Tuesday, September 29, 2009

to Kansas and back, a recap

I've been struggling to go through the photos and find the time to write, but if I don't just sit down and do this it probably won't happen all by itself!

In the interest of simplicity, because I am posting these pics on an engraving forum, all photos are HERE:
GRS Grand Masters weekend 2009
Taking pics of people is not my specialty, being rather shy about that, so who and what I ended up photographing is really sort of random. I didn't take all that many pics. Bad me.

Several months ago I received an invitation to the Grand Masters weekend at GRS (engraving tool maker and engraving class center) in Emporia, Kansas. I debated some. The trip wasn't cheap, plus it meant missing being present at the Draft Horse Classic show. But I decided that going to Kansas made a lot of sense, as it would give me a chance to do some networking with other people in the business, hopefully meet new people, get some pointers, etc. It did all that. Plus it was fun.

My friend Rod C drove down here from Mendocino on Thursday afternoon. You may recall I was up there last fall to purchase some engraving equipment. We had the same flight out of Sacramento early on Friday morning. I got three hours of sleep Thursday night, which is most definitely NOT enough. We left the house at 3:30am. Ewwww. The flights were uneventful, and completely full. I dozed a bit on the first leg of the flight, which I suppose was a good thing but I really felt crappy by the time we landed in Denver. I'd been remarkably perky a few hours before! I loaded up on tea and a bagel in Denver and then it was off to Kansas City on another full flight.

It was bright and sunny and pleasant weather in Kansas City. This was the first time I'd ever rented a car. They claimed not to have anything in the class of car I rented that had nifty features like air conditioning and power locks (really? ALL those cars in the lot and not a single compact that isn't totally manual? I think not, but whatever) so they put me in a Chevy HHR. Meh. I wouldn't buy one. The windows are weird and small and the view is pretty reduced, but it drove okay. Did you know you are apparently supposed to bring your auto insurance card when you rent a car? I sure didn't know that, so I was driving "without proof of insurance" all weekend, and the rental lady seemed a little uptight about that. Oh well.

Somehow I expected Kansas to be flat and treeless, but it was really quite lovely. Slightly rolling, very green, lots of trees, cute farms, and lots of corn fields. Seeing as how I was driving without proof of insurance I decided to try to be as upstanding of a citizen as possible, so I refrained from taking photos while driving. Rod took a few on my camera. Gradually, over the 2-hour drive to Emporia, the clouds rolled in and the sky went dark, and it started to rain just as I pulled into the driveway of the hotel. Good timing!

I had arranged to share a room with Amy A, who I had never met before. She was there when I arrived (I almost just said "cooped in") and we hit it off quite well. After relaxing a bit and freshening up, it was over to the GRS center for the BBQ that evening. What a cool place. I would have loved to look around at all the various tools in the warehouse. Everything was pushed aside and made a big open space in the middle where they had set up tables and chairs. There were something like 120 people there that night, I think that's what I was told. I saw a lot of familiar faces, people I have met in Reno the last two years, and met some in person for the first time who I have talked to on the online forums. Everyone was so welcoming, it's hard not to instantly feel at home with that crowd. The food was great, the people were friendly, and after dinner a few of the guys brought out guitars and played a little music. By the time it ended (11pm I think) was running on fumes. I actually slept well in a hotel, whaddya know.

But by golly it was hard to get up at 8am, because that's really 6am to me, and I had barely gotten any sleep the last couple of nights and beside that I am sooooo not a morning person. From about 9 to noon it was kinda like show and tell over at GRS. Some people brought portfolios, some brought sample work, some had work in progress. There were tables set up to put things out for viewing, and it was a time to see what everyone else is doing and talk about our work, and my oh my there was some bling to ogle.

They kicked us out from noon til 2, so I jumped in the car with Brian P, Roger B, and Amy A, and we went to some place called Blue Stem, at least I think that's what it was called. It's a feed store/tool store/western wear store/hunting store/etc kinda all rolled into one. Must be a real novelty for them city folk. I quickly determined there was nothing I needed to go home with (but was MORTIFIED to see the so-called "scrimshaw knives" in the case that was nothing more than poorly printed images laminated onto plastic knife handles. Oh gag me. Scrimshaw? Please people. I'll show you scrimshaw. Anyway, I spent the majority of the time chatting with Roger, who I had just met that day. Then it was off somewhere for lunch. We arrived right as most everyone else was leaving. It's all good. Yummy chicken quesadillas!

Then it was back over to GRS until 5pm for more show and tell and chit chat. It's fun to sit around and talk to people and get to know new people, and of course I greatly enjoy hearing what people have to say about my work.

