I've spent the last few days deliberating on what I'd like my final post to address. There are many other bloggers out there who covered exhibitions, lectures, and events very well. From the onset I knew that Anthony Tammaro in particular would be addressing events in a more overarching way, and he's now posted many video interviews and exhibition images for those of you who would like to see more. Flickr and facebook are also now bursting with posted images for those of you who waste as much of your time as I do online.
Because this project was intended to address the conference experience for those of us in our first 5 years post-degree or for those who are simply removed from academia in general, I would like to go into what the conference offers and could offer for us. Anyone who has attended as a student and then continued after will find the differences painfully obviously. I've mentioned this before, but I think it needs restating--there are very limited exhibition opportunities once you cease to be a student. This year I was rejected from the handful of applicable exhibitions I did enter. I don't feel like speculating on why this happened because the variables in acceptance v. rejection are innumerable, but I want everyone to know I didn't just throw in the towel. And I would suggest all other practicing artists do the same--if you weren't in exhibitions this year, so what. Try again next year. You could not have a better captive audience than the SNAG Conference. And if you are summarily rejected, you should be bringing work anyway! I've consistently brought and worn work for the five years I've attended the conference. Every year some opportunity came out of having my work on hand which is why I've been so upset to find MFA students and recent graduates not doing this! I cannot stress enough that being proactive about your work is a necessity.
The conference happens to take place every year in a city that has been thinking about our organization, looking at art jewelry and precious objects, and getting generally riled up in advance of our arrival. This will give you an opening you would never have otherwise. Take advantage of this climate when you go and have a plan.
Thanks to some prodding from Brigitte, I scheduled a meeting with Suzanne Sippel, Asher Gallery Retail Supervisor at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft. Several exhibitions took place at HCCC this year, and the Asher Gallery located within is a very active retail store for craft in general. They have the guidelines for their review process here. For the sake of brevity I'll just mention that it is a fairly typical review process that requires a packet with quality images, a statement, and what may be a fairly long wait due to the process and mailing delays. I would also like to point out that HCCC is rare in that it is so upfront with this information. Many institutions are less transparent and you may be looking for a backdoor if you want to approach them. I decided to follow Brigitte's advice to contact them, and the result was that the entire process was waived due to circumstance--show up in person, bring the work and information, and let's have a face-to-face talk. I found myself wondering why we weren't all doing this every year at every conference! Why aren't we busting the doors down of every venue (and I mean in the most polite and professional of ways.)
In meeting with Suzanne I learned that she had expected us to be storming the gates when in truth, I was one of two artists who met with her. And Suzanne seemed genuinely saddened by this. They had decided to waive their normal review policy and take advantage of what would surely be available--a constant stream of makers. She also echoed my concern that so many people were not wearing work on the gallery night which made it confusing to her and the rest of the staff at HCCC. They had not been at other conference events throughout the weekend so they couldn't go by who they recognized. They were not even sure if they were seeing SNAG people or others from out on the town given that our even overlapped a nationally renowned photography convention. I don't want to impose a needless guilt trip, but I hope hearing this will cause everyone to rethink how they approach next year's conference. If you have work and you want to exhibit it, why not approach venues when you are already traveling?
The end result is that I will be sending work to the Asher Gallery at HCCC in late August or early September, and we were in agreement that my work differed from much of what was available which can be of benefit for both of us. I was given a rare opportunity to discuss specific work by material, scale, and price point with the manager who knows her customers well. If only others had been able to take advantage of this opportunity. No, they did not broadcast an open call because they aren't crazy and didn't want to bring chaos on themselves. But I think they were reasonable in assuming conversations would come up organically as they should have. There is no hand-holding once you finish your degree, and the paradigm of "managers" who will do this for you doesn't fit our field and is already an anachronism in others. If you're lucky you will find generous people like Brigitte on occasion who give you well timed and gentle prodding, but ultimately you are the best asset your work can have. Take initiative. Wear it at home and when you travel, but especially when you are attending a conference for what you do! Be prepared with images, a statement, and a current resume when you find yourself setting out on this kind of trip.
Or you may find yourself with boxes of work sitting around with no place to go.
Student Slide Show at SNAG HOUSTON, posted by Arthur Hash
Bruce Metcalf on the generational shift occurring at SnagAnthony Tammaro interviews Gwynne Rukenbrod, Curator @ Houston Center for Contemporary Craft.SNAG Houston 2010: Exhibition in MotionSarah AbramsonHelen Drutt Interview ------------------------------------------------------------------------- Jillian @ SNAG Houston:
I'm exhausted, I feel like my body has spent the last week in the dryer with a load of gym shoes, and my to-do list seems to grow exponentially longer every day since I've returned. A new opportunity to show in Berlin next month means that I won't have much of a rest this week.
The SNAG conference only ended three days ago, and already my memory has become hazy. I've started a Flickr group for everyone to post pictures, but it's secretly to help jog my memory. I've returned several times to notes I made both during the conference and at the airport to try and compose something of a cohesive wrap up. I must preface everything by saying that for me this conference was truly more than I could handle. A large portion of this is my fault as I entered it with a "say yes" approach, and found myself in so far over my head that I never seemed to feel completely present at any moment. Some stretches of the conference are a blur, and I regret not having the time to talk more with friends both old and new in a more meaningful way.
