search  current discussion  categories  events - nceca 

nceca - the welsh perspective!

updated sat 26 mar 05


Kruzewski on fri 25 mar 05

I don't quite know where to begin! I've been home two days and am just
beginning to clear the cotton wool from my brains. So this is jet lag!
But for two days I've thought NCECA and dreamt NCECA. And while I was
still in the US, at Carole Fox's (there are two - "my" Carole is the
Silver Fox) I had access to clayart - and read many of the posts on
NCECA - some good and some not so.

First I have to say how wonderful Carole Fox and her family - Alan her
husband, and their girls Sierra and Sage, have been to me. If it were
not for Carole's generous offer of hospitality I would not have even
thought of attending NCECA, she made it possible and I shall always be
grateful - more than she can imagine.

Reading some of the NCECA posts I was struck by how extravagant my trip
must seem. Although I've taken the ferry to Europe (France mostly, but
also Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands) I have never flown anywhere
before. My plane fare was very cheap (and I feared would be cut service
as well as cut price - not so, BMI and United Airlines were excellent)
and my Mom gave me the fare. Some of my English friends have paid
1,000s for a holiday in the US, it cost me a fraction of that - so on
that count alone it was well worth it. And I got to see some real US -
not tourist stuff. I lived in a real American home with real, and
wonderful people.

I already knew that NCECA was primarily about education. I doubt I'd
have ever attended if it were not for Clayart. I mean actually I would
probably not have heard of NCECA if not for Clayart. But you know,
Carole and I had more than enough to keep us occupied, and we had to
make some tough choices and miss some things we really wanted to
experience. The demonstrators were great, Bill Van Gilder is a real
showman - and I mean that in a good sense. It's a pity we don't get DIY
here. We sojourned to the vendors hall occasionally and I got some DVDs
and books and tools that I can't get in the UK. It was good to be able
to talk to vendors about equipment we already had too - I think we both
did a little problem solving.

Wednesday's bus tour was, as has been said before, the bus tour from
hell. We were dissuaded from getting off at stops where we might have
found stuff interesting because even quite early in the day the queues
to get back on were long - as were the waiting times. We just didn't
want to stand and wait for a bus for an hour. I felt so sorry for people
waiting in those queues who were told there would be another bus along
in 10 minutes when we all knew it would be a lot longer than that. But I
got to see a lot of Baltimore and the brilliant Shino show, Orton Cone
Box show and residents' exhibition at Baltimore Clay Works. I had never
really seen shino before, just heard a lot and seen photos by
Clayarters. Now I am a fan. I am so lucky to now own a Tony Clennell
mug. It is absolutely beautiful.

I saw an exhibition of work by kids that leaves a lot of degree
students' work in this country standing. I was so impressed by the
quality of this work.

The Clayart room was a lifesaver. It was THE place to sit, chat, rest up
and nibble on all the food so many brought. There were so many people,
so many names. I never saw Mel until the mug exchange. I began to
believe he was a mythical creature that just didn't exist. Everyone had
seen him but Carole and me. David Hendley was so lovely - and David I
love the Cobalt Blues! Wayne presented me with a boa and was so nice -
everyone was so nice! Kelly and her tiny tiny teapots - mine were giants
by comparison, and hers were far more beautiful. I wanted to meet the
person who made the two very intricate very beautiful carved tiny
teapots. I can't remember your name but your teapots were a knockout -
as was your exchange mug - so delicately sprigged, so fine. Tom Buck, so
sweet and so honest who gave me a few clues as to how to cure some glaze
faults, which I will try on my very next firing. Lovely Jonathan
Kirkendall! My head is abuzz with everyone I met and how nice you all are.

The mug exchange was a nerve wracking occasion. There were just so many
lovely mugs, I had no preference - but would the recipient of mine be
pleased? Scary or what? Scarier because my mugs are very blue - yes
David, I too have the cobalt blues! In the end I was lucky enough to
meet both the maker of the mug I received and the person who got the
bowl I made. Well I love my mug by Gloria Singer and everyone else does
too - even my husband who is not a ceramics devotee. The lady who got my
bowl seemed pleased too - a great relief. Does any one else suffer
anguish about whether their offering will be well received by it's

I agree with most of what Kathy Forer said about Robert Hughes' speech.
I didn't feel there was criticism for ceramics, but perhaps too little
reference to the subject. Mention of ceramic art was almost included as
an after thought, a brief tie-in between his speech on modern art and
the reason why we were all there.

I have read some of the posts that are not so positive about NCECA. I'm
not going to add any criticism. Yes there were things that could have
been improved. But I came away with a huge sense of enthusiasm. It's
something that you in the US have in abundance, this overwhelming
enthusiasm and commitment. And it's infectious - thank God that it is!
Before I came to NCECA I was having a crisis about my work. The cobalt
blues was only half of it. You see, one voice of dissent can drown out a
hundred of support. I had been squashed and flattened and had no idea of
where I was going - or if I was going anywhere. I couldn't hear the
voices that told me the good things. I came away from NCECA infused with
enthusiasm, I caught the bug. The images of those beautiful shinos, the
tiny tea pots, the Baltimore Clayworks pots, the Orton Cone Box show
pots, the mugs in the Clayart room, the mugs I brought home with me, the
demonstrators - a thousand chattering voices saying "there is a way, you
can do it too!"

Next week I will start applying for jobs. I was a stay at home Mom - and
very happy to be one - and I have spent time doing something I love -
making pots. The kids are grown and we need some money, life is getting
to be a struggle. This is not a retrograde step, this job thing. Yes, I
am scared, I've been out of the job market so long- will they want
me???? But it will enable me to make the pots I want to make rather than
the ones that sell. I'm not going to be a hobby potter or even a part
time potter, just a potter that has to supplement her living. I think I
will be a better potter and a much more confident potter - because in
the end I won't be apologising for those cobalt blues.

I have to tell you all, I think America is wonderful, the vegetarian
food there is incredible - I've never eaten so well, I think Americans
are wonderful, NCECA was great, YOU ALL are wonderful and Carole Fox is
a star. Thank you all, thank you Carole!

Jacqui from North Wales - scaring the natives right now because
enthusiasm is pretty rare in these parts! :-D