People who work in this field, who do art and scrim and engraving, we are so isolated. I mean, it's great to have the online forums (that's not sarcastic, it really is great) but it's a whole nothing thing to meet people in person, and at least for me, I NEED that. I need that inspiration of seeing and handling other people's work, and sitting down and having a talk in person about how to make it in this business, etc. I thrive on that. I feel refueled, inspired, and more confident. I got some ideas on how to set up my work bench so that I can engrave metal (I haven't been doing that because the current setup, though comfy for scrim, is awful for metalworking) and was told again and again that I would be a natural for engraving metal. We talked about pricing, that's always a hard subject. I harp and harp on people in the fine art world to raise prices, it kills me to see people working too cheap. And yet that is exactly what I am doing with scrimshaw. I don't even make half of what I need to make in order to survive, because I know what some other people charge for scrim and it's insanely cheap and I've been too chicken to set my prices at something that actually works for ME. Well screw that. I'm good at what I do, and I deserve not to be broke all the time. I cannot get ahead at my current pricing. So it's going up. When I'm approached at something like this and told repeatedly "You are really good, you need to raise your prices A LOT because you are too good to be working so cheap", that kinda tells me I really need to do it!


Then there were two hours to unwind and have a snack and change into the fancy clothes, and then it was off to the reception in town. It was held at a recently-restored 1920s era theater, which was gorgeous! I fit right in with my new nice clothes (yay!) and enjoyed the company of everyone else. There were talks by local art-related people, and then an award was presented to Kim P, who had the original idea to start the Grand Master program years ago. Well deserved, and such a nice lady.

That evening some of the guys did a little more guitar pickin' downstairs at the hotel. That's fun, I enjoy listening to them. I have to say though that I did miss the hoedown at Draft Horse Classic, it's much livelier (DHC has drums, and microphones, and dancing, woo hoo!). The engravers are a more subdued bunch. I was so tired, but I figure these things don't come along every day and I ought to be awake for as much of it as I can. However, by 12:30am, Brian P's homemade wine had done me in and I floated upstairs and went to bed.

I crawled out of bed at 7:20 (5:20, eww!) in the morning on Sunday. We all had to be over there a little early, because the group photo was promptly at 9am. As you can see, I am not exactly in the average demographic of the group. I like that. ;-)

I think next we all signed aprons. They put out about a zillion aprons, everyone signs one, and everyone takes one home (that's been signed by everyone). It's pretty cool, and quite the collector's item. I think we all wanted shorter names by the end of that! Then it was time for an informal meeting, where next year's Grand Master instructors were announced, and people talked about the classes and whatnot. Hmmm, then I think people just milled around and talked more, but I have to say it's all kinda running together for me. I went out to lunch with a bunch of people, came back for just a few minutes and then hugged everyone goodbye and hit the road. It was kinda hard to leave, I'll miss everyone! It's a long stretch of me-time until I see them again. But I feel like I know what I need to do, even if it's not something I can do immediately (alas, I have to sink another pile of money into my car for repairs, THAT puts a damper on my mood!).

As I told someone over the weekend, I always come back from these things thinking "This is exactly what I want to do with my life and I love these people." It's true. I am so glad that I went, I needed that. I can't wait to see my engraving friends again!


I was pleased to discover upon my return that I was won First Place at Draft Horse Classic with "The Lookouts." (Scrimshaw). YESSS!!!! Okay, I need to add an awards page to the scrimshaw site. Soon...


It's been insane trying to catch up now that I'm home. I've been exhausted. I think I'm getting sick. Mom's off work, and my grandpa is visiting... I would very much like to seal myself off inside this room but that's not possible.

Olin is walking on three legs, he has something in the pad of one front foot and is going to see the vet tomorrow morning. My poor boy, he breaks my heart!

Anyway that's about it, it's bed time for me.


dougzilla said...

Hey - I can't even think of a sarcastic comment to make about this one (though yes, you do seem to be very much in the minority!) - that's really cool you got to do that, and yes, I completely and totally agree with you that you undervalue the work that you do by a long shot... :-)

Anonymous said...

Okay, I don't know why you complained about clothes shopping when you looked absolutley darling! I was initially confused by the set stones in one of the early photos but when I saw that the theater included stone setters, it immediately made sense. So I have to ask, when will you be ordering the diamonds, rubies and emeralds? -BM

Anonymous said...

OK, same type of crowd, different industry (haha - at least that is what I kept thinking while going through the pics).

Also, I agree with BM, the blue dress was great!! Good clothing pick (loved the earrings as well that matched).
And yes again, you should ask for more $ when it comes to your work, you are worth it! BTW, I really liked the Maori-style engraving of Andrew Biggs! Makes me think back to New Zealand.

Lastly, the apron idea was soooo coooool! I loved it! How neat.