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nceca -- one more perspective

updated tue 22 mar 05


Nancy Udell on mon 21 mar 05

Why not weigh in since we're having this conversation? This was my
first NCECA.
I was glad to meet folks in the clay art room and wish I had spent more
time there. Wayne, thanks for the boa! It was fun to wear.... Mel,
lovely to put a face with your ever gracious, poetic and thoughtful
moderation of this list.

Opening comment: Having organized conferences myself, I know how hard
it is. And a conference of this size is a real challenge. It's
particularly hard if you are serving more than one master, and I
imagine that's the case here. I can only guess the demands (implicit
and explicit) that were placed on conference organizers to give a nod
here and and recognition there. The balance between keeping egos
assuaged and presenting a cohesive, relevant program is a tough one --
again -- especially where relevance means many different things to many

A few specific comments on the conference:

1. Keynote address was excellent BUT the opening remarks/ceremonies
were absurdly long and sneakily inserted for over an hour before
Hughes' talk when the program said "Robert Hughes 7-9pm." Having an
introduction for the person who is going to introduce is over-the-top
silly, boring, annoying, etc. It seemed like a lot of mutual back
patting --which is fine -- but don't bill it as the keynote address.
Bill it as opening ceremony or something else and let people come in
for the keynote separately. Or make it shorter.
2. Agree with all the comments on the shows being spread out and busses
not working well and tours being poorly organized. I could have done
more to walk to the shows near the conference center, but after
spending 4 hours doing 2 of the 11 stops on one of the two bus loops
wednesday, I decided to focus on things at the center. That's a shame
because the work I did see at shows was good.
3. Twosome Threesome Gruesome Gleesom was mildly interesting, but
mostly because I have no formal education in art history and have never
had anyone show me a series of slides a and talk about them. But the
lecturer had the feel of someone who has not been given a candid
evaluation of his performance in a good long while: talk was
disorganized and and rather rambling with no effort made at cohesive
presentation. Ah, tenure.
4. Walked out of vase is a vase is a vase after a very short time.
Seemed a bit over the top and, well, boring.
5. Not your grandmother's tea cup and pot was an excellent, well
organized, well presented talk about the history of the use of china
paints by studio potters and other ceramic artists in the last 35
years. I learned a lot.
6. Exhibition hall was great and convenient... but huge and crowded.
7. Soda show at potters guild was beautiful. Swedish show at Maryland
Institute was also great, as was the retrospective on the duck guy (?).
Santa Fe Clay dinner ware show at Wyndam was nice in that you could
touch everything. But crowded. Will go back up to see shino show next
8. Demos were interesting and set up (visibility) good.
9. Student show was good and made me smile a lot.
10. Pre conference workshop with Malcolm Davis, Jeff Osterich, Lynn
Smiser Bowers and Steven Hill was very good. The slide shows presented
by each of the artists were unique, personal and inspirational. Some
logistical issues with set up, but a valiant effort by Baltimore
Clayworks and generally a very good time.

Overall, the best things that happened to me at NCECA were random
inspirational conversations I had with people I happened to sit next to
or struck up conversations with. Two such conversations sent me in new
directions with my work and for that I am very grateful. I happened to
run into people who were open and generous and working through many of
the same issues I am struggling with, and my conversations alone were
worth the price of admission. It is nice being around all clay folks.

I'm glad I went, but not sure I would do it again. That may seem
strange after what I just said, but overall it was too huge, crowded,
and too many choices. I harken back to Barry Schwartz's new book about
the paradox of choice -- sometimes we are actually happier with fewer
choices. Give me two lectures (or a choice between a lecture, a demo,
the exhibition hall, or slides) to choose from in each time slot and
call it a day. The sheer number and complicated timing and locations
of the events at times caused me to choose nothing, and I think
detracted from any chance of an overall conference "feel" or "gel" for
participants. As an annual event, I would not place it high on my
list, but thanks to the organizers who I know did a LOT of work.


Nancy, in MD, going back down to the studio tho it's a sunny afternoon