My Life as an Art Quilter

Part 1 - Exhibiting Your Work

Elin WaterstonElin Waterston

By: Elin Waterston – QCN
Date: 06/15/2010


A big part of being an artist, regardless of medium, is showing your work, right? But sometimes this concept - putting your art (aka, your heart and soul, your innermost personal somethings) out there for all the world to see/judge/criticize - is scary for people. Really scary. Really, really scary. This is mainly because they have a fear of rejection. Let me assuage your fears. When you venture into the world of art galleries, museums and exhibits, you will be rejected. That's the nature of the beast.

So does this mean you should never attempt to show your work? Of course not, that would be silly. All it means is that you have to get used to the idea that you won’t always get into every exhibit you enter. And, not every venue is right for every artist (and vice versa). And, not everyone is going to see your work as the perfect masterpiece you believe it to be. And, you'll have to thicken up your skin a little. And, as my yoga teacher frequently says… just…let…go. Or, as I frequently say...suck it up.

That said, it's always a good idea to know a little something about your exhibit venue of choice before diving in. I'm an art quilter. I make things that are 6" square and have pieces of shampoo bottles sewn onto them, and weird stuff like that. I'm not likely to do well at a traditional quilt show. I know that. I don't enter quilt shows. I also know that the head curator of The Louvre is not gonna text me to ask me to send something over any time soon. I know who I am and where I belong. I can push the edges of that belongingness and strive to move into areas that might be a little bit of a stretch for me. I can also try to educate people, to make them aware that maybe fiber art (specifically, my fiber art) is worthy of being exhibited at their gallery or exhibit. While doing that, I can also remain realistic about it. 

I once had this weird winning streak. I got into everything I entered for months and months. I was up to 13 in a row, I think, maybe 14. When I finally got a rejection, people expected me to be upset about it, and I got a lot of “awwww”s. Honestly, it was a relief. The thing is, it was starting to make me think about getting accepted too much. In my head, I started telling myself with each prospectus... “but what if I don’t get in this one, maybe I shouldn’t try, it’ll break my streak”.... It was too much pressure. Once my streak ended, I felt like I could enter whatever I wanted and go back to not caring so much. If I got in, great - if I didn’t, no big deal.

The bottom line is that nobody gets into every show, every time. We’ve all been rejected from time to time. It’s okay. Just. Let. Go.


Next time - My favorite rejection stories! (and some practical information too...)


sue beevers headshot

Elin Waterston is an art quilter, teacher, and author (just to name a few). Elin is active online, and can be seen and heard here:

Elin's website -

Elin's blog -


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