[Clayart] About NCECA

jonathan byler jebyler2 at gmail.com
Tue Mar 25 20:36:08 EDT 2014

I found almost all of the descriptions of the presentations to be some kind of self absorbed navel gazing type thing.  my mother, who was once an academic and professor calls that kind of thing "mutual masturbation by lecture", and by and large I think she is right.  There were only one or two lectures/panel discussions that looked interesting, and the couple that I attended were rather good.  

Bill Carty from Alfred gave a good lecture about glaze safety, which was very informative, and gave some good ammunition to use against the risk management people who want to regulate us, but often have no clue what they are actually doing.  A smart person could take his info, add their own knowledge, and convince the safety people to back down on certain things, or at least insist that they test the waste being created to see if it really should be classified as "toxic".  This can save a lot of money and effort in disposal fees, while still doing right by the environment.

There's a part of me that isn't concerned with "where have all the potters gone", since I see there are quite a few out there plying their trade still.  But I come at this from a different place than many I guess.  As a sculptor who happens to sometimes work with clay, and as the technical help( and the safety) guy for our department, I probably am looking for different stuff than a person who teaches ceramics or uses it as their primary medium.  For me in the past, the best lectures have been people talking about their work, and the technical stuff, like the NCECA green task force talking about alternative and less wasteful firing processes.

There were plenty of good people to meet, and people interested in sharing their information.  Old friends, new friends, possible future collaborators, fellow travelers and enthusiasts of all types were abundant as always, even if the overall number of people was down. that is always the best part of NCECA (other than good food and good parties).  I got new ideas, and we learned more about the ceramic decal printer my boss wants to buy.  The shows were ok on the whole, less stunning in many instances than in years past.  The one that always sticks out, though, was the juried student show, This time in the basement galleries at MIAD.  Absolutely stunning work (almost all of it).  It's a little weird that there aren't more established artists and/or potters who have work that good on display, but heartening that there are plenty of up and coming people, some still in undergraduate programs, making kick-ass work.  There were a few artists who stuck out in the "big" shows, such as Beth Cavener, but it is sometimes amazing how bad some of the stuff is that people let in.  Maybe it's a matter of taste, but a fair bit of what is out there and pimped by the galleries is really bad, or at least bad about getting the message across that they are trying to get across.  The emerging artist lectures were mostly very good and very informative, and again, it was great to see that there are dedicated people out there making the time to make good work.  it was a nice change from some of the old folk playing at being famous whose work one looks at and says really?!?  I didn't get to near as many of the shows as I would have liked to since there is simply too much to see, and it's too easy to go into information overload.  I wish I had gone to some more of the demonstrating artist stuff, especially the Phelps brothers, who are great guys to know in any regard.  I also unfortunately missed the opening lecture as I timed evening feeding badly, and would have gnawed off someone's arm soon if I didn't get at least a burger in me and quick.  I heard it was great from everyone who attended, and then the panel discussion that he was involved in the next morning was too.  As always too much to do, and so little time in a few days.

As to all of the famous people being gone, that may be almost true, but there are plenty of people out there pulling their weight, making great work, and sharing what they know as the old guys did, but they are swimming in a much bigger pond now.  The closing speaker spoke of going to NCECA almost 50 years before and there were 90 people or so in attendance.  It's a lot harder to be a volkous or a reitz, or a nils or a beatrice wood type of recognized personality when there are 10-100 times as many people playing the game.  If anything there are more good people making great work now than ever in history (and consequently more people making terrible work), it's just harder to stand out from the crowd.

Sorry you didn't get to make it up, vince.  hope to see you next year or sometime in between!


On Mar 25, 2014, at 10:21 AM, Snail Scott <claywork at FLYING-SNAIL.COM> wrote:

> On Mar 24, 2014, at 4:36 PM, Vince Pitelka wrote:
>> ...Whatever you have to say about NCECA will be
>> interesting...

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