Friday, June 17, 2011

Post Conference Processing

How do you process the inspiration and euphoria that accompany a really great conference or workshop? Generally, I stitch, doodle, and write to sort things out. My sorting process isn't as neat and tidy as popping envelopes into mail boxes, but it works for me. So I'll write for now, then get back to the studio and stitch some more before I have to let go and finish packing for teaching at Northern Wefts next week.

Mail boxes at The Landmark Center, Minneapolis
Late Wednesday night I got back from my first Surface Design Conference. This biennial event was held in Minneapolis this time. As usual, I got wrapped up in what was happening around me and kept forgetting to take photos. And I took photos I don't want to publish without permission of the artist or the person in the picture, and don't have time to get those right now. So please conjure up wonderful images in your mind's eye, do Google searches for links I don't have time to look up right now, and add superlatives to every other sentence.

Jiyoung Chung exhibit at Minnesota Center for Book Arts
I had the pleasure and privilege of working as a volunteer at this event, so missed the first morning's meet and greet. But I did manage to get a seat on the last bus leaving for gallery tours. The bus tour was a great opportunity not only to see the shows, but also to meet people and make some new friends.

The tours ended at the Nash Gallery, which featured shows by India Flint, Tim Harding, Barbara Lee Smith, Mary Edna Fraser, Linda Gass, and the SDA Member Show. In a small alcove off the reception area, I also found an art vending machine.

My biggest regret of the week was that I missed Pat Hickman's keynote address Thursday night. But after leaving at the crack of pre-dawn for the drive to Minneapolis and a very full day, once I got to the home of the friends who put me up for the week I stayed put, ate their food, enjoyed the warmth of their company, and probably snored.

By the next morning, I was rested and ready to go. Stephen Fraser of Spoonflower and Faythe Levine of Handmade Nation were the featured speakers. Faythe made some points in a quiet, personal way that I hope, when I'm finished processing, will remove the phrase "I can't" from my vocabulary.

At the box lunch meeting of the regional groups, I met some new people and re-connected with others. In the afternoon I attended a pojagi demonstration by Chunghie Lee and the Basketry Today lecture by Jo Stealey (note to self -- remember to Google those names from Jo's talk and repeat my encouragement to Stephen about adding some basic garment pattern templates for engineered prints).

SDA special interest group -- Embroidery
One of my favorite hours of the conference was the meeting of special interest groups. I found the embroiderers and it was such a pleasure to share ideas in a small-group setting. Thank you, all, for letting me take a picture of your beautiful hands!

Friday night was the members' Trunk Show and the DIY Festival, where local artists sold their work. There were also demonstrations (lace making and spinning, maybe more that I missed) at the DIY Festival, where I also saw the booth where volunteers from the Textile Center created custom art T-shirts, with proceeds going to the scholarship fund.

Saturday morning's featured speaker was by India Flint, who ended her talk by unwrapping a silk bundle she dyed in her hotel room the night before using plant materials she found on a walk around where she was staying.

India Flint
Saturday afternoon, I attended Becka Rahn's talk on Etsy. The first thing I did the morning I got home was to update the tags on the books I sell there. For her presentation, Becka wore a skirt made with fabric she had printed by Spoonflower from a photo she took in her garden.

Becka Rahn
In his program Transforming the Common. Lanny Bergner showed many of the jigs and tools he uses in his work with metal mesh. Lanny taught the post-conference workshop I took and did another lecture on Tuesday night -- so much inspiration that I'll have to leave that for another post.

Saturday night was the Fashion Show. I shamelessly snagged a front-row seat at the end of the runway, then took not one single photo. Sorry.

I wish Bill had been with me to hear Sunday's featured speaker, Natalie Chanin of Alabama Chanin. Since that wasn't possible, I think her books will be added to my library shortly.

There was much, much more. On Sunday afternoon after helping to set up Lanny's class space (I was the workshop assistant), we got to a couple of galleries I missed on Thursday. We made it to Teresa Paschke's show at Augsburg College shortly before the gallery closed, and that turned out to be my favorite of all the shows I saw.

If you've read this far, you're probably thinking this sounds more like a book report than the processing of an important experience. True. But it's helped me organize my thoughts and get to this point:
  • I have a not-so-tidy pile of notes made about techniques, products, suppliers, and artists whose work I want to see. Those things are interesting and useful, but not what's most important.
  • But what resonates with me is the stories woven in and around the work I saw and the people who make it, see it, and respond to it. 
  • For me, it's all about connections, relationships and stories. The work may be abstract or representational, purely a response to the materials or overtly intended to convey a concept. But for me, it's all about how it relates us to each other and the world around us.
So here's my personal post-conference to-do list:
  • Further my processing, with a focus on the post-conference workshop with Lanny Bergner. I'll post some of that as soon as I can.
  • Start thinking again about two areas of intrigue from a while back. I think I'm ready now for further exploration of Ancient Walls and Erosion & Excavation.
  • I'm setting some ambitious but realistic challenges for myself, much of it based on feedback from the workshop but mostly stuff I've known for a while but pushed to the back burner.
  • Stay in touch with some of the people I met. There's a reason why our paths cross when they do. And I can't wait to see how some of them process their own experience in Minneapolis.


  1. Donna-
    I was most impressed by Teresa Paschke's work, too. Such a great fusion of hand work and technology.
    I didn't register for the conference, but if I had, Chungie Lee's session would have been my first choice. I've been in love with patchwork pojagi for years. I did buy her book from the SDA table.
    Kim in Fargo

  2. Reading your "processing" reminded me of things I had forgotten, or were buried. I love your writing style. So good to have touched base with you in Minneapolis.

  3. It was great to see both of you in the Cities! Wish there had been more time to visit, but the I'll take even the short visits.

    Kim, thanks for the heads up on the vendor selling those luscious silk scraps by the pound. I would have bought the Chungie Lee book, too, but the line was long or closed each time I tried.

    Leandra, Kim and others, I was a bad girl and didn't do the daily download I have students do, so processing felt a lot more scattered. I'm curious how you process an event like this?


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