I got more out of the GAS conference in Toledo than I expected. It made me feel really happy I had gone. I’d like to relate how random experiences came together to leave a subtle but profound impact on me.
It started with one of those moments I love about these big gatherings. I ran into the talented Beccy Feather just outside the conference hotel, just about to go for lunch with some friends. I’d worked with Beccy a little bit years ago in Alberta, but since then had really only bumped into her at conferences. First great thing about going to a conference: nothing better to do than meet and hang out with interesting people.
We went to Grumpy’s in downtown Toledo with her friends Wil Sideman and Jesse Rasid. The food was great. I thought I might only eat there for the rest of the conference. It was fresh, busy and reasonably fast for how wild it was at the time. First time I noticed potato chips offered as a side dish, I think.
Jesse is the proprietor of the NOCA GlassSchool, which I think is basically in Boston. We talked about blowing glass and what long production days emphasizing fundamental skills can mean. I related to his message even though I don’t consider myself to be an especially purist kind of worker, and I think anybody could if you’ve spent a chunk of time working things out and producing them. It’s an important part of learning the craft of glassblowing.
Wil worked with Jesse and is studying in Rochester this year. We gradually covered enough topics that we discovered some interesting parallels between our inspirations. Talking about floats and buoys is the last thing I figure I need to bother the people around me with, but wouldn’t you know hanging out with glass people just ensures you are around the right people to share your geekiness with. We didn’t talk about glass blowing so much as we used the word sculpture a lot.
Wil grew up in Maine and I found it so interesting to hear how another artist uses the same docks and boats I like to study. I didn’t think I could adequately explain to him how amazing my project in the Maritimes was becoming for me (thank you Ontario Arts Council!!!) but maybe he will remember to go to Newfoundland one day. His perspective was interesting too, as it sounded to out of the observational and into something personal. Memories sound to be drawing him into his work, and I found it refreshing. Reminder: forget about the process and concentrate on the message.
None of this is especially earth shattering, but I found it all to be a sort of subtle affirmation that we were all thinking about the right things. It’s easy to become a little lost working on your own, in and out of the studio. Hearing and sharing with others just makes it seem okay.
Well what an interesting summer this is turning out to be! Always a rush it seems… but in this heat, how do you keep moving fast?! It’s too hot to be in the shop but who can afford to do anything else? I live in Toronto after all… this is a very productive place. I try to maintain a habit of changing things up.
I wonder about keeping momentum sometimes. I find getting out and into different situations always offers insights as to the possibilities around me. You never know until you go see, right? I find it’s easy to get bogged down by the day to day when you loose sight of where you are at. Get yourself out of the ordinary and you gain an interesting perspective,
I got a solid jolt to my attitude going to the Glass Art Society’s conference this June in Toledo. On the way down, with all the rigmarole around packing and traffic, I was kicking myself for the bother of it all. For some reason I thought I wasn’t going to be interested in much when I got there. I figured I’d been to a few conferences already and knew how things were going to be.
And some things are always kind of the same. Like registering with somebody whose job it is to only talk to people with certain names. “People whose names begin with the letters A – M should go to the right” kind of thing. I always seem to talk a little too loud and wind up approaching the wrong letter person anyways. Fortunately, Alphabetism isn’t typically an aggressive discriminatory group.
I had a great time at the conference. Really. I saw a lot of glass and saw a lot of different situations. People coming together with related but infinitely different experiences. Here a student, there a lifetime achievement award; everybody rubs shoulders all the same. One moment Tom is explaining the challenges behind colorbar and the next the nicest guy from Maine is discussing the finer points of night fishing in the ocean. Little scraps of information from this place and that came together to enrich and revive so many areas of my practice. Who knew?
Or more like how can you know without going?
I participated in a major Toronto craft show, the One of a Kind Show in the fall of 2010. This show afforded me a great opportunity to exhibit, market, and learn what it means to want to work more.
In the fall of ’09 I won an Excellence In Glass Award from Harbourfront Centre and the One of a Kind Show. The thrust of the award was to take part in the One Of A Kind Show, a major craft sale held in downtown Toronto twice a year. I was in the first section of the fall show, running Nov – Dec 5, so Christmas was in the air. This is retail central with attendance, exposure and sales opportunities on the horizon.
I’ve taken part in craft shows before, but there seemed to be so much potential with the scale of this one. This show is big, with over 800 venders selling everything under the alphabet. Wanting to do everything I could to prepare for this, I went into a mode of operation that had nothing to do with how I make glass and everything to do about being “effective”. With the generous support of the Ontario Arts Council and some Exhibition Assistance I put together a booth, with lights and carpets and plinths. I built a little store…I guess that wouldn’t be the first time….
