As the PMC Guild is gearing up for its conference in June, I want to take a few minutes to reflect back more than a decade to the first such event. The first PMC Conference was held at a small liberal arts college in Wooster, Ohio in July, 2002. Looking back, it might have been considered presumptuous to try this when the metal clay community was so small. In fact, there really wasn’t a “metal clay community” to speak of. There were dozens of artists across the country and around the world, all working more or less in isolation. We had no idea how many people to expect at that first conference, but we put together a program, sent out an announcement, and held our breath. And people came!
I remember excellent presentations, including a terrific keynote talk by Alan Bell of Rio Grande; a cocktail party on the patio, and Mitsubishi executives dishing out ice cream for our dessert. It was at that conference that I first met Jackie Truty and Jeanette Landenwitch, along with so many other long distance and email friends. Putting together a conference is a lot of work but even before it was over, we knew we’d do it again.
We decided to host a conference every other year and made plans to try a larger campus for our next gathering. In 2004 the conference was held in Albuquerque at the University of New Mexico. The city decided to get most of its annual rainfall during our outdoor dinner on the first evening and though it made things a little hectic, we were rewarded with a gorgeous rainbow.
In what was to become our pattern, the Guild staff met on the day after the conference to make plans for the next gathering. In 2006 we moved the conference to the campus of Purdue University in northern Indiana. The location was within 500 miles of three-fourths of all Americans and we thought this would make it easy for the largest number of people to drive to the conference. In addition, the campus provided excellent meeting spaces, AV equipment, and food, all at a low cost. We returned to this location for the 2008 and 2010 conferences, each time gaining a benefit from the familiarity. Each conference included some sort of exhibition, but it was in partnership with the Purdue gallery staff that we were able to host professionally installed shows that not only served the conference, but exposed hundreds of campus visitors to metal clay. It was at the 2008 conference that the participants donated charms and bought raffle tickets for assembled bracelets to benefit cancer research in the name of one of our own. A huge success, not only monetarily, but in establishing the ethos of our tribe.
Highlights of those more recent conferences are too plentiful to list, but the memories that jump quickly to my mind include Fusion Awards to Woody Carpenter, Phil London, and Jack Russell; a thrilling (and hilarious) Spoon-Making Relay Race, and a final night party with live music, door prizes, and a very tall lady.
Today the metal clay community is a vibrant and committed entity, thanks to online resources like YahooMetalclay.com, dozens of local groups, and the enthusiasm of thousands of artists. It is rewarding to think that the PMC conferences have played at least a small role in making that community a reality.