Cross-Training

I apologise for my tardiness. In the past two weeks I ran a youth conference for the Anglican Diocese of Niagara, moved myself out of Wiarton, finished my last week at Gleasonbrook Pottery and started setting up my new studio. It has been an ongoing emotional and physical journey.

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I am one of 20 volunteers who put together a week long conference for teenagers at the end of August each year. I attended this conference (called "NYC" for "Niagara Youth Conference") when I was a teenager and have now been involved in the planning process and leading a small group for four years. It is always the highlight of my summer, if not the entire year.

It doesn't get much better than a large group of like-minded individuals spending the week together in a beautiful setting.

Except, I lied. It does get better.

Throw in some community standards around acceptance and honesty, and a safe space to explore the depths of your spiritual, emotional and mental being, and you've got yourself a recipe for one HELL of a week.

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Not only is NYC (and it is every year) one of the most profound experiences I have ever had, but it also allows me to dig into my creativity in new ways, exploring new ideas and ultimately enhancing my overall "vision". Over the past 8 months we planned a conference that was themed  "An Unexpected Journey". We created activities, spiritual opportunities, workshops, social events and discussion topics that focused on this theme. Starting with the call to action, encountering obstacles and transformation, and finally tackling the return home, we took the delegates on a week filled with laughter, tears, comfort, security, trials, tests, and joy. WHAT A WEEK!

Each year the importance of this week becomes more apparent. The planning itself is an exercise in diligence, patience, understanding, delegation, team-building, and thinking outside-the-box. A week of facilitating small group discussions is an exercise in listening, problem solving, community, trust, faith, and improvisation. A week of crappy food and uncomfortable beds, however.... that's an exercise in health. More this year than ever, I am starting to see the benefit of this week in my studio practice, and the way I see the world. The youth were a delight, as always.

Many athletes "cross-train" in sports other than the one in which they compete, with the goal of improving their overall performance. Why should artists be any different?

Cattle

IMG_1825This week I am in Houston, Texas for NCECA - a massive conference where clay people from all over North America flock to look at work, buy tools and equipment, listen to discussions and lectures and most of all, socialize. This is my second year attending with The Pottery Supply House (my part-time job). We are exhibiting in the resource hall along with dozens of other companies that supply/manufacture kilns, equipment, tools, glazes, literature etc. As enjoyable as a week immersed in clay-related activities and networking is, I was at the point of a nervous breakdown prior to my departure from Canada. The Gardiner show is only three weeks away and I am taking an entire week away from my clay work in order to spend some time in Texas. Bad, bad, bad. So I spent the weekend pumping out dozens of doilies while watching episodes of BBC's Blue Planet and had some much needed outdoor time. We took my parents' dog Bentley (I call him Boo) on a long hike and then went to the beach where he dug big holes in the sand and repeatedly dropped his ball in the lake.

IMG_2040Monday afternoon we were off to Houston! Not only is the temperature significantly warmer, but the immediate arrival of sunshine and plants that are GREEN were extremely comforting. We set aside our winter jackets, boots and wool socks and donned sandals, sunglasses and shorts. It's lovely here in the South.

Houston is a beautiful city! Though this concrete jungle lacks in small pubs and quaint diners, I have rarely been to a city so full of joy - the abundant stretches of lawn, bamboo stalks and palm trees reflect rays of cheer as you walk down the street. Maybe this past winter in Toronto has felt particularly long - I have never enjoyed hot, humid air so much.

IMG_1922Yesterday we went to the NCECA Biennial and the NCECA National Student Juried Exhibition as well as several other small shows in Houston's Museum District. Though not impressed overall with the work at the Biennial, the Student Exhibition was quite delightful and had many lovely pieces that provoked wonder, thought and concern. Some of my favourites belonged to Shasta Krueger and Heather Davis.

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Today after 8 hours selling at our booth, my colleague Becky and I went to Santa Fe Clay: La Mesa, where 150 potters had work set out on long tables for the public to peruse and purchase. Unfortunately all of the pieces I wanted to purchase had already been donned with little red dots - somebody else had got there first.

Thankfully, NCECA has no shortage of pots. I went up to the Gallery Expo and bought myself a plate by Ron Meyers. I've always admired his work and came very close to buying a piece of his last year, when again, I was thwarted by that red dot. So on Tuesday when we arrived I started scoping out for his pieces and found several galleries at the Expo that showed his work. I had been eyeing this plate ever since and finally mustered up the courage to add it to my collection. My wallet is hurting, but I'm not - this may have been the best purchase I've ever made.

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