Saturday, April 4, 2015


Yikes! Is it too late to do this? It's a week now since I returned from Providence, and I hit the ground running, getting ready for Mug Season, the Maine Pottery Tour, and of course firing and delivering work.

Here's a quick highlight reel:
Wednesday was the gallery day. The bus tour was...spotty. The shows (the ones I saw!) were great, but there was one that the bus couldn't get to (WAT??) one where nobody was home, one that had an additional cost to get into (yes, I am the world's cheapest human. But after paying for the conference, and then paying additionally for the bus tour - didn't that used to be included?? - I was cranky about being asked to pay an entrance fee for a show. So I didn't.)
I took a boatload of photos on the gallery day, with my little iThing; you can see them here. (I was going to post them all here but time just does not allow.) My most favoritest piece that I saw all week was the giant wall of porcelain panties at Brown University.

Misty Gamble is the artist. The panties are cast porcelain with added beads and rhinestones. Hilarious and masterfully done. The subject matter of her work - not just panties, but femininity - mirrors some of my interests back when I was sculpting, and maybe even now.

Frederick Douglas Opie gave a non-traditional keynote, about the role of ceramics in Incan, Mayan, and Columbian cultures. Opie, a professor at Babson College, is more a food guy than a clay guy, and the address was like a college lecture. Some people didn't enjoy the departure, but me, I'm always up to learn something new. I think, too, the point about ceramics being a marker of status made people uncomfortable. We want to think we like what we like because that's what we like, but in fact the possession of handmade claywork - the more esoteric the better - marks us as people who have the education and sophistication to appreciate it, and the disposable income to purchase it. Yeah. Uncomfortable. Sounds like snobbery, among people who think of themselves as the very earth of the earth. But status is what makes us humans go 'round, and every human culture has had status markers. Doesn't mean your preferences are fake - quite the opposite, your preferences (and mine) and the status they denote are very real, and you will have markers of some status - high, low, or in-between -  no matter what.

It's an interesting thing to think about, but a discussion for another day.

Though I spent most of my time watching demos - they are why I go to NCECA - there were some good discussions as well. Here are the ones I would have gone to, if I weren't busy ogling pots in the gallery expo, where the largest collection of inspiring functional pots could be found.
  • Heidi McKenzie, The Basics of Business in the Arts
  • Dustin Miyakawa, Become Your Own Photographer
  • Paul Lewing, Teaching and Selling as Performance
  • Panel discussion: The Social (Media) Experiment 
My fellow travellers attended discussions of injury treatment & prevention in the ceramists' hands; ceramics in psychiatric healing, and clay and community in the St. Croix valley.

I was in New Bedford, at an opening featuring former staff, residents, and Salad Days artists from Watershed on Thursday evening, but had I not been, would surely have attended the Pottery Slam: Claystories - and maybe even told a story myself. I am shy in crowds but put me at the front of the room, and I can fly with it. Strange but true.

And now: the demos. SO AMAZING, so inspiring.
  • Martha Grover was the first one I saw. You can see a similar demo here; and I'm told that all of the NCECA demos will eventually be on youtube. I was delighted to learn that Martha, a Maine native, will be returning here soon. I managed to elbow my way through the throngs to give her a business card and invite her to do the Pottery Tour, when she completes her move. Martha was part of a series on quick-hit, 30 minute demos in the Process Room, about which more later.
  • Linda Christenson! Watching Linda work was just..soothing. She has a lovely personality, and makes very serene pots. I used to live in Minnesota, even met Linda on the St. Croix Valley Pottery Tour a couple of times, and her accent really brought me back there. She threw, and talked about clay and life as a potter.
  • Gustavo Perez - in the same ballroom with Linda. I didn't respond to his work at all, but learned a lot from watching him. My favorite quote of the conference came from him: "It can feel like there is no energy to work, and it is then, exactly then, that you must go work." And also, related: "It is a matter of discipline to work when you feel it, and then, when you don't." These are nudges that I needed!
  • THE PROCESS ROOM! was where I spent the majority of my time. I don't know if this is a new thing, but it is the best. ever. I watched Martha Grover, Jason Barnett (? Not sure. Margaret Bohls was scheduled, and Jason substituted, so his name is not in the program), Jennifer Allen - though I was in the hall, peering in for much of that one - Shawn Spangler, Amy Santoferraro, Winnie Owens-Hart, and
  • Chris Dufala. Chris demostrated  method of image transfer using undergalzes painted on plaster that I had never seen before. I was amazed and determined to learn it, if not for my own work, for my students. There is a link to instructions of Chris' monoprint process on his website.
  • Like everyone else, I was disappointed that the process room was too small to accommodate the interest.  The overflow room set up the next day even overflowed! My suggestion: next yer put it in one of the ballrooms: three tables, one active, one being cleaned up, one set up for the next artist. It'll be full every hour of the day. 
  • This is an out-of-the-box item on my wish list, inspired by the morning yoga: Let's have a fitness room, with exercise bikes & ellipticals, and a loop of past NCECA demos playing on a video screen.
There was much more, but I am realizing it's just too much to type up this morning, so going to wrap up the wrap up. It is extremely unlikely that I will be in Kansas City next year - unless a money-anvil drops out of the sky - but if you are there, enjoy!


DirtKicker Pottery said...

I've always wanted to attend NCECA, but with airfare and hotels, I couldn't justify the expense. I read that 2017 will be Oregon and that's within driving distance for me. I will definitely be going in 2017.

Glad you had a great time.

smartcat said...

I had an enjoyable time, which, given my dislike of crowds, kind of surprised me. Like you I was disappointed that the Process Room was so totally over crowded. Even the over flow room was standing room only! It was particularly frustrating because at least one of the ballrooms was only about one quarter full for one of the lectures.
I drove up each day; it worked well for me!
I probably won't go to K.C....too expensive. May try for Oregon I can save the money or win the Powerball! HA! HA! HA!