I can still remember the first time I attended NCECA’s Topical Discussions. I think I went to the discussions because there was going to be a session on china painting, but I wandered around the ballroom where the discussions were being held and was tempted by countless other discussion groups. Did I want to commiserate about grad school experiences?  Talk shop with other cone 6 glaze geeks? Join a discussion about queer ceramics? That’s both the beauty and the downside of topical discussions–a person can join together with any number of clay communities… but sometimes it’s hard to choose just one.

This year, I’m pleased to be the host of this year’s Topical Discussions, which are occurring from 5:30-6:30 on Thursday, March 21st and NCECA Connections, which will be on Friday, March 22nd from 5:30-6:30.

One of the many amazing Topical Discussions this year will be led by Lisa Merida-Paytes. It’s entitled “Packing Ceramic Artwork 101”, which is something that Lisa knows a lot about because… well, just check out her work below.

Lisa Merida-Paytes

Lisa was kind enough to create a short, helpful teaser video (embedded at the top of this post), but if you’ve ever fretted about shipping your work, or if you’ve ever had your work damaged in shipping, you’ll come away from the actual discussion with some new tricks. The great thing about Topical Discussions is that they are a two-way street. If you’ve got some hard-won knowledge, you’ll be able to share it with the group.

Joyce Centofanti PhD (Break out 2012)

Other Topical Discussions this year cover writing, building ceramic co-ops, engaging a new generation of African-American potters, electric kiln maintenance, using clay as a metaphorical teaching tool, finding the energy to create, sandblasting techniques, craftivism, historical research, the tyranny of technique and large-scale slipcasting.

We are also debuting what we hope will be an annual Topical Discussion. This year’s Emerging Artists have graciously agreed to host a session on professional development. Rather than going to hear somebody who established their professional reputation years ago, you can talk with an incredible group of artists who are out there exploring a wide variety of avenues to get their art in front of the public.

Break out -A

That’s not all! NCECA’s Friday evening CONNECTIONS sessions are another great opportunity to connect with others who share your interests… and even those who don’t. On Friday night, you can meet up with others who are interested in CAD/3-D manufacturing processes. You can also discuss marketing and sales or meet up with woodfire enthusiasts who are planning a 2014 conference in Denmark.

The fourth CONNECTIONS session is, to my knowledge, utterly unique. Milwaukee-based artist Niki Johnson proposed a break-out Connections group that is based on speed dating and designed to let NCECA attendees plow through a variety of spicy clay topics in a short period of time.

“This fun, high-energy event instigates conversations pertinent to the field of ceramics through the format of speed dating.  Participants will be paired, rotated and quizzed in short time intervals. Laughing, disagreeing and heckling encouraged.”

There you have it! I can’t imagine that you won’t be able to find a Topical Discussion or NCECA Connection to suit you, but if not… it’s time to start thinking about hosting your own session next year in Milwaukee. Stay tuned for the call for entries later this year.

See you in Houston!