Between my attempts to keep the blog from slipping out of my hands and the commitments of the work exchange, I was in an uphill battle the entire time. And I gradually slept less and less every night trying my best to make the most of the whole experience.
As a result, I did not make it to nearly as many of the lectures as I'd hoped and I found later that despite my best efforts I still managed to miss some of the exhibitions. I will say that some very important goals were achieved, and that next year I will redouble my efforts. I've learned what the limit of my social abilities are, and plan to severely scale down next time!
In the plus column, I was able to carve out a moment to meet Sarah Holden and execute a trade we had planned beforehand. Later I managed to sneak off with her for an hour and meet her friend Caitlin Driver. We sat on green grass in the sun and just talked for awhile about work, school, and the tragedy of a breadless sandwich.
The trade with Sarah is just one example of the kind of opportunities the conference presents. We all spend the rest of the time connecting thanks to various internet incarnations, but the opportunity to meet face-to-face can be rare. Some of you may find yourself nestled in academia, or living in a city that has a thriving craft/art jewelry scene. But for those of you (like myself) who live in geographic dead zones, things move differently. Iowa City is dear to me, but it does not afford the opportunities of major urban areas. My friend Satomi Kawai and I are a critique group of two, and we make the most of what we have. But having the opportunity to show work to so many other artists/gallerists/curators once a year is invaluable. SOFA Chicago is fun, but I'm more of a tourist there. It's extremely commercial and no one is looking for new makers--they're on the hunt for new clients. I go to be incognito and see work--the majority of it is absolutely terrible by the way.
The SNAG Conference offers all of us the chance to get out of our studio, put on some real clothes for once, and wear our work around all those other people who do just what we do. And I was really sad this year to see so many people foregoing the wearing of their work. I spoke to MANY students in their last year of the MFA who expressed reluctance at bringing and wearing work. It seemed that they were all waiting for some kind of green light that would let them know when it was okay to take a more proactive position in their careers. I do not want to speculate on why this is because it is messy and I have my own biased guesses. What I will say is that each of them were artists who's work I knew from facebook, flickr, or their websites and they had no reason to feel timid. It was good work that I had been looking forward to seeing in person, and I was so sad to find that they felt insecure or intimidated in the face of the conference. It's one thing to feel that a body of work is developing and needs to grow more before you share it, but if you can't wear your work that you're happy with to SNAG then where can you wear it? No one is going to pluck you from obscurity and put you out there in the limelight (with the possible exception of Brigitte Martin!) I hope next year to see more people being proactive and bringing work with them. I have had so many great opportunities come out of wearing work at the conference, and I am sad that others are missing similar experiences.
There's still far more to address, but I've come to my limit today. I thought I was in good shape when I woke up yesterday, but I realize now it was just a little post-SNAG euphoria. Today I feel like lumpy potatoes.
What are your thoughts on wearing work both the the conference and in your day-to-day life? A lot of rhetoric is out there about wearing work, so why aren't people following through?
So most of you may have heard about my action-packed adventure involving the mysterious disappearance of my Express-Mail-Guaranteed-Overnight-Arriving-at-Noon-the-Next-Day -Package. You know, the package that had all of my giant and hard to take on a plane work? And my Swap Pins? And a lot of other wonderful things like a toothbrush. Yes, I realize that it was a crazy plan. But I've heard horror stories of lost checked luggage, and I thought I was choosing the lesser of two evils. When you have to fly with a digital camera and laptop and you only own undersized secondhand luggage, your options are limited.
It is apparently coming today, which is little comfort given that the Pin Swap was LAST NIGHT! But many people were so generous in accepting IOUs in exchange for pins. And I did get some shots of hot swapping action for you.
My wonderful roommates for the night, Emily Watson and Francesca Vitali! And the Two Roses! John is skeptical of my advances, Corliss looks relaxed but sadly blurry...
Gorgeous pins by Mary Hallam-Pearse, Liz Steiner, and Amanda Outcalt. I'm so sorry, but I don't know who the third person is. If you do, please tell me and I'll include it!
The illustrious Brigitte Martin, queen of Crafthaus and all around fabulous woman! She saved me from the public panic attack I was in the middle of having after returning from the post office empty handed. And here she is installing a rubber chicken.
And finally a melee shot!
To all of those who received IOUs, my package should arrive today. If, for some reason it does not appear and has fallen into some black hole, IOUs can only be cashed in after I'm released from prison following my murderous Post Office rampage.
Crafthaus blogger Jillian Moore reporting from SNAG Houston !
Jillian Moore, Iowa City, IA
My goal in blogging the SNAG Conference this year is to provide the perspective of an Emerging Artist on a tight budget in a particularly hostile economy. Unlike many conference attendees, I am neither a student nor a participant in academia, having completed my MFA in the Spring of 2008. I attend the conference annually because it gives me a chance to take a break from being a studio hermit and see what’s happening in the field—the good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s also a perfect opportunity to rub elbows with other artists, gallery owners, and collectors. I hope to give non-attendees, both in the field of jewelry and metalsmithing as well as those working in other media, an idea of what this particular conference experience is like. To offer a wide spectrum of views on the conference I’ll be interviewing attendees from all aforementioned elbow rubbing categories.
If you’re interested in getting in touch with me, either at the conference or before you join me in a mad rush to the airport, let me know. You can e-mail me at email@example.com, send me a message on my Crafthaus page, or leave a comment in the blog itself !
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