Interdisciplinary. Community. Advocacy. Humor.
** A quick note before I get into the following discussion. My name is Jennifer Merchant, I am a volunteer with the Society of North American Goldsmiths. I will be posting regular discussion topics here on Crafthaus on behalf of the SNAG organization. My goal is to raise questions and instigate conversation within our membership and beyond to address topics and concerns that are important to our community. This aligns with SNAG's vision: A diverse jewelry and metals community engaging in thoughtful conversation and critical discourse while preserving tradition and embracing innovation. The SNAG community aims to be inclusive, we value the ideas and opinions of our members. I encourage you all to participate in these discussions and to offer suggestions for future topics. We want to hear from you! **
With SNAG's annual conference fast approaching, one question remains: Are you coming?
It is no secret that attendance to the SNAG conference has declined over the past few years. But why? Is the conference becoming less relevant to potential attendees, or is it simply too expensive? A quick google search results in a number of articles detailing declining numbers in conference attendance across the board. The issue SNAG faces is not uncommon. Rising travel costs compounded with increased costs involved in the production of an event itself have made it less affordable for many to attend conferences in nearly every field. However, for an organization like SNAG these financial obstacles are of greater concern. Many SNAG members are self employed or are part of a small business. Unlike large companies that have the ability to sponsor its employee's attendance to relevant conferences, most SNAG members are footing the bill for themselves. It is no secret that although artists and creative types may have more fun and feel more fulfilled with their work, it does not traditionally result in the highest of pay. Taking time away from your studio and spending a large chunk of cash on travel and registration is daunting, no matter how much you want to attend.
Online social networking and virtual gatherings have been steadily gaining popularity as a way to keep costs low while still allowing for networking and educational opportunities. While the ability to connect with a larger number of people from more places over the internet is enticing, are these connections as strong as those that we make in person? There are a number of articles and research studies that stress the importance of connecting with your peers face to face. We are able to connect with each other more profoundly in person than online. Because of this, attending a conference can be an inspirational and energizing experience. That warm feeling of being part of a community is hard to ignore when you are surrounded by actual people that share a common interest. How do we make these opportunities for face to face connection more affordable? Is the traditional conference format still valid? SNAG's board and executive director have been looking into alternatives to scale back the conference for a new format premiering in 2016 called SNAG Next. What kinds of face to face events would you like to see SNAG organizing?
SNAG produces its annual conference first and foremost to benefit the jewelry and metalsmithing community through education, networking and community involvement; however it is also an important tool in gaining financial support to keep the organization going. Many people volunteered their time to produce this year's conference in Boston. They work incredibly hard to create programing to satisfy the community's diverse membership. The conference is a great place to meet and mingle with jewelers and metalsmiths of all backgrounds.
For those interested in attending the Boston conference (May 20th-23rd), discounted online registration is available through Friday, May 1st. This year's conference is shaping up to be quite an event (check out the line-up here), I know I'm looking forward to it!
So..... Who's coming with me?
Let us know in the comments below if you will be joining us this year and what you are looking forward to most! Those that are not coming, what's stopping you?
This year will be my 20th year conference anniversary. I am such a big believer in meeting people face-to-face. Many of my closest friendships were formed at SNAG conferences and almost all of my teaching opportunities can be traced back to them, especially those at the beginning of my career. I have always loved seeing the presentations and having a chance to meet so many of my metalsmithing heroes in person. I know there are alternative options now that didn't exist 20 years ago for conference-like experiences (and many of them are great), but in my opinion, there's no substitute for a full-blown SNAG conference. From the quantity and quality of the speakers to the vendor room, the exhibitions and the events, there is something very special about these gatherings that makes them very dear to my heart.
Hello Jen and Joy. I have been to many SNAG conferences since I joined the organization in1978, missing only a few when they were scheduled when I do shows. The cost of course can be a major deterrent to attendance, but that has not been a factor for me. I have found that the cost is outweighed by the influx of inspiration each conference has afforded me. All the elements Jen mentioned have been important to my development as a jewelry maker. The friends I've made at the conferences have become part of the community that my passion/livelihood has developed. The conference format that is being planned in Asheville for 2016 is not as appealing to me as the full blown conference format. The location, of course, is a stunner, but despite what realtors will tell you, location, location, location ain't the most important element, at least for me. I want content in depth.
I feel SNAG changed so much over the last 2 decades, and seeing less metal and more non-metal materials being used, I felt SNAG didn't honor it's metalsmithing roots as much. I just have never felt that I could be part of SNAG. Another issue, is yes, the cost of traveling and participanting. Like everyone, I don't earn as much as I used to, and that has affected my business to the point, that I strictly limit what I travel. Traveling is a luxury I can't afford, and doing conventions is not feastible anymore.
You bring up a very interesting point about the changes SNAG has undergone since its inception. Perhaps this would make for an interesting future discussion topic, as SNAG has become more inclusive of jewelry made of a variety of materials. Thank you for your response Joy!
Boston will be my 3rd conference and I'm really looking forward to it! It's because of awesome opportunities like student conference scholarships and work exchange, that I have been able to attend. This year, I find the programing to be really intriguing, especially the PDS and keynote... and it's in a city I'd like to visit!
I really enjoyed that there was a SNAG get together at ACC Baltimore. I hope things similar things like that happen in the future!
Looking forward to seeing you, Nicolette!
You too, Jen!
hi all. when i joined snag in around 2005 i was just a bead maker with aspirations to be more. i wanted to be a metalsmith and eventually (i didn't even know it at the time) an enamelist. somehow i had stumbled upon metalsmith magazine and i was immediately inspired by the imagination of what they featured. materials did not matter. i see metal in all materials. i see a plastic toy, a concrete building, a piece of sculpture, and imagine it in metal. material does not matter in my world. imagination and creativity rule the day for me. i made a decision in 2008 or 2009 that i would give my time to this org as treasurer at the next election, which was 2011. i went to my first conf that year, and never looked back. i have made so many connections that i could never have imagined. people that will answer questions for me in a heartbeat. people who connect me with teaching opportunities. and the list goes on. i can never repay all the people that have helped me along the way and i will never forget any of their kindness. i truly doubt this could have happened if i had not attended conferences and volunteered for the board. service and connection are irreplaceable and i highly recommend it.
if $$ are an obstacle, there are work exchanges, people willing to share rooms, and more to help reduce the cost. there are ways and we can help you figure it out if you ask. yes, conferences can be expensive. we are trying snag next as a way to keep costs down but we are not paring down presentations/programming. we have not posted programming for 2016 yet, but i do not believe you will be disappointed and you will save $$ and still have the ability to make the connections we have all come to value so highly.
So inspiring to hear how much the conference means to those that have been going for several years. Thank you for sharing with us! You've made me even more excited about Boston =]