I have to agree with Vince that Pittsburgh is a visually arresting city.
I didn’t expect the color, the variety of old brick and new glass, clean
streets, striking architecture and surprising public art, wide rivers,
dramatic bridges, and neighborhoods on every horizon that climb a

I drove my van to NCECA Wednesday afternoon, just a 4 hour trek, with
Patrick Green and the unstoppable Edith Franklin. Grad students Joanne
and Reem followed in their own car, and Jay and Jonathan came a day

Patrick and I dropped Edith at the Westin to find her traditional roomie
Barbara Brown, and then we rolled our little suitcases into the splendid
old Omni hotel. I must say my daily life is not quite so
chandelier-intensive. Grand ceilings, polished wood, brass and luxurious
trappings… we were on the 14th floor, and I couldn’t see the street
from my room. We did have a lovely view of some decorative stonework on
the roof edge across from us, though. Patrick was a long way from his
misty mountaintop in Tennessee.

Joanne and Patrick and I shared a lovely room, and Reem graced us with
her presence for part of the time. I think it was significant that the
bed made the biggest impression on me: long, fat white pillows, soft
white sheets and a fat duvet with a white cover. I arrived at NCECA
already really tired, after a marathon of
wood-salt-loading-firing-unloading late nights, and I stood in the hotel
room for a long moment considering that I could spent the whole three
days in that bed, and nobody would know the difference.

I did some-and-some.. skipped anything too early in the morning, let
myself sit and enjoy conversations without feeling like I needed to be
running to the next place and the next. Old bull philosophy. I left my
camera in the suitcase, and my laptop in the van.

The clayart room was a joy… emails I could connect a face to, faces I
am so glad to see year after year, an interesting array of pots, and
random and surprising generosities. I came home with heirloom tomato
seeds, two kinds of salt licorice, a couple of delightful little pots —
and I got Jean Lehman’s mug in the exchange! Woohoo for me!

(Vince, Barbara Brown got your box…)

The show at Standard Clay was delightful, and Carla did a heck of a job.
The Orton Cone Box show was the best I had seen, and I always enjoy the
La Mesa tableware show. A great Bruce Cochrane piece, and Lana Wilson’s
new work is fun as well.

On the advice of unnamed sources — and a quick perusal of the catalog
— I skipped some of the bigger shows. I am not entirely dismissive of
disturbing, ugly or concept-over-craftsmanship works, but neither am I
willing to spend the day on a bus to visit ceramic pigs in bondage or a
butthole with teeth. I was more interested in seeking out the work that
makes me inspired, or covetous. The Artstream gallery is still the best
show in town.

Reem Gibreil gave a fascinating slide lecture as part of the grad school
sessions… Lee Burningham and Nan Kitchens blew away a room full of
people with a slide documentary of what the high school kids were able
to do in a week (an incredibly detailed 16 foot wall mural) … I got to
talk to Janet Koplos about some issues and ideas for my seminar class
presentation… gathered signatures of potters, both famous and
soon-to-be-famous, in my little autograph book… (and one… well,
never mind.) I spent time with the old cliff-jumping boys from
Appalachian Center for Craft (now on to new jobs in other places) —
bought a fat Chinese paint brush, a sponge tipped throwing stick, cheap
but tricky Chinese Clayart tools, and a subscription to Ceramics Art and
Perception and Ceramics Technical. I had squirreled away money for NCECA
and then Patrick got us a travel grant from the art department, so
instead of thinking ahead (two more tuition payments) I splurged. No
regrets. (Yet.)

I had a nice lunch with Tony C., and another with the EMU grads, Dave
McBeth and our own EMU prof Lee. When we were talking about how your
teachers’ voices affect your work, Lee laughed himself silly over Jay’s
image of we grad students (like cartoon characters), with “this little
Italian woman on one shoulder, and this skinny Chinese guy on the

Again, agreeing with what has been said: a few of the panel sessions I
attended, with high hopes based upon the titles, turned out to be
panelists reciting their resumes and talking about their own work,
apropos to nothing as far as I could see. I am easily disappointed,
though; half the classes in my college course catalogs years ago left me
sighing later… wonderful topics that lose all appeal when presented as
pre-chewed bites.

Patrick was happy to see his old friend Dave McBeth. The EMU grad
students stopped by the clayart room, were made to feel welcome, and
ended up connecting with clayart minds who knew a lot about whatever it
was they wanted to know, from paper clay to glazes to the best place for
good beer.

With my kids at home as big as they are (and, of necessity, more
independent now than they were when I first started school) I had no
worries about how things would go at home without me. I was only as far
away as the cell phone in my pocket, and I got calls all through the
weekend asking about the area of a polygon, telling me what came in the
mail, or just checking in to see what I was up to. When Connor reported
that Molly was on the computer reading LOLcats, Tyler was doing play
station, and he was building with legos, I said, “Who’s in charge of
sighing and crying because you miss your momma?” Without skipping a beat
he responded, “Oh, we do that in shifts.” They like to humor me. My 14
year old redhead is just now taller than I am, and even little Molly is
nine already.

I called Jeff at work, from NCECA, when he was having a really bad day.
I asked him what he wanted me to come home with, he said, “A job!”

I am grateful for the encouragement I got from clayart friends about my
impending MFA show, and the good wishes for whatever comes after. It
feels to me exactly like being in the 8th month of pregnancy: I’m
excited, preparing, but also weary with the whole process. I’m looking
forward to the “due date” because it’s going to be a wonderful show…
but dreading the “labor pain” required before it’s all done.

Because many asked: my “due date” is the first week in June. I picked
the Ford Hall venue instead of the student union so I could bring my own
food. My reception will be Monday evening and the show will come down
Friday. I’ll have a postcard, and I’ll blab it on clayart as always.

Overall, and with the short notice to organize after New Orleans fell
through, I’d say NCECA was pretty successful. And while the schedule may
look like “not much for studio potters”, as some have said, the moments
I remember from any NCECA years later have more to do with the pots I
saw, the friends I enjoyed, good restaurants, bad jokes, thought
provoking conversations and a general recharging of the creative

And now, I need to get my butt to work. I have two presentations to
plan, a term paper to write, and I am late for my Clay Times deadline
(sorry Polly!) — and tomorrow, it’s back to homeschooling, bill paying
and the long drive to EMU.

Kelly in Ohio (currently willing to relocate. Want a resume?)