OH. MY. GOODNESS. Is there anything better than being in a room full of your fellow nerds? Really, I can’t think of anything. Especially when those nerds are METALSMITHS. I’m finally getting back in the swing of things after returning from New Orleans last week, and I gotta say… My final verdict on the SNAG conference is (drum roll please) IT’S AMAZING! YOU SHOULD DEFINITELY GO!!!

 

Ok, I’ll try and cut out the shouting. But it’s been a week, and I’m still blown away by how great my first conference experience was. It’s hard to decide on my favorite part, so I won’t. I have some awesome interviews and insights coming your way in the next few weeks as I transcribe and digest the great conversations I had, but for now I’d like to share my top reasons to put next year’s conference on your calendar ASAP! (Sorry, that part’s not shouting, it’s just an enthusiastic acronym.)

"Futura" necklace by Pasha  Moezzi, image stolen from his Instagram @pashadesigns.

  1. The people. Woah. I couldn’t believe how many amazing conversations I had with people I hadn’t even known the day before. It’s almost like we all automatically had a bunch in common... Everyone was so enthusiastic to be there, and to talk about the work they were wearing, and where they were from, and what they were up to… I feel like all my friends were there and I just hadn’t met them yet. I kept walking by people and seeing things I recognized from Instagram, and then the artists responsible were right there! And totally down to chat! Nowhere else are people going to understand fangirling about a fellow jeweler. Not only that, they’re right there with you.

Also, people are willing to talk shop in the best way. I love understanding how other people’s work is made, and it was so amazing to share the love of a good rivet, a clever soldering connection, or a new type of alternative material. At one point, Marie-Louise Kristensen (http://m-lo.dk/) mentioned a type of two-part clay she uses in her work (Milliput). I shared my excitement with the ladies behind me. Then I had an awesome conversation about mills and lathes with Pasha Moezzi, (https://www.pashamoezzi.com/, on Instagram @pashadesigns,) whose fabulous work was on display in Adorned Spaces, the on-site pop-up show. Conversations like these are priceless, and they’re just not going to happen like this at any other event.

Speaker Bruce Pepich, Racine Art Museum and Charles A. Wustum Museum of Fine Arts, Executive Director and Curator of Collections. After a wonderful talk Mr. Pepich took time to sit with conference attendees and answer a variety of questions (including mine!)

  1. The talks. This is what the conference is supposed to be all about, right? At least I assumed so beforehand. The scheduled sessions were indeed awesome, inspiring and thought-provoking in the most enjoyable way. I was so glad that none of the programming overlapped, so I didn’t have to make the difficult decision of who to see.Thomas Mann gave a wide-ranging talk covering the different incarnations his career has had, and some of the wisdom gained along the way. He specifically addressed the challenges of today's craft scene, and how to deal with them:
    I particularly loved the sessions that focused on an individual artist’s practice and work -- I love hearing the thought process behind a piece, and it’s always so enjoyable to get this perspective from the artist themself. In particular, hearing from the early-career artists was awesome. Zachery Lechtenberg (aka Yotburd,
    https://squareup.com/market/yotburd, on Instagram @yotburd) was a highlight for me, and shared some of the theory that enriches his work. The packaging of his pieces is carefully considered to make viewers weigh the value of objects, since opening the beautifully-crafted outer artwork would destroy it, but without opening it you can’t “use” the object within. There’s also a secret code in play, so symbols from different pieces work together like a cereal box decoder ring system, creating a relationship between the works and speaking to collecting. I appreciated the variety of perspectives, as the presentations included curators, gallery people, educators, and artists in a variety of different career phases."We need the super villain (brooch), Set2", by Zachary Lechtenberg, image stolen from his Instagram @yotburd

  2. The vendor room. AHHHHH. Too much good stuff. Books, tools, demos, stones… And again, seeing this stuff with your fellow metalsmiths is just so fun. I loved being able to turn to whoever was next to me (friend or stranger)  with my latest discovery and go “this is so cool!!!” Seeing tools in person before buying is great, and the Rio Grande booth in particular had awesome demos going on all day. Most vendors also had show deals going, so even though I spent mayyyyybe more than I should have (it’s all deductible as a business expense!) I felt good about my purchases. Charon Kransen’s amazing book selection was another highlight, and the understated case full of AMAZING work by artists he represents was one of the conference’s best-kept secrets.
    Top: Erica DeMarco planned her pin swap display like a pro (on Instagram @demarcoerica)

    Bottom: My pin swap haul... wow.

  3. The pin swap. How do I even describe the marvelous frenzy that was the pin swap? Apparently they usually do it in the vendor room, but the doors didn’t open in time so everyone ended up swapping in the hallway. Then when it did move inside, there was a major bottleneck as everyone kept trying to swap in too small a space. BUT, if you have to be packed in like sardines, at least you’re surrounded by amazing pieces of art -- that can actually go home with you! I’m so thrilled with the pins I got, and am already planning to bring more next year so I can maximize my trading opportunities.

  4. The people. Again. Because hands-down the best part of the conference was meeting so many truly amazing artists and fellow enthusiasts. If the conference was just a bunch of us turned loose in a hotel ballroom for a weekend, with no other programming or events, I might still go. I came home so excited to have new friends from all over. And next year’s conference is in my home town -- Portland, OR. So, how ‘bout it? Gonna come see me next year?

 

Stay tuned for more from some of the great conversations I had at the show. I was able to sit down with Aurélie Guillaume (http://aurelieguillaume.com/new-page/, Instagram @mlleguillaume), Nikki Couppee (www.nikkicouppee.com, Instagram @nikkicouppeejewelry), and Jillian Moore (http://www.jillianmoore.net/, Instagram @phlaznatch) and more!! BE. EXCITED.

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Nice start to your blog. I am so glad to hear you had a good time!

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