Volunteers have been a crucial part of the NCECA Conference system as long as I or most anyone can remember. They assist thousands of members in just about every facet of their experience during this intense, amazing, and sometimes overwhelming conference. Volunteering with NCECA is a way to make attending the conference affordable if financial assistance is needed, but it has also served as a way for clay minded individuals to connect with a team and find new opportunities.

I recently had a great conversation with Molly Morningglory, a current graduate student in ceramics at Clemson University and seasoned NCECA volunteer. Molly’s story is easily  a novella full of chance meets, hard work, ceramic hospitality and endearing connections. Honestly, it would be a binge-worthy Netflix series (which I might pitch).

Molly had known about NCECA for quite some time before attending and her first conference was in Kansas City. She had strong clay experience and was chosen to assist Patti Warashina while she was a demonstrating artist. This is a lot of work, you have to be able to assist the artist with all of their clay needs and be on stage for hours at a time. Patti and Molly had a great connection and Molly found that volunteering with NCECA offered an incredible opportunity to meet people all around her. “Put yourself out there, shake hands, make eye-contact and have a genuine meeting. We’re all working in clay, expand on that!” is her advice on how to make that happen.

“[Patti] Made this cantilever wave with a cat in the middle of it. It was so weird and funky and elegant and chunky. They [Patti and Lauren] had a plan that they would reference, but at the same time throw out the window as needed. The gestures and energy that they were putting into everything was so inspiring. Big score marks with giant forks and slopping slip all over hard slabs. It was full of bravado and grace. The contrast between them was so beautiful. It just mattered that it was personal and authentic. The authenticity and honesty was so important.”

While assisting on stage Molly heard that Patti was going to be working at Santa Fe Clay and she mustered the courage the speak up and ask if she could be her assistant. Patti thought it was great initiative and this started a working relationship full of mentorship and friendship. Molly met other artists through these connections and had brilliant conversations about her work, emotionally charged concepts, and grad school. She found that all she had to do was speak her truth and present herself through this media. Molly kept up with her NCECA volunteer formed relationships and received valuable feedback on both her work and career.

One of my mentors and I have a conversation about the essential role of volunteers at every conference that is filled with gratitude and excitement. Volunteers are our anchors that are there for members when they need some help. Volunteering is hard work and it can completely change the experience members have at our conference. It is also be an incredible opportunity to work with a team of clay minded individuals that want to connect with you just as much as you want to connect with them.

For more information about volunteering and to apply, click here!