I think I've been grinning since last Friday, even though I've been back home since Monday evening. I was at the Firearms Engravers Guild of America (FEGA) show in Reno over the weekend, and not to overuse the word which I will surely overuse in this post, but it was AWESOME. This is the fourth time I've been there. I'm not an exhibitor (I've always wanted to, but under current rules have not been able to) but am a member of the guild and enjoy visiting the show, and I spend all year looking forward to seeing everyone. By and large it is a WONDERFUL, kind, helpful, and generous group of people and in the relatively short time that I've been part of the engraving world, many have become close friends, and I'm so honored work with some of the most well-respected gun and knife engravers in the business.
I actually drove this year. I've taken the bus the previous years, and the bus is really very nice, but Donner Pass was clear and the weather was bright and sunny, so I had no concerns about snow or ice or needing chains. It's only about a 2 hour and 45 minute drive, so getting to Reno is no biggie at all. It was a lovely drive, and I rolled into Reno in the mid afternoon on Friday.
And from the moment I walked into the show on Friday afternoon I was busy. This was a fascinating new scenario. In the past there seemed to be a lot of down time for me where I would sit around, go back to my room, go to the Safari Club show (I didn't go this year but am not sad about that), etc. But... to my delight, I spent the entire day every day of the show talking to people. I really felt much more at home this year for some reason. I really can't put my finger on it, but even though I've enjoyed the show every other year too, this year totally rocked. People totally know me! And want to talk to me, and see my scrimshaw! Yeah baby! It made for a busy weekend but holy cow did I have fun, and I made some great connections. It was a real honor to meet some new people who are very well known in the engraving world (this was the 30th anniversary show so it was a big deal) and it's so humbling to know that these folks truly appreciate my work.
Not to be all sappy and stuff, but it was an amazing weekend. I feel so... appreciated? Joy, that's what I've been experiencing! Joy! I'm all smiley and inspired. :-)
Yes, of course I got the required amount of crap because I haven't fallen in love with engraving metal (yet?) but the overwhelmingly positive reaction to my scrimshaw totally overshadows that anyway. :-)
Anyway back to the weekend... so Friday evening I got to meet up with my friend Harriette Allison, who I met at the show in Jackson Hole a few months ago. That was a real treat to visit with her! Thank you Harriette!
Saturday morning was the general business meeting. I didn't love the notion of prying myself out of bed in time for an 8am meeting, but it was interesting to see the inner workings of the guild, and to my complete surprise I was presented with one of the Editor's Choice Awards for the article that Chris Malouf and I wrote about our collaboration on the Cheetah Knife a couple of months ago. (He got an award too for his part). Knock me over with a feather!
And then I talked to people all day Saturday, so much that the people who I hadn't managed to talk to yet would come up to me and say "hey where have you been, I want to talk to you tomorrow!" Wow, popularity is a foreign concept. ;-) Saturday night was the banquet and auction. I hadn't planned on attending that but Rod Cameron surprised me by putting a ticket in my hand and telling me I was going, good thing I'd packed a nice outfit just in case! Good food, super fun group at the table, and it was interesting to watch a bit of the auction. I stayed long enough to see Mike Dubber's S&W .44 Mag (for which I donated a scrimshaw logo) sell, and then slipped out to watch the musically talented folks do some picking and grinning.
Every night I stayed up til some ridiculous hour, and often that was because my awesome roomie and I would talk a blue streak til way after midnight. I stayed with Emily P. from TN again, and of course I have to tease her about her funny "ack-see-int" but she's really pretty darn cool. :-)
Me and Emily P.:
Oh, the Toucan Knife! I finished it late Thursday night and brought it to the show. Lots of people there got a sneak peak, and I was able to deliver it back into the hands of the William Henry company. I don't think I'll show you the finished piece until I receive the photos from W.H. of the assembled knife. It looks great though, if I may say so myself.
Sunday morning was nice, the show opens to members for an hour before the general public comes in, and it was a good quiet time to sit and talk to some folks I hadn't yet had a chance to visit with. And that's what I did ALL day.
Me and Yves Halliburton:
Me with Roger Bleile (on my right) and Leonard Francolini (on my left):
Me and Mike Dubber. He is holding the gun he donated to the auction. I am holding the North Carolina Colt (CCA 2009 Auction gun) on which I scrimmed the grips. Hot damn it was good to finally see the completed gun in person! :-)
Me and Sam Welch, for whom I can't find a web site.
Me and my favorite engraver from New Zealand, Andrew Biggs.
Me and Fred Bowen, for whom I also can't find a website. He sings very funny songs. :-)
Me and Kalyn Hochstrat. We go way back. Her husband Brian used to be my farrier and is the person who got me into scrimshaw! That always makes for a good story!
Me and Sam Alfano, who claims to be my biggest fan. :-)
Me and the infamous Barry Lee Hands.
Me and Chris Malouf, co-authors of the award winning article! :-)
And suddenly it was 5pm and the show was over. My gosh how the weekend flew! I had dinner at the buffet that night with some of the guys (oh yeah, have I mentioned it's mostly guys at these shows? Heh heh... ;-) and then listened to more picking and grinning that night. Those jam sessions are AWESOME. There are some very talented musicians in the group, and to everyone's surprise, Scott Pilkington wheeled in a grand piano from some place, and then some random guy walked past and heard the music and turned out to be some sort of champion fiddle player so he was a great addition. Geesh I love this stuff! :-)
That's Rod Cameron on the mandolin, Sam Alfano playing banjo in the earlier pics, Bill Lister seated at the piano with a guitar, unknown really cool mystery man with the fiddle, Stan whose last name I don't know (red shirt) with another guitar, and one of the Rohner ladies (I didn't catch her name) playing the piano. Goodness knows where the piano came from! There were several different people playing other instruments at other times as well.
After a scant few hours of sleep, I was up early Monday morning to check out before the seminars started.
There were two very good seminars, one about stone-setting and one about fine shading. I went to lunch with some of the guys, and then it was show and tell time for a few hours, where people who hadn't been exhibiting can show work for a while. Everyone sat around and talked, and I hated to leave but by about 3pm I figured I'd best hit the road and try to be back by dinner time. Besides, the later I stayed, the sleepier I would get! I pried myself away and drove home. There had been more snow in the mountains on Sunday and and it was beautiful, but thankfully the sun was shining and the roads were clear.
I'm already looking forward to next year. While nothing is certain at this point, the winds of change are blowing in a very good direction. :-) I miss my friends already and can't wait to see everyone again!
Huge thank you to all the members and officers who bust their butts putting on this show! You are... awesome! :-D It's not just the amazing work that makes this show such a gem, it's the fine group of people and the bonds of friendship between them.
For more photos (I was so busy talking all weekend I didn't photograph anyone's engraving!), check out Rod's slide show and Hora's slide show!