The Gathering is an annual event hosted by the ISGB, The International Society Glass Beads, and this year Houston was the destination. Glass artists and enthusiasts travelled from around the world to gather as part of our international glass tribe and focus on nothing else but glass for a few days.
I traveled out to Houston with my friends Amanda Muddimer and David Knight of www.mangobeads.co.uk and Linda Newman,Earthshine Lampwork Beads and Jewellery Design.
I met Manda and David at their house as we all live close to each other in North Devon in the UK and we with much laughter then proceeded to squeeze three huge suitcases and ourselves into their diminutive car and set off on our adventure. Amanda had been asked to be a presenter at the conference and was teaching to so we had arranged to arrive a few days prior to the start of the fun to get ourselves aclimatised to the impossible heat and humidity of Houston in July and to give us a chance to get over the jetlag. This early arrival gave me an opportunity to book on a class with Jari Anne Sheese an artist who's work I have admired from afar for a number of years, She makes the most incredible ornate Ornaments and Genie Bottles as well as fabulous buttons and I ended up bring home one of my very own that she had made.
As we live about 4 or so hours away from Heathrow we had decided to book a room in a cheap hotel before the flight and ended up in the Easy Hotel which is part of the Easy Jet group.....lets just say it was an experience and the decor hardly made for a peaceful nights sleep but it was dead cheap!!
The breakfast at Heathrow more than made up for the lack of extravagance of the hotel and we tucked in before starting our journey onward to the USA.
The Gathering this year was being held at the Hyatt Hotel, a vast conference hotel downtown in Houston. Not a hotel to stay in if you have vertigo as it was about 24 stories high and the lifts patroled up and down the vast atrium like something from a sci fi movie.
Our rooms were on the 17th floor so high enough to give you the wobbles if you looked down and the whole hotel must have been built on rollers or at least built to sustain the weather that can blow through the state of Texas from time to time as it seemed to be ever moving. Like one was aboard a huge cruