilts!

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