Last night, as I was researching this blog post, I found myself watching back-to-back YouTube videos of ceramicists in action.
Truthfully, I went to YouTube looking for videos of our presenters so that in writing today I could tell you a little more about them and their work - research I tell you. But, as is the nature of such things, I was, in no time at all, down the proverbial rabbit hole.
A Japanese master at the wheel... slow and quiet, every gesture considered.
A young(er) Japanese 'pioneer' digging his own clay and making a beautiful ash glaze from local birch - wood firing - of course.
I watched while I ate my dinner - admiring technique and happily looking for tips, but it was the story of a hand-builder / sculptor that stopped me in my tracks as it were, fork poised mid-air. Shot over time, the video traces the evolution of a work from press moulding through surface treatment and firing, to final assembly - no great narrative novelty there, but it got me thinking about
a) the pleasure of watching artists at work and
b) the role of conferences (such as this) in the age of youtube.
Why travel across the country, or the world for that matter, to see someone or something you might just as well find on the internet? - with bonus cat videos for diversion.
In all honesty, I am probably not the person to speak for the benefits of live demonstrations. I get way too twitchy at these big, exciting events full of my people (clay people!) to sit quiet and still and watch a master at work. For me, the thrill of the conference is going to talks and exhibitions; hearing new ideas; hearing new takes on old ideas; seeing new work and seeing 'in the flesh' work that I've only ever seen in pictures; catching up with my old clay friends and making new clay friends and drinking beer and shouting with (at?) said clay friends about the talks and the exhibitions and the work and the ideas - often times waving my arms about way too excitedly.
And then there's all the extra stuff - the bus trips to satellite shows, the workshops and the performances, the market stalls and the sideshows, the dinners and the beer (I think I already mentioned the beer) and best of all, the many different versions of Stuff On Fire* which mercifully, continue outside of demonstration hours, meaning our wonderful demonstrators won't miss out on ALL the fun.
Sergei Isupov, Karasil Oy
Regardless of what it is that excites each of us in our different ways, I think it is the 'in the flesh' factor that makes a conference worthwhile. At a time when our lives can feel consumed by the screen, is there anything better than to be alive and truly amongst it?
Anna-Marie Wallace, Made OF Australia, photographer: Michelle Eabry
Today, it is with great pleasure that we announce our first round of national and international presenters, panelists, exhibitors, and demonstrators; a diverse group of makers and thinkers, movers, and shakers who we trust will speak to the breadth of the ceramic experience, and beyond. From the opening keynote address by SAM director Rebecca Coates, through presentations and discussions by the likes of Kevin Murray and Damon Moon, to the keynote address by our resident philosopher and the mind behind our theme words, Jeff Malpas, there are bound to be an abundance of ideas explored - ie plenty for us to shout about!
Distinguished Professor, Dr Jeff Malpas
For those of you who prefer a more gentle, hands/eyes-on approach the demonstrations of Elisa Helland-Hansen, Amy Kennedy and Sergei Isupov are sure to keep you enthralled.
Amy Kennedy, Baer, 2017, photographer: Chris Saunders
For the full list of presenters (so far) and further details - see the presenters page of the website.
And never fear, this is only the first round - expect to see more internationals, more Australians, more potters, more sculptors, more kiln builders, more thinkers and writers, more makers - and yes, even some of the promised rabble rousers!!
See you in May next year!
* more details re Stuff On Fire coming soon