Jammin' with the Rock Stars & Metalheads: SNAG 2007

There is no substitute in life for the thrill of speaking the same language with like minds, and for 4-1/2 days I spent an unexpectedly blissful time doing just that at the Society of North American Goldsmiths conference in Memphis, TN. Alas, I have been slowly crashing back down to 'reality' ever since. I've never been interested in much of anything that is mainstream, and such a bent toward the creative and seemingly obscure equals a lifetime of not finding tons of people to relate to at parties or anywhere else for that matter. Despite the throngs of people, who take classes in gold or silversmithing during the course of their lives, I and my career choice remain ever from Mars as far as most strangers, the majority of acquaintances, and a large portion of my friends are concerned.

That all changed for a brief time, beginning when I slammed down the door to the overhead luggage compartment, moved my backpack to sit down, and the young woman in the airplane seat next to mine said, "Going to SNAG?" I held up my 6 rings near my choker and earrings, and said, "How did you guess?" with a big smirk. From that moment until my flight landed back in Atlanta Sunday night, I was in a world where not only was what I do normal, people could actually talk about what motivates us to do what we do as well as all the fun technical talk, and no one's eyes glazed over nor did anyone look bored. It was paradise (and I didn't even visit Graceland).

In part, I was there to help one of my vendors promote my DVD, which went well, and I ended up with yet another vendor for the conference as well. I watched a demo given by Mary Lee Hu, whose published work I've drooled over since I was in college, saw a slide presentation on art knives, given by Phil Baldwin, which permanently awoke my long buried desire to make sharp things in Damascene steel, and was moved beyond all belief by a presentation of work by blacksmith, Tom Joyce.

I'd seen Tom on PBS's Craft in America a few weeks ago, and while I had been familiar with some of his work, the interview and then the presentation moved me more than I can find words to express. It is rare that someone in the world of 'craft' will open up and speak of the personal inspiration behind his or her work, and hearing Tom do so gave me more courage to talk about mine particularly since there were so many parallels in what inspires me. - If having to explain what a metalsmith is (and why I'm not a jewelry designer) to people produces the glazed over look, then believe me, saying that I am mesmerized by metal because each atom I work with was, like you, me and everything else in our world, once cooked in a star, only makes people smile politely before resuming talking about themselves or finding an excuse to get away quickly. - The presentation went 45 minutes overtime, and I didn't want it to end.

Unfortunately, not having more than a couple of friends (artists and performers of course), who can relate, is painful, and the result of my not sharing more about what makes me want to get up in the morning has left me with too many morning that I didn't want to get out of bed. At SNAG I never wanted to go to bed in the first place. In fact, on this trip when I was going to catch up on sleep, since Skyler went to the beach with his Gran, I ended up staying up until sunrise most nights, talking with friend and fellow Atlanta based metalsmith, Helen Blythe-Hart. We even outlasted the third member of our entourage, fellow smith, student and friend, Lisa Winn, and, trust me, outlasting Lisa is saying something. That we three became closer and can still get together is no small thing, but the other 450 people certainly lent a warmth, support, and ambience of enthusiasm that could not follow us home.

So if meeting those greats, who have gone before me, talking ideas with people from around the world, and making important contacts with people, who were so much fun to talk with I wouldn't have even cared what their positions were, weren't enough, I discovered that I have groupies. (Yes, Elvis, move over.) In the meantime, I have accepted that I can no longer listen politely to friends, who expect me to understand their jobs and professions, yet after years of knowing them still don't get mine. Better Stellaluna be alone in the studio than ever a bat among birds. I'll probably survive until the next conference in Savannah in March, but I will be counting the days.

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