|I loved seeing the reflections of downtown Milwaukee on this building which I passed each morning on my way to the Wisconsin Center where NCECA was held.|
|l-r Owen, Ron Roy, Kathi, Alex, Gabi.|
So along with a young couple from Sao Paulo, Brazil and a potter from Ann Arbor we found ourselves together with Ron for two days - three if you count the day after the glaze class when we had a free day and spent most of it together exploring the wonderful Milwaukee Art Museum and downtown Milwaukee.
|The Milwaukee Art Museum is an amazing building.|
NCECA (National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts) is an annual conference that happens every year in a different city. I have only attended one NCECA previously, which took place in Seattle in 2012.
When I was at NCECA Seattle, for one reason or another, I did not go to the event on the first day as there was nothing big on the schedule other than the keynote speech. Bad choice! As I learned, the first day is the day that you want to go to the vendor's hall and spend hours talking with vendors, looking at clay tools, meeting old friends and picking potter's brains. Once the individual education sessions start, you find that there are so many that you want to take part in that you really don't have much time to get a relaxing visit in at the vendor's area.
|Meeting Tom Coleman at the Geil booth was a real thrill. I was able to pick his brain a bit on glazes and got some good information to experiment with!|
|Kathi LeSueur, Mel Jacobson and Arnold Howard at the Paragon booth.|
|Theaster Gates gives the keynote speech at NCECA 2014.|
There were tons of demos to watch. The hall that was dedicated to demos was always packed.
|Michael Shael demos throwing in Ballroom A.|
|One of the tables with prize winning ceramics by K-12 students.|
One of the great things about NCECA is the chance to connect. Not virtually, but in real life. Shaking the hand of a real person, hugging a real person, exchanging ideas with real people. Making friends. Spending time with friends. Ahh. This to me is the joy of this conference, the life of this conference, the essence. And to spend a week with nothing but clay, clay, clay and people who are passionate about it - well, that's about as close to heaven for a potter as you can get! One night I had dinner with Steven Branfman, John Baymore, John Jessiman, and Lisa Floryshak-Windman among others. I don't know who brought up the subject of "What's the biggest kiln explosion you ever saw" but let me tell you, that was a fun discussion!
|Sharing ideas and inspiration - that is NCECA's strength.|
|Nils Lou, one of my pottery heroes|
|An interesting round table, Where Have All the Potters Gone?|
I had a wonderful lunch with Mel and his young protege Colleen Baillie, who is a junior majoring in ceramics at the University of Minnesota and also refers to herself as Mel's apprentice. I was thrilled to get her mug in the mug exchange in the ClayArt room. I look forward to seeing her work unfold in the years ahead - she is one talented young potter!
|Mug by Colleen Baillie.|
I stayed at a wonderful house I found through airbnb and miss my new buddy Reggie who lives with a great group of people who were kind enough to let me stay with them for a week at their house on East Potter Avenue. (The address is somewhat fantastic for a potter, doncha think?) The people of Milwaukee are among the friendliest group of people I've ever met. I really enjoyed getting to know the city and I hope to go back some day. I have, however, made a note to go back when the weather is warmer!
|Me and Reggie!|
I saw this post on ClayArt this morning by Mel and I think he sums up the NCECA experience beautifully:
remember, if you dig a bit, you can find almost anything
it is a vast array of many things...big, small, good and bad.
it is never one thing.
it is always hard to judge the total.
i am impressed that it gets done so well.
we get around, get informed and get on buses.
the programs start and end.
you can find a few good, a few bad.
there are many ages, many talents and lots of
great folks that love clay.
what more do we want?
i always have a great time.
and, i love to piss about bs clay work. it is a part of my dna.
i am a functional potter, part of the `really old school`.
my heros are mostly dead.
and, i hated not having malcolm davis and robin hopper and
the good old boys around.
those that did not know them on a personal level really
don't care. they are the past. robin will be with us again soon.
i have spanned all the ages of american clay from voulkus, to shaner
to mackenzie, to ferguson and many more.
soldners antics at nceca are legend.
i miss the characters. they laughed, got drunk and spewed on
all of us. mostly in good will and humor. it is a politically
correct world now,
will not react to the hilarity of being a potter. we are a funny bunch.
we are sort of `low brow`. we like clay in our pants. and, we adore
wonderful pots. it matters not who makes them..just that they are made.
As I made my way from the Wisconsin Center after Cynthia Bringle's wonderful closing lecture and slide show, I walked along Water Street to the bus stop where I would wait for the airport bus. Being in no particular hurry, I found a lovely little pub to have one last lunch in Milwaukee. As I made my way back to Water Street, I saw this and I thought to myself, with a big smile on my face, thanks Milwaukee!