I got the dreaded “skinny email” yesterday. The two quilts I entered into Quilt National were both rejected for the prestigious show.

This was the first time I have entered Quilt National since 2010 and I worked hard on my entries. Both of them are larger than I’ve worked in a while and they have intricate free motion quilting to create interesting textures.

Rock Cairns, the featured image, is 48″ wide x 45″ high. It’s the largest piece I’ve attempted in this series featuring improv blocks surrounded by curved strips, and it has pebble stitching and wavy lines, plus an uneven edge at the bottom.

Uneven Bars art quilt in reds and golds - Cindy Grisdela

Uneven Bars – Cindy Grisdela

Uneven Bars, above, is a new idea–more improv blocks set in horizontal and vertical rows, with backgrounds of different shades of gold and different stitch motifs in the plain areas.

Curiously, the sting of rejection isn’t as harsh as I expected it would be. The email said there were over 700 entries for 85 spots. Not great odds to start out with, and I’m in good company, from some of the posts I’ve seen on Facebook from my artist friends.

Wildflower Honey art quilt in golds - Cindy Grisdela

Wildflower Honey – Cindy Grisdela

Maybe it has something to do with the other rejection I got earlier in the summer for Wildflower Honey. I wrote about that in my most recent newsletter. That rejection did hurt a lot, and I wasn’t sure whether to show the piece again. But it got such an outpouring of positive response when I wrote about it and posted it on Facebook and Instagram, that I realized it wasn’t rejected because it wasn’t good, but because it didn’t fit into the juror’s vision for that particular show.

I suspect the same is true for my QN entries. I’ve seen snippets on social media of a few pieces that were accepted. (QN rules don’t allow the work to be shown in its entirety before the show opens next year.) These pieces are all very different in feel and execution than my entries.

So the bottom line is that I have two new pieces that I’m really happy with that are available to put up in my show booth or enter into other exhibits where they might be a better fit. I’m choosing to think positive!

What do you do about rejection?


  1. Doe on September 24, 2016 at 10:25 am

    Put it behind you and move on. Your work is beautiful!!

    • Cindy on September 24, 2016 at 11:42 am

      Good advice, thank you.

  2. Rachel Biel on September 24, 2016 at 10:42 am

    Sorry, Cindy! I’ve never submitted work for a show, but I think we all experience rejection in different ways all the time. It’s got to be terribly difficult to be a juror for any show that has a lot of entries… And, I’ve handed out my share of rejections to potential members on TAFA (www.tafalist.com), the part of my job that I hate the most. Almost everything we do, when picking and choosing, IS subjective and the most important thing for you is to keep doing what you love. The fact that you have a book about to be published says something about how much the public does like and want your work. Isn’t that something to celebrate?

    When I worked with clay, I shared a booth with a friend at art fairs several times. Her work was clean, soft and very appealing to the average suburban woman, nothing risky about it and very functional. Mine was raw, funny and not so practical. It was interesting to see who hung around our booth. She sold way more than I did, but the people who liked my work, LOVED it. They were often gay, punked out, or fringe types. (and had less money, so couldn’t afford it…)

    I think the best think to do is to make work that you are proud of and to try to have zero expectations when you apply to a show. I’m not sure how to do that, but especially with the big shows, acceptance would be the exception, not the norm. And, I don’t know if this is right or not, but it seems like some of the same people show at Quilt National year after year… If that’s true, it would leave even less spots open for new entries. It’s just and impression I have, not something I have thought about deeply or investigated.

    Focus on your successes and be proud of what you have accomplished! We are so fortunate to be able to pursue our passions and like any “job”, there are bumps along the road… Kudos to you!

    • Cindy on September 24, 2016 at 11:40 am

      Wow – thanks for such a thoughtful response Rachel! I really appreciate it. Great story about the show you did with the potter!

  3. Eleanor on September 24, 2016 at 10:55 am

    I was told many years ago, that your success will largely be measured by how you handle rejection. I have to deal with it a lot in Real Estate. It’s hard!

    • Cindy on September 24, 2016 at 11:38 am

      That makes a lot of sense Eleanor – thank you!

  4. Robin Kent on September 24, 2016 at 11:15 am

    Hi, Cindy, I have LOTS of experience in this area;-). It all comes down to the judge that happens to be making the choices. The same set of submissions reviewed by a different judge likely would have little overlap. Just keep on trucking….


    • Cindy on September 24, 2016 at 11:37 am

      Good advice Robin – thanks!

  5. Lorie McCown on September 24, 2016 at 9:35 pm

    I was 2 for 2 with yes’s from QN.. I sort of figured that I was not going to make it, considering the judges. Like you, however, I think that artistic maturity is important. If we submit to shows, we have to assume a ‘no’ might be the result. You are well entrenched in your career. Yes or no is part of the deal.

    • Cindy on September 26, 2016 at 11:05 am

      Very well said, Lorie–I’ll just keep creating and putting my work out there!

  6. Gail Pean on September 24, 2016 at 10:56 pm

    Hi Cindy,
    Your work and creativity is a gift to all. Rejection is difficult but I agree that we need to focus on the joy of creation and the process. When your designs are unique which they are there will always be a collector and audience for authenticity. You have always been ahead of the crowd and it takes time for people to adjust to the new and different. You are unique and you must follow your muse.
    Remember when your quilts were stolen from the Reston Art Fair? Someone loved them so much they were willing to risk going to jail for them. I’m so proud to be a member of Great Falls Studios and to be a friend that has watched you grow as a nationally recognized quilter. Keep on creating!!

    • Cindy on September 26, 2016 at 11:04 am

      Gail–thank you for your wise words! I will keep creating no matter what!

  7. Terri Parent on September 26, 2016 at 10:30 am

    The hardest part of being an artist is not the creating but the actual sharing of your work. It is true that a different judge might have a different response but once rejected it doesn’t matter. It never feels great even when you love your work. We all want to be Sally Fields accepting the Academy Award gushing “You really, really love me”. The truth is lots of admirers and buyers really do love you and work. It will be especially sweet when those pieces sell.

    • Cindy on September 26, 2016 at 11:02 am

      Well said, Terri–thank you!