Rejection Hurts Without AquaNet
Author’s Note: As many of you may be new to my blog, courtesy of The Honey Pot Bee, be aware that the following essay has curse words, sexual references, feelings of jealousy, pride, disappointment, and elation, and therefore may not be appropriate for all audiences. Rejection hurts, but this dalliance does have a happy ending.
It ain’t no surprise that Molli B Sparkles can be a bit of an egomaniac at times. It’s one of those quirks that you just gotta take with all the other good, bad and indifferent. It’s usually inspired more by wanting to over-exude confidence, so that you, the Glitterati, can soak some of it up for yourself. To be perfectly honest, I was not a confident young person, and it took a long time into my adulthood where I could finally love myself to the fullest. When I discovered how to do that, my perspective on life completely changed. Any of the people or things that previously would have affected my confidence became empty shadows to me. So now, I try to stand shoulders back, looking squarely at the metaphorical air fans so that my blonde hair extensions cascade behind me at all times! (How very Mariah Carey!) But, alas, sometimes hair gets caught in my mouth, too. Ugh.
That’s what happened late last year when I entered the Sydney Modern Quilt Show. I was rejected. Twice. It felt like someone kicked the air fan across the room and my weave was swirling around my head with nary a can of AquaNet in sight. I mean, this is the show that two years prior I had won the inaugural Best of Show ribbon. This is the same show that the year before I had won first prize in the Minimalist category. Now, I was staring blankly at a rejection letter in my inbox to even have a quilt in the show. “What the actual fuckity fuck,” stampeded across my brain synapses.
I knew it would be somewhat of a challenge for the jury to select my quilts, considering they dealt with mature themes. Yet it was always my intention to enter these quilts into this show, and it was my honest-to-God expectation that they would be accepted for their originality and confidence. I guess a quilt cartooning male genitalia, and another boldly (though subversively) describing a gay man’s sexual preference during intercourse constituted too much of a stretch. Having grown up in the Bible Belt of Oklahoma, my adopted home in Sydney, Australia represents the liberal antithesis of this experience. I heartily expect my current world to embrace differences, welcome challenging concepts, and encourage dialogue that may not have been presented before. So when the rejection letters came with a simple keystroke, not only did my heart break, but my faith in the quilting community broke a little bit too.
But I didn’t say anything. I understand that the quilting community does constitute a slightly more conservative gene pool than I live in day-to-day. Even amongst the “modern” (and I use that term lightly) crowd, I can see how a quilt with sixteen, twelve-inch, multi-coloured, metallic dicks stitched into it might be off-putting. I also considered the argument that there may be kids at the show, and my quilts may not be family-friendly. However, if we are truly asking the public to respect quilts as works of art—rather than simply a hobby craft of needle and thread—we need to be prepared for the concept that not all art is generically, family-friendly. Or rather, it is family-friendly, as long as parental guidance is available to explain. Despite all this conceptual explanation, I simply had visions of some six year old pointing at my quilt shouting, “Mummy, it’s a weiner!” Hilarious! Kids say the darnedest things!
Regardless, I went to the show out of support for my brethren. I liked, not loved, most of the quilts I saw that day. I don’t necessarily think my rejected quilts would have elevated my experience to the next level, but they definitely would have been a talking point for others! Sex has a tendency to do that amongst the masses! I heard a vague rumour that some spots at the show had to be filled at the last minute, and I chuckled to myself because I certainly didn’t get a call. (Nor would I have expected one at that point in time). But I had a good time, love was in the air, and I had moved on from those rejection letters. “Maybe this just wasn’t the quilt show for me,” I thought, “but QuiltCon is right around the corner!”
Now Quiltcon. The mothership of modern quilt shows, right? Maybe my dear ol’ Sydney wasn’t as liberal leaning as I expected (conservative Premier Mike Baird will do that to ya). But Quiltcon, Quilt. Con! That was the place for me. It was only last February that I had walked through the front doors to discover my No Value Does Not Equal Free quilt was literally positioned directly opposite the entrance. Even though it was no value, visitors would be hard-pressed to miss the Best Machine Quilting Framed ribbon garnishing its edges that I shared with long-armer Jane Davidson. I had somehow won a prize with my debut entry!
So yeah, QuiltCon would love my latest quilts! The internationality of it all would certainly be highbrow enough to get “it.” So I entered the same quilts as I had to The Sydney Modern Quilt Show, except this time I added a third one which dealt with themes of gender identity. I filled out the forms, updated the descriptions to one hundred words or less, paid the entry fee, (thirty bucks for them to look at three pictures of my quilts—pop!) Pressed send. And you know what, I sat back in all my Molli Sparkles-ness and thought, “I’ve got this, they’re gonna love the shit out of these quilts.” Dear reader, I’m sure you can see where this is all going.
Then sometime in December, (ahem, 15 December, 7:32 am) I woke up to an email telling me that my “outstanding” entries 998, 1006, and 1014 were not chosen by the panel of jurors to be included in the show. Sad face. And then I laughed, because there was no point in crying over these quilts that I loved so much. If the jurors couldn’t see my vision, that was due to their blindness, which I knew I could not correct. A different jury may have selected all three. Plus, rationally, I do understand the concept that not every quilt can be accepted. Trust me, I get it. Fully. Just grant me this indulgence.
Now, Molli B a liar if I didn’t tell you I sulked a bit. Probably not as hard as after the first rejection by the Sydney Modern Quilt show, as at the time, they felt more familial. However, such is life, and with each rejection, it gets a bit easier. (You should have seen my love-life as a young teen!) But as I said in the beginning, this story does have a happy ending, and I promise I am getting to it.
As the fog of all that rejection lifted a few days later, I stumbled across an art show that was being held at a New Year’s Eve gay festival in country New South Wales, called Tropical Fruits. I had been to this festival in previous years, and despite not being able to attend this year, I inquired about the show’s requirements. Maybe they’d want a piece of the Sparkle, even if no one else did! At this stage, I really didn’t have anything left to lose except my dignity! The ironic thing was that I knew they wouldn’t disapprove of the subject matter, (Hello! Gay men are all about the dick!) but I was unsure if they would embrace the quilts as viable pieces of art appropriate for the show. While solely in my head, I felt disenfranchised by both sides!
I made a last minute call to the curator explaining my situation. (I’m talking two days before the show was set to open). He said to me, “Molli, if you can get them here, we can hang them here.” And like that y’all, I was finally going to be able to show these quilts! Fortuitously, I had friends driving up the coast the next day who would not only be able to take my quilts to and from the show, but would be at the festival to bear audience. So I scrambled together the application forms, I paid the zero dollar entry free, and I put price tags on all three quilts. I knew there was a prize pool of money to be won for the winning art pieces, but I no longer cared about that (although a first prize of $500 would help deflect all the entry fees I had previously paid for naught). For me, finally getting to show these quilts to a live audience who could appreciate their content was privilege enough.
I could stop this story here, because I feel like it already has the happy ending it deserves. But you know what, I’m gonna take it up a notch, because I’m Molli B Sparkles and that’s how we do things around here. No, you can relax, none of my quilts won first prize and got that $500.00. Sad, but true. However, I did get a call from the curator the day after the show opened to let me know that my quilt, “I Sleep On the Bottom Bunk,” had sold for my asking price of $750.00 to a Melbourne designer who intended on framing it as art for his design studio. Plus, the curator has asked for more quilts at next year’s show. Alas, there it was, and how it was all meant to be. So upright those air fans, and brush the weaves out, because we need to get back to making damn good quilts!
The ultimate moral of my story? Never leave home without AquaNet.