There were four great presenters this year at the Women Working With Clay Symposium (Roanoke, Virginia, USA, June 12-15, 2017). I didn't always know who to watch and hear next. I hated to miss anything at all.
All four presenters this year were in one, very big L-shaped room. The two throwers, Ayumi Horie and Julia Galloway, were in one leg of the L; the two sculptors, Patti Warashina and Gerit Grimm, in the other. How should I have chosen? They were all doing work I wanted to see, and I hated to skip a minute of any. But short of cloning myself, not my forte, I had to hang with one pair at a time.
We could go up and take photos of the presenter or the work, or both together. It was structured to be informal and they were so amenable. People asked plenty of questions and shared their own thoughts, and that was welcome too. I've been to four of these symposia now, and the format has been one where attendees and presenters alike could feel comfortable and open.
That the 70 or so attendees were double the number of the other years I was there, was possibly because of the stature of all of these particular presenters. There were no relative newcomers presenting this time (although when there have been, they've been able to carry the load). Through dint of hard work, teaching, giving workshops and talks, through social media, and because of their personalities, they are all pretty hot stuff in the ceramics world now. The organizer, Donna Polseno (artist, teacher, organizer, former presenter on at least two occasions) selects them through some mysterious process that brings out the best of the best.
As in previous years, when I begin to write about this symposium for readers of my blog, everything I've experience over those few days (there's so much) needs thought and structure to really get down "on paper". Some of what takes place at the Women Working With Clay Symposium strikes sparks that need some really good mulling over. Because the symposium is small ("huge" this summer, with 70 or so attending), there's no bad vantage point to watch presentations. You can easily hear the presenters as they talk while working (or as they pause their work to expound), and clearly see how they go about making particular parts and pieces in their repertoires. They're taking questions and telling about their work processes and philosophical and business perspectives.
So I've been gathering my notes from the Women Working With Clay symposium and also- this is inevitable- thinking about my own professional practices in and out of the studio. As part of this, I've been making design notes for my two currently most interesting projects. Tweaking designs; thinking through forms and decoration yet again. This symposium is a perennial kickstarter for my summer and fall studio.
So while I am not at home in NJ, but in Maine on a lake for a little while before plunging back into the business and pleasure of clay, I'm taking in the view and sorting out how to do the symposium justice as I write about it. I think I'll present the presenters... one by one.