I really enjoyed all of the panel discussions. Even though the topic of each discussion was different and pertained to the theme of the day, all seemed to lead to a core discussion of the artistic voice. This was the common thread woven through the fabric of the conference – the discovery, the expression and the cultivation of your unique voice in your art.
Day One brought “Hallmarks of Craftsmanship” with Jeff Dever, Rachel Carren, Sarah Shriver, Alison Lee and Donna Kato on the panel. What constitutes fine craftsmanship? Most agreed that besides being finished well, a piece needs to say something. I have been doing a lot of thinking about exactly what this means. I do agree that there needs to be a connection between the artist and the piece they create. That is what infuses a piece with spirit and interest. But does there necessarily need to be a connection between that piece and every viewer? Not necessarily so because everyone has different perceptions and tastes and a piece might not attract all viewers. I think that the most important part is what the artist thinks and how they feel about their piece. Then there was an interesting discussion about how making a living with your art can affect what you produce. The responsibilities of paying the bills might not afford an artist the time and energy to get deeper with their pieces. They also have to take into consideration what will sell in their designated market. I know that the responsibilities of my day job definitely affect the amount of time I can spend playing, exploring and experimenting.
Day Two’s discussion, “Inspiration, Originality, and Infringement” was again moderated by Jeff Dever. Joining him on the panel were Elise Winter, Thomas Mann and Dan Cormier. While Jeff’s work is clearly inspired by the beautiful forms in nature, the other 3 panel members talked about how their work has been inspired more by sitting down and working with the material. “Getting your butt in the chair” as Alison Lee says. There was also some discussion about teaching a technique you’ve developed and how once you teach it, you no longer own it. Some artists choose not to teach or stop using a certain technique once they have taught it in a class or workshop. Everyone agreed that carrying a sketchbook/journal was essential to the documenting and development of ideas as they come to you. I love journaling and sketching in my notebook and feel it really helps my creative flow.
Day Three brought Tim McCreight to present “Design Decisions: Good, Better, Best” What a lot of fun that was! We all got a little clear ziplock packet filled with geometric shapes of different colors. Tim had larger versions of these shapes and he carefully arranged a design on a magnetic board. He then invited Donna Kato and Seth Savarick up to change the design. What a great idea to jumpstart the design process and, more importantly to me, just play. I love to play.
Tomorrow is the return of my Saturday Morning Tea but I will continue my Synergy thoughts on Sunday…
Very interesting panel discussions, Karen! I’ve often thought about the idea that a piece should ‘say something’… Since most of my work is canework constructions of abstract designs (geometrics, kaleidoscopes, various patterns), it’s really not conveying a ‘message’ as might a goddess pendant, photo transfer of a person, animal or landscape, or polymer clay
piece incorporating cultural symbols/icons . I can TOTALLY relate to the artists who said their work has been inspired by sitting down and working with the material, ie, “Getting your butt in the chair!” My favorite term for this process is Mike Buesseller’s ‘farting around’.
I know what you mean, Dora. Many times I’ve sat my butt in the chair without knowing exactly what I was going to do and it just starts to happen, you know?
I wonder – couldn’t a piece be conveying a simple message like I love this color or I love this shape with that shape? Robert Dancik talked about using recognizable common symbols like cultural icons, etc. in your piece and how, since they’re so well known, that could convey a message that might not necessarily be “you” or what you intended. Interesting…