BeCON’s over and done, my creativity is stirred, my glassjones are bubbling, and I’m bubbling over with new glassist friends. Here’s a wrap-up of my 2011 BeCON reports:
But in case the thought of reading all that stuff makes you wince, I’ll hit the highlights here.
Hottest topic: 3D printing
I’ve already mentioned this in a previous report, but most of the buzz was generated by the idea that you could ditch traditional casting/forming methods and simply “print” your glass form. People who hadn’t taken Steve Brown’s low-tech 3D printing class were trying to catch those who had, to learn how to do it. I predict a LOT more exploration of this from many, many attendees.
Best networking location: Hotel Modera’s courtyard lounge
It was outside in the (rare) sunshine, surrounded by firepits, and the artists came and went until ‘way past my bedtime. I hooked up with half of BeCON there the night before it started, and had a ball.
Best celebrity sighting: Ed Harris
He came downstairs at the riverfront McCormick & Schmick’s (twice) dressed in a light brown 1940s-style suit, cap and bow-tie, and finally headed out into the breezy summer evening.
We figured he was with movie crews shooting near Powells bookstore, or he coulda been there for the (pretty good) food. And, yes, I did TOO see him, Brenda! (which reminds me…)
Best houseguests: Brenda Griffith and Tadashi Torii of Siyeh Studios in Atlanta
We (or at least I) had a ball, they bought meals and wine, talked late into the night with me about important stuff and just generally were a delight to be around. I’m still not convinced about the twins separated at birth part, Brenda, but it sure feels right.
Best pre-opening reception dinnerjoint: Blue Hour
The Blue Hour restaurant is across the street from Bullseye Gallery, and if you hit up the happy hour it’s even affordable. The spicy chickpeas, goat cheese fonduta and hamburger sliders ranked high on the popularity scale.
Best chuckle: Pic-snapping on the factory floor
On the last night of the conference we wound through a self-guided factory tour which landed us in front of the guys pouring and rolling glass sheet. They’d raise a ladle of hot glass, and a couple dozen cameras would raise too, snapping away.
It was a rare treat–Bullseye generally doesn’t let you photograph in the factory–but I soon found I was more interested in taking pictures of the picture-takers than of the glass.
Best little art show: The tiny exhibit in the loft at the Bullseye Resource Center
The work was excellent; I would have expected to see at least some of it in the main gallery crossover show. But definitely go upstairs to see it if you get the chance.
Cleverest ploy: Dan, waving pom-poms
The conference ends with a BBQ (they run ribs and chicken through the annealing lehr and we dine and party in the factory), and the end of the BBQ is a group photo of conference attendees. Previous BeCONs have had most of the Bullseye employees herding artists–worse than cats–and getting pretty frustrated in the process.
This time, BE owner Dan Schwoerer jumped in with pom-poms waving, leading a parade of drummers and flagwavers who danced us all outside in one swell foop, then gave us an excellent drum concert to keep us there. How could you NOT assemble outside? (And with a little manipulation, I suspect I could turn the above photo into a modern-day Starry Night…)
Best-tasting: Jerry’s limoncello
You’d think, with my beloved Portland Farmers Market right next door on BeCON Saturday, I’d have selected, say, Monteillet’s fresh chevre or those delightful raspberries or the handmade cherry-nut chocolates or… but heck! I EXPECT that stuff.
What I didn’t expect was Jerry Jensen’s detour to his boat to give us all a taste of his home-made limoncello. I doubt you could remain standing very long with a whole glassful, but one sip sent me to lemonade-on-steroids heaven for about 15 minutes. Imagine using that stuff in a lemon torte…
Best suggestion for next year: A stopwatch
Heavens knows I’m inclined to run on when talking about myself (the recommended length for a blogpost is 300 words or less, and mine have introductions longer than that), but if you ask artists to talk about themselves without a gong, prepare for overruns.
Most of the time I’m pretty forgiving of that stuff (not being completely hypocritical), but when all that’s keeping me from the Portland Farmers Market is a re-meander down the last five years of someone’s artistic evolution, well…thank your lucky stars you’re not between me and the door. A five-minute warning or, better yet, a dress rehearsal, might help.
Biggest startlement (and maybe biggest quandary): Keeping abstraction in context
I saw and very much liked the crossover art which made its debut at Bullseye Gallery on the conference’s opening night, but it turned out that what I saw really had very little to do with what was there.
Some of the artists in that show also presented at the conference and, with few exceptions, my perception of their work changed radically after I heard the backstories. And I wasn’t the only one; several attendees headed back to the gallery to re-view the work after Friday and Saturday’s presentations.
Generally, I want a creative work to stand on its own, without a book of instructions. So if I see a piece of glass with a hole in it, I appreciate the void, the texture, the orientation in space…and move on. I guess I take the straight path to the glass-plus-hole.
The artist, though, goes on a long, circuitous journey of conceiving, defining, subtracting, revising and simplifying… to get to a chunk of glass with a hole. The value-add is in the journey, but I’m not sure the audience knew much about that part, so some of us didn’t see it.
How does a gallery inject context into a chunk of glass with a hole in it? Beats me; this is why I don’t own a gallery.
Biggest disappointment (aside from the faces I didn’t see there): More art, less tech
Given the subject (crossover art media), the high emphasis on conceptual artstuff wasn’t a huge surprise, but I really do look to Bullseye for technical expertise. What was there–a discussion of fabrication troubles with large-scale works, unexpected difficulties with seemingly simple fusing projects, a look at future technologies–was excellent. I simply wanted more of it.
Speaking of glasstech, slightly snarky aside: Years ago I took a class at Bullseye where I tack-fused and stacked a whole bunch of sheet glass into a deep, dimensional block. When the block came out it was absolutely delightful except for the draggy squarish bubbles trapped between layers.
Possibly the fiber paper had left a residue, I asked? Nope; it was my fault because I hadn’t cleaned my glass properly, they said. Rankled a bit, so it was kinda fun to hear BE explaining the cause of draggy squarish, non-champagne-like bubbles trapped between the layers of one artist’s work: Thinfire residue, trapped between layers. Heh-heh.
And then I lehr-b-qued with artists who had exactly the opposite view of the glasstech at BeCON: “It was really, really great this year…except for all that technical stuff.” Sigh. I guess you can’t win…
Biggest surprise: You guys read
And I mean that in the very nicest way. I was totally astonished at the number of strangers who came up to me at the conference and said, “I read your blog!” (And a couple who could actually recite some of the more, er, pungent passages from memory).
This blog is about a decade old now. It started as a way for me to access my glass notes wherever I was, and I didn’t particularly care if anyone read it. The idea that so many really do read this is kinda scary but lots of fun. Thank you!
Best thing of all: The people
I should think it obvious; despite all the (huge amount of) effort that goes into the conference program, the best thing about BeCON is, was and will probably always be the opportunity to meet, talk with and befriend fellow glassists. I think I put maybe 40 faces to the names of friends on the blog, Warmglass, Facebook and other online sports, and that was very, very cool.