Clay Con West and Alabama Clay Conference 2023

Getting back into the Clay Community

This year I made a promise to myself that I would get back to Clay Con West in St George Utah and that I would go to the Alabama Clay Conference. Working from my home studio has forced me to learn deeply about all aspects of my process from managing all the clay scraps, drying and firing work, making and using glazes, and finding my rhythm in the work. Working from home does not feed my need for community and people. I am happy to report that both conferences filled me with ideas, connections with some really wonderful people in the clay community and they have pushed me to try some new techniques and have made me think much more deeply about why I make.

Clay Con West

In January I traveled to St George Utah with two friends for my third trip to Clay Con. It was rainy and cold- strange for the desert- but full of old and new friends. The sessions were really varied and I learned so much about slowing down my work process from Carol Long. Carol has inspired me to try slip trailing again and to use squeeze bottles of glaze to get some detailed color work in my pieces. Carol made one of the longest handles I have ever seen and then proceeded to take her time to place this enormous handle on a large sculptural piece. I am inspired to slow down my handle making and to attach handles that are freshly pulled. Aaron Ashcroft works with cone 10 stoneware and seeing his work has me so excited to work with the new propane fired kiln that arrived on my doorstep this past week. I am looking forward to making sculptures for outdoors. Juliann Roush demonstrated making clay hinges and I have to tell you that watching her work really blew my mind. It was such an incredible demonstration and I have so many ideas springing up from the doors she opened.

Clay Con West 2019 was the first clay conference I had ever attended and I have been so happy I did. I have grown so much as an artist and I have friends all over North America that I cherish. Clay Con West 2020 was the last conference I went to before the pandemic shut things down and it felt completely perfect to start heading back into the world again by picking up again at Clay Con West 2023. There were a lot of old friends there and since clay people are generally the most warm and welcoming people on the planet, I made a pile of new friends as well. I love the family and I love working at my home studio and I also really relished sleeping in my own hotel room and being surrounded by clay people and clay talk all weekend.


Alabama Clay Conference

The Alabama Clay Conference felt like a real adventure. I had never been to Alabama before and getting to Auburn was not straightforward. I had a really early morning flight and then a shuttle ride from Atlanta to Auburn and then a 5 block walk in the rain with my suitcase to the AirBnB. I connected with some old friends on the first day. I find that people in the South are so outwardly friendly and I made other friends instantly as well. The conference was set up so we had 4 major presenters who worked and talked as sets of 2 in the main auditorium. There weren’t smaller sessions running in another room so we all had the same experience and I really loved not having to decide where to put my body for each session. I learned so much from Soouyeon Kim, Malcolm Mobutu Smith, Beth Cavener, and Gwendolyn Yopollo. I took plenty of notes about the processes shown by the presenters but I spent a lot of time thinking about the why behind my work, the connections I make between what is in my head and what comes out of my hands. I was just blown away by the beauty and contrast in how all 4 artists work.

Even more important was the absolute joy and community we shared that weekend. I have never laughed quite so hard over dinner and I deepened friendships and I have a side hustle with Fritz to run the hotel LIFT service using the luggage trolley to haul people around the conference.

I bought some handmade wood paddles/stamps from Mecca and immediately they started calling me “Colorado”. I have to tell you, it just made me smile every time I saw these guys and felt like a minor celebrity. I bought work from Steve Loucks, Mark Rigsby, and Becky Zee. There was a Steve Loucks mug exchange (where you take a mug and get a mug, but you don’t get to pick) and I had the great fortune to meet the recipient of my mug- Rick Adams. The best part, after Rick said he loved the mug and that it found a good home, was that Rick was sitting by my buddy Stan Hurst from Mecca tools. We had a great conversation and I learned that Rick was from Muscle Shoals Alabama and that he had worked at the best music studio in the universe (my totally unbiased opinion). He had made posters for the artists there when he was in high school and had been fired no less than 3 times in about as many weeks. If you are not familiar with the music that has come out of Muscle Shoals just think of Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Clarence Carter, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Paul Simon, the Staple Sisters. I could go on. If you are interested, I have created a playlist of some of my favorites from the founding of the FAME studios to present day and it is on Amazon Music.

Next year the Alabama Clay Conference is at the beach. I have never been to a pretty beach on the Gulf. We lived in Houston for so long I always think of the muddy water at Galveston area beaches. I can’t wait to see a beautiful white sand beach on the gulf in February (when it is so cold and frozen here) and to catch up with my Alabama clay family.




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