A conference is not just the presenters, speeches and dinners, right? It’s mixing it with friends, new and old, and checking out both some great artwork, and hell, I’ll say it, the competition 😉
It came as a surprise to me, and her too I’ll wager, that I caught up with Danae Natsis on day one at the first event, the pin-swap. It was a great coincidence that we were both there, as our encounters over the course of the conference helped me in the ‘downloading + processing’ part that often accompanies such an experience. Generally speaking over the whole weekend I felt at ease, with no over-saturation or overtiredness, though I was being mindful of not overstimulating myself.
The pin swap itself was a little different from what I am used to. The Americans make loads and loads of pins, most relatively simple for obvious reasons, and swap them with many, many people. It didn’t seem unusual for someone to have 50 odd pins to swap, which were carried around in small containers and tins directly in front of the body, almost like the artists were vendors of miniature ice-creams. I went with my two JMGA experiences in mind, and had packed 2 pins, since I had yet to decide which one I wanted to trade. Suffice to say, both came to the pin-swap and went off with new friends. One to Sharon Massey, who introduced herself to me before we even got into the pool area for the event. She and I have corresponded previously, while she was working for the Society for Contemporary Craft, in Pittsburgh. I got a great coiled wire pin with turquoise spray touches from her in return.
My second pin went to Caitie Sellers, maker extraordinaire, who I mentioned earlier was one of the emerging artist speakers at the conference. For her pieces she had made shrinky-dinks on plastic from some of her digital drawings. If you follow her blog (as I have done for some time – who says you need f*book to stalk someone?) you’ll know that she posts a Photoshop-drawn image, usually of local architecture, once a week. I was pleased-as-punch to get the work that had featured just that week, which tells you the lead times that a lot of these busy artists were working with!
I actually got a bunch more, as many artists were feeling generous, and one featuring an owl motif in copper by Heather Magill was a constant companion over the rest of the weekend as I used it to fix my name tag to my person. (Lanyards? Ergh! Gimme an owl any day!)
The swap was the official opening gambit, if you don’t count the education room (all schools and universities set up tables to spruik their programmes) and the newbies meet-and-greet that I had attended earlier that afternoon. A fun night, which ended with a bunch of us at the ‘after party’, a restaurant by the golf course.
Then we started to get into a rhythm, in which the day time was spent at lectures in the main room, with breaks spent outside enjoying the warm or wandering the vendors room. Charon Kransen has his table set up (Aussies will be familiar with that, though in the US there are even more books) and a bunch of other vendors like Rio Grande and Otto Frei were doing a reasonably brisk business. In fact, by Saturday I had finally settled on the bench I wanted, having spent many hours investigating my options and pestering my loved ones with emails to canvass their thoughts in the preceding months (ever since I arrived in the US in fact, knowing that my delivery of stuff from Aus, once it finally arrived, would still leave me benchless. I had left the tiny writing desk that was functioning as a bench in my studio in St Kilda.) and put in an order with Otto Frei myself. After which I also put in an order with Rio for a new flexi-drive. [Hey, I’d been holding off on both until after the conference, so I could ensure that I would be at home for the delivery…]
There were also demonstrations, held outside mostly, of torch enamelling and hot forging and the like. Local Seattle legend Phil Baldwin did the silver forging demo, and came up with the following, which I shall now hereby proclaim to be the quote of the conference.
“Phil, what are you dunking the silver into, on your left?” Was a question put to him, as he repeatedly proceeded to dip the metal into a dark plastic container, kinda about the size of a waste-paper basket, each time he removed it from his little gas furnace using some hefty pliers.
“I’m dunking it into darkness.”
Phil was trying to see the actual colour of the heated metal so as not to overheat it, and while he was ostensibly situated in the shade of the hotel building for the demo, the Arizona sun doesn’t really have many gradations. In full sun it’s bright, in shade it’s slightly less bright. So dunking metal into darkness was his solution. Hot damn!
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Well, as you can see, my tale is once again getting outta hand, so I think I shall have to return with Part III. Soon, I promise 🙂