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nceca:is it really over?

updated thu 25 mar 99


Keith Chervenak on wed 24 mar 99

No, It can't be! I returned to work (not clay) yesterday and set my
computer to receive clayart mail again. Nothing came. Disappointment. Had
it all been discussed yesterday?! Didn't matter, too busy here to read
posts anyway-I'd been gone 3 days and despite phone calls during that time
I still had lots of catching up to do. It ended up being the not so
unusual 10 hour day.

Today I happily found a few posts about NCECA. I read these first.
Realized that I missed alot over the weekend, but still found plenty of
food for thought. So for the "for what it's worth category" here are my
thoughts and comments:

This was my first NCECA. Not being a ceramic educator I wasn't sure what I
would gain from such a conference. Since Columbus is practically in my
backyard I decided it was worth the trip to find out. Like any scientific
conference I've ever attended, this conference had it's good and it's bad.
My biggest complaint is probably with the panel lectures. I will be broad
so as not to single out anyone, and let me state up front that I appreciate
their efforts in putting together such a talk but, my overwhelming sense is
that these lectures rarely met their objective as would be implied by the
title. I have heard hundreds of lectures in science, far fewer in art, but
what I expect out of any lecture is a statement of purpose, evidence to
support this purpose, and a conclusion to tie it together and perhaps
disclose future direction. So typical at NCECA was the slide lecture where
the presenter simply showed images of their work, very rarely linking
anything to the lecture topic, then simply ending by saying "that's it.
thank you". Did I miss something? Maybe I chose the wrong lectures.
Maybe my expectations were too high. It does worry me however, that this
is what students today are using as their models for public speaking. (one
glaring exception here that I must note: Up On Three Legs-excellent!)

My second disappointment was with some of the shows. I did not get to as
many as I would have liked so my comparisons are few. The OSU show in my
mind left much to be desired. There was alot of good work here, and some
not so good. The show felt crammed and mixed up. For being the hosting
university I would think that they could have found a better gallery in
which to put this up. And did anyone else feel the CM show was at knee

Now the good stuff. Good stuff made up 95% of my first NCECA experience.
My favorite show was the Ohio Designer Craftsmen's "Lighten Up". I felt
that the work was top notch and the display excellently done. What fun to
see all those different approaches to hold a candle. The K-12 show was
also great. I hope everyone took the time to venture to the outer reaches
of the convention center to find it. I am truly in awe at the talent
dipslayed by these young people and am so heartened to know that these
talents are being nurtured and directed. Linda must have had a ball
jurying this. I'm glad to hear that Denver will also have a K-12. The
excitement of NCECA carried over into Cleveland where on Saturday I
attended the opening of the Cleveland Institute of Art Alumni Show.
Composed of alumni from the past 20 years at CIA, Tom Huck of the Avante
Gallery proved that shows consisting of varied styles can be done
successfully-and very well!

The ABSOLUTE best part of NCECA is the people. Many new friends. The
chance to catch up with old friends. Chatting, discussing, arguing,
eating, drinking, and best of all-laughing! Then laughing some more. I
talked to so many people who were just relishing in the human contact. The
bonus is that we all love clay. So many of us work in studios that keep us
isolated from people that NCECA is a vehicle to release months of pent up
joy about clay. You didn't hear much bitching and moaning. You heard
laughter. We are a uniquely happy group of people, all of us playing in
the mud. The people filing in for the lumber convention on Saturday were
not wearing the smiles of the potters. They weren't hugging old friends
and making plans with new ones. They looked grim. They had arrived to

I read the post today from Sylvia Shirley and her honest description of her
insecurities led me to take the time out of my day to write this. Sylvia,
I can legitimately answer your last two questions: I do NOT have name
recognition. Carla met me for the first time Wednesday in the Clayart
room. She might very well be the first person you would meet if you
decided to attend. And you would like her. Like everyone else in the
clayart room she is fun, interesting, and giving. I started out my post
with a little description of my daily life. I am not a fulltime potter.
There are weeks that go by when I can't find a minute to get my hands on
the clay. Yet I consider myself a potter. Someday I hope that I can say I
am a good potter. But despite my inabilities I never once felt out of
place at NCECA. Certainly never so at the Clayart room. There is no "in
crowd". There are friendships that existed prior to the days of clayart,
strong friendships that have developed because of it, and many others that
are yet to come. I never encountered a group in conversation I could not
join, nor did I ever exclude anyone from a converstaion I was involved in.
And I ate meals with whoever was around. You already have the only two
requirements necessary for hanging out in the Clayart room: "I would really
love to meet all the people I've read so much from and about" and secondly,
"would I love to taste that Begian chocolate". (I've been told that the
second requirement can be waived if an allergy exists. Please bring a
noted from your doctor.)

Please reread Carla's post. I did not get the original, I've only seen
what's been reposted, but what I see is a wonderful description of a
wonderful event made possible by the wonderful people who were able to
participate. I will not "name drop", but trust me, I talked to many of the
people you probably consider to be the "Big Names" and you know what, they
are just like you and me. I think they would agree. We all have a little
clay under our fingernails. Do reconsider going to Denver NCECA.

And just to clarify: I started this post referring to my day job. Do not
misconstrue my comments as whining, I'm simply stating the facts of my day.
I love working in medical research. It's challenging and rewarding.
Today I find myself spending 12 hours in the lab just as many of you will
find yourselves spending 12 hours in your studio. We are both happy. In
time the balance of time will shift and I too will find myself in the
studio for 12 hours at a time. And I will still be happy, challenged and
rewarded. Clayart is my daily connection to clay, whether or not my feet
make into my studio.

A heartfelt thanks to all. Collectively you made a rewarding and memorable


PS- Flame away, I've been coated with ITC!

Keith Chervenak
Case Western Reserve University
Department of Medicine
Division of Infectious Diseases
Cleveland, Ohio U.S.A.