Certified Needlework judge – Article 1


Natalie Dupuis (Canada) is embarking on a little-known training and I found it interesting to follow her. I will therefore propose a small series of articles on this program and on the evolution of Natalie. My first article focuses on general training, with the help of Pat Goaley, responsible for this training at the EGA. The second will focus on Natalie’s journey.

The final badge awaiting Natalie’s name
A session at the EGA – Judges review and score the submitted embroideries. Each decision must be justified: general appearance, patterns, colors, finishes.

Why Needlework judges?
Needle arts are all the arts that use a needle and thread, in one form or another.
But how to judge textile works? What are the criteria ? When the competition concerns a particular type of technique, a traditional/ethnic technique for example, using a stitch, a pattern, specific shades: if the artist chooses to personalize this work with different colors, does the judge have to consider that their work cannot compete?

Drawing and color coordination remain at the center of any evaluation. It is necessary that the judges are also up-to-date regarding the latest trends, inventions, experiments. Between the model showing great technical capacity and faithfulness to tradition and another trying to adapt, innovate, it is not easy to choose. And how to ensure an unbiased judgment if the judges and the artists know each other?
The judges must be able to look at all the details, from the pattern to the colors, from the choice of techniques, to their realization without forgetting the quality of the finishes or the framing. If the artist has had the opportunity to write about their work, the judge must be able to read it with openness and real artistic knowledge.
Often, in competitions, the organizers ask recognized embroiderers or textile artists to be judges. But it is not because an embroiderer has an excellent level of execution that they can be a good judge, or that they masters the knowledge to judge the coordination of colors, the choice of motifs in relation to a theme, etc. They must also be able to recognize the choices of such and such an artist to meet the requirements of the competition, their mastery of forms and function / or the choice of their stitches, techniques, patterns.
Having followed a complete training in these fields allows at least a judgment based on solid and justifiable knowledge.
EGA has been providing this training since the early 1980s in the form of seminars, papers, online courses, discussion groups. There is an exam and several tasks to complete during the 2 years of training. Future judges are also trained in the latest techniques in textile art. Students must create their own references to judge the different techniques and explain the reasons for their choices. They are helped by discussion groups when faced with difficult or delicate ethical choices.

An example: The Garden Club of America recently asked EGA for help. Textile artists were judged by a jury better suited to judging floral displays than needlework and the artists felt unfairly understood. Normally, any art competition judge is expected to understand color and shape theories. The problem was therefore more about technical knowledge related to embroidery. This kind of problem can be solved by having an EGA-trained judge on the jury, for example.
It is sometimes difficult to understand that a competition charging an entry fee to artists does not take the trouble to have an adequate jury, claiming a lack of funds.

On the EGA website
Course during the National Seminar – San Francisco, May 2019

The EGA program (Note – We are talking here about the program for Certified Judge, in 2 years. A program of 5 years for Certified Expert Judge also exists)

The first thing to do is to submit a CV and cover letter to EGA. The CV must show not only your knowledge in needlework but also everything you have acquired in your life that can be used to better understand your motivations, your ability to persevere. A committee will first judge whether it thinks you are capable of completing your training (for example, by showing that you have taken other courses or that you have already completed a major project). They then look at your experience with drawing, colors, arts in general, needle arts in particular. An advisor is appointed to accompany you during your training.

Once your request has been accepted and your fees have been paid, you must take an exam on color and design theory. You are free to bring any books or documents to help you. You must answer about twenty questions and be able to explain yourself in your own words, or even with small artistic works.

After that, you will have to complete a number of works, reports, etc. You must take the initiative to go and judge competitions, set up your theory of “judging”, your artistic ideas, update your CV, etc. At the end of your course, if you pass, you receive your badge and a certificate at a banquet organized during a national seminar.

Exhibition during the National Seminar, San Francisco, May 2019
Fiber Forum Gallery: Sun Shower / Wendy MacKinnon

There are 24 judges to date. Two others are in training, and another is in the process of completing her training as a Certified Expert Judge. All come from the United States and New Zealand. Natalie is the first Canadian.
There are other associations that offer a judge training program, but according to Pat Goaley, they offer a much smaller range of needlework.

The EGA organizes one national seminar per year. Each region also organizes its annual seminar. It is possible to follow many classes in very varied techniques during these seminars (4-5 days). Another possibility is to follow the courses organized through ESP (Extended Study Programs). It is always possible to organize lessons with a teacher if you can gather enough students. Online courses can be individual or collective and nothing prevents you from switching from one to the other.
Finally, the EGA has created an online group called Fiber Forum aimed at advanced embroiderers seeking to understand new techniques, to try new things in this field. Each spring, people who wish to be part of the Fiber Forum must submit their work to the group. You can enter if 2 judges and a guest artist have recognized the value of your works. You can also register as a friend, by paying an entry fee.

Fiber Forum Gallery:  The Bark / Ann Poulson (photo Nani Poulson)

For your training, you can take advantage of this offer, and/or take courses elsewhere. In fact, the EGA encourages its future judges to be aware of everything that is available on the market. This “diploma” requires continuous training and an open mind to new ideas.

The EGA: https://egausa.org/
Natalie Dupuis: https://dupuisnatalie.wixsite.com/mysite

Photos © Pat Goaley, EGA