Summer Director's Report

“Did you have fun at NCECA?” just spilled out of the mouth of another curious Northern Clay Center constituent. Those of you who have attended the NCECA (National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts) conference know that while “fun” is the operative word for most attendees (I mean, how could you not have fun with thousands of your closest clay friends?), for those of us on the service side of the conference (with our offsite galleries and resource tables), there are other words seemingly more apropos. These include: inspiring, frenetic, backbreaking, belly laugh-inducing, humbling, and affirming.

Inspiring to be in the midst of over 6,000 artists, learners, educators, supporters, all with one thing in common: their passion for the ceramic arts.

Frenetic in feeling with seemingly impossible amounts of work and energy to expend in such a short period of time (NCC created an offsite gallery, in a mere 8 hours, featuring over 1300 pots by artists from across the country and our own backyard, and then packed it up three days later, in 3 hours, leaving just a bunch of boxes and stray packing peanuts).

Backbreaking as staff members stood all day, every day, greeting visitors to our booth, selling pots like hotcakes, sharing the delights of our particular institution; others sat in one of NCC’s ClayToGo fleet for 14 hours per day, driving from Minneapolis to Portland and back again.

Belly laugh-inducing as by the end of day one, NCC staff members were already operating on little sleep and too much caffeine. Throw in one mansion, at which all of the traveling NCC staff members and a gaggle of groupies stayed, and laughter wasthe sound likely to ring louder than any other.

Humbling as this convening is in its 51st year. Countless talented and passionate makers—from across the country, across the stratosphere of ceramic techniques, across age, ethnicity, and gender—were all crammed into one little city. In one single day, in fact, the conference had shown light on emerging talent in the ceramic arts featuring six emerging makers, two of which have already graced the halls of NCC—Brooks Oliver and Jessica Brandl. The day was capped by notable maker, past Regis Master, and long-time educator, advocate, and artist, Jim Melchert, who discussed shared and unshared values of makers and patrons through the consideration of three Hindu Gods: Vishnu, Brahma, and Shiva.

Affirming to know that Northern Clay Center has its home in a community of clay makers and supporters in a state that values so deeply the contributions of its creative citizens: Minnesota. It was further affirming to learn that Minnesota, specifically Minneapolis, was selected as the host site for the 2019 NCECA conference.

I was invited to serve as one of two on-site liaisons for the 2019 conference, and am absolutely thrilled at the opportunity to work alongside my co-liaison, Keith Williams (artist and educator at Concordia College in St. Paul), and the board and staff of NCECA, to showcase our gorgeous city, and, of course, our vast ceramic and cultural community. I’m thankful to Northern Clay Center for making this opportunity possible and for supporting my efforts over the next two years!

Mark your calendars, folks, for March of 2019! We are bringing NCECA back to Minneapolis!

Sarah Millfelt
Executive Director

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