Going in I thought there was a general tradition of Toronto area excitement for this show, and certainly I noticed the advertising campaign. As an award winner I had the privilege of my face appearing everywhere, from bus shelter advertisements across the city to newspapers across the country. It was a little odd. Great, fun, but strange to see your image used in places and ways you had no idea were happening. I got a great poster for my Grandma though.
Having done the show now and enjoyed it as best I could, I don’t know if it’s the right thing for me. I saw people who did very well there, and who worked there every year for decades. I saw loyal customer bases, clearly seeking out everything they’d seen before. Yes, the press was there, as were the crowds.
As it went though, it wasn’t always a great way to present yourself as an artist. There is a bit of numbing that goes on, walking by handbags to mailboxes to soap to pottery. And while I think venders feel pressure to offer as inexpensive a product as possible to accommodate impulse shopping, I think we all lose with this idea that cheap price will improve value. The whole idea of this show is to offer “one of a Kind” work, but that usually doesn’t if you rush through it or mass produce it. There are many times I thought “I should have only one item here and just sell it…” but that is just not what I do.
For me, I’ve come to the conclusion that rather than focusing on smaller work, I need prove what I can do by pushing the limits of my practice. This doesn’t even feel like a decision or anything, more of a lesson. It’s what I really want to do anyways, and it’ll be the only way I realize my vision for my work. I remember hearing an instructor of mine observe “everybody comes up with a production line at some time”, and I guess this was my crack at it. We all have to learn some time.
Finishing up this hectic summer, I’m reflecting on the pleasure I had working in Newfoundland for a spell. As I return to some of the work I began there, I’ve taken the opportunity to review some of my journal entries… yes, I actually did keep a journal! I made the promise to the Ontario Arts Council, and they were fantastic in helping me realize this project. What an amazing experience!
I don’t know why, exactly, the place holds such a draw for me. It still seems somewhat mysterious to me, and I just went there. I can say when I decided I had to go there: it was the fall of 2007. I visited Cape Breton Island, and looked wistfully north as I realized I needed to keep going. What I found when I got there just makes me want to go back again and again.
When the Ontario Arts Council awarded me an individual project grant to go do this, I was dumbfounded. Never, ever, had I dared to hope I could receive any kind of official support for one of my research/adventure/life experience undertakings. I usually just try to do it all on my own. The last few years though, I’ve been really dedicated to my studio practice and, well, that hasn’t help the bankroll so much yet. My work is going great places, but me… well… I just work.
The experience was profoundly rewarding. Here I am many weeks remove from the cold (!) windy shores I explored, but the essence of the place stays with me as I try to finish the dozen pieces I started there. I’m just trying to put them together, one at a time. There’s a lot of material research involved, but I feel it all coming together. For what, I guess, isn’t clear at the moment. I think these are going to come all together for a really solid show, I must say. Heck, you can count on it.
Below is a copy of my June 3 entry. I kept a journal throughout the trip; not usual for me, but kind of fun to go back and look at. There are a lot of drawings that go along with everything in it, but hey, maybe I should keep those to myself for a while. I think it’s going to be my work here for a long time to go!
------June 3, 2010, “My Little Cottage”
“I’d say this is the first day I feel on track. A slow start, but I have my work piled all around me so I can finally feel where to begin. Admittedly, writing in this thing (journal) isn’t my first choice of things to do but I’m going to try!!
Yesterday I went down the road exploring. Cox Cove was interesting enough. Newer hoses, but all precariously perched on top of cliffs with some of the steepest driveways and roads I could imagine linking them. The fish plant clearly dominates the area. Smack dab in the middle of everything, it’s pretty much the only structure around bigger than a house.You can see it from everywhere; the town radiates from out of it.
(here I have a drawing of an oval fishing float with net and rings radiating out of it… I’d almost forgotten about that)
Far and away the highlight of the place (for me) was my location “discovery. I took a few pictures from a lookout of sorts. There were no signs or anything, just the end of the road. The only reason I went there was to find the furthest edge of town. Anyways, before I left I thought I’d follow this guard rail to it’s end… just to see why t was there. It seemed like a lot of effort had been put into having it there without any clear explanation. (well, there was a massive cliff there, but besides that)
AND THEN it lead to a tiny dirt path, ending in the scariest staircase leading down a sheer cliff to the ocean, Breathtaking! The shale, or slate (?) of the cliff is almost black with striking white strata. Right away I know there are some serious pictures to be taken here. There’s even an amazing wooden box washed up here… I debating whether to grab it or not.
------>> And don’t forget the kids! On the edge of McIver’s, these kids came and thoroughly chatted me up. They were a great laugh, and friendly too. I took a picture with each of them holding some glass… it was classic kid enthusiastic!