Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Rest, Process and Integrate

I am still trying to process all that happened in Baltimore at the Synergy Conference. There are lots of summaries and reviews everywhere on the web. Since I took so few notes, I am not going to be much help with any details, for those of you who could not make it. But, I can offer some impressions....

1. Energy. There is nothing so electric as more than 200 people in a conference room who are all passionate about the same material. People who are at the forefront of the medium, and people who are virtually brand new. The trip to Baltimore was worth it just to be present in that conference room with all those people.

2. More thoughts on Energy. Synergy was a marathon. There was so much to offer, and so little time to absorb. So many people to connect with. So little time for a real conversation. I ended up skipping three of the seven classes I signed up for. On Monday afternoon I took the afternoon off to work on my presentation for the next day, and then ended up having a lovely conversation with Mari, whom I had not seen since I took a class with Kathleen Dustin back in 2004. No sooner did I leave that conversation, with the intent to head back to the hotel and work on that presentation, and I got snagged for a quick webcast interview. It will be posted on You Tube when it is done, so I will let you know when it is up there.

I eventually did get to the hotel, and did a quick review of my presentation, before I had to head back to the conference center. I missed the preview of the gallery, but it was worth taking a little time out to rest, and to connect.

3. Voice. A big topic at the conference, was finding your voice. This is easier said than done, of course. One reason why I do not take classes anymore, and I only took one, was because I find it is too easy to pick up the "accent" or "dialect" of the instructor.

My brother hated French in high school and struggled with it. He moved to French speaking Quebec after college for several years. He came back home with a French accent. He eventually lost that, but picked up a Boston accent, which he never had growing up in the area. I share this story as an illustration. Some people are very vulnerable to picking up someone's accent without even consciously thinking about it. If I sit down and talk with Leslie Blackford for more than five minutes, I will walk away talking like her for at least the next minute or two. I find her accent enchanting, and musical. I have to stop myself from continuing the charade of speaking like Leslie.

I do not want to carry another artist in my head for too long. Others can stay true to themselves without any problem. It is not easy, and sometimes we have to walk away from temptation.

4. There is nothing like meeting people face to face. Over and over again people exclaimed at putting the face with the name that had become so familiar on-line. Surprises that few "look like their work". "I thought you would be shorter, taller," .....or that the work would be bigger or smaller. I can't think of another time when so many polymer clay artists gathered in one spot and had a chance to meet and greet. Having a face and a voice to put with the name, or the blog, or the message on a forum will enrich connections for many.

5. Getting so many people together and having a conversation about things like workmanship, voice, our history as a medium, and it's influences, and where it is going is a wonderful idea. Opinions may not have changed, but at least we were thinking about it, and looking at our medium as something that can fit into the larger context of craft. It is a wonderful hobby medium since it is so accessible, but it also has the potential to extend far beyond that, and some of the people in that room are pushing those boundaries.

6. I had a blast teaching. This was a bit of a surprise. I found people were engaging, and did a wonderful job of adding to the material I was presenting. So "thank you" to any and all who attended either of my classes. It was fun!

7. Rest, Process, and Integrate. The next days, weeks and months will be about processing, resting and integrating what I learned, saw and heard at Synergy. Things will simmer and perculate in the coming days and weeks I am sure. Resting will have to wait a few more days. I have too many commitments on the calendar for too much rest right now.

8. Self-care. I found myself often needing a bit of time alone or quiet time in the day. Perhaps when you get used to working in isolation most of the time, three long days of classes and socializing is more than can be absorbed. I never made it down to the ACC show in the convention center, which is a shame, since I was right there. The schedule was tight, and when I had a bit of time, the last thing I wanted was more visual stimulation. In the past I would have pushed through and ignored my need for this time, but by skipping a few classes, and spending a bit of time alone, or talking with a friend one-on-one, I was better able to enjoy the moments I chose to participate. We really don't have to "do it all" to get the most out of an experience.

9. The "wow" of the new. Over and over, I heard exclaimations of excitement about Kathleen Dustin's new work, Ford + Forlano's new work, and I was excited to see new work from Judy Kuskin. Even when an artist has a strong, recognizable style, such as these polymer clay luminaries, it is important to continue to explore new terrain. Many others had new work at the show as well. Loretta Lam talked about developing several new lines of work before she headed to the Rosen show in Philadelphia, and what a wonderful response it received. This is the "continuous improvement" of the artrepreneur. What have you done lately?

Time to get the butt back in the studio chair. I missed my studio, and my family. It is good to be home.

Thank you to the extremely hard working people who put together, and managed to pull off an incredible event. Kudos all around.


Libby said...

Thanks for an excellent summary of the value and feel of the conference. I've been thinking about it alot, planning to write something, but my blog is still messed up. You've put words to alot of my thoughts.

It was great and a bit overwhelming.

Polka Dot Creations said...

I wholeheartedly agree with everything you said! The energy was palpable. And you looked nothing like I expected ;-)

I didn't imagine that I would want to skip any part of the festivities, but I have to admit that my 1.5-hour nap in the middle of Saturday afternoon did me a world of good.

Judy said...

Libby, I was so sorry to hear about the lost blog posts. You seem to be handling the loss well, but what a disappointment! It was terrific to see you at the conference, and see your new work in person.

Lisa, I wish we had a chance to talk! You were busy at the vendor fair when I saw you and realized who you were, and I never got another chance to introduce myself. There just was not enough time to connect with so many people!

Loretta said...

you right again Judy.
It's so good to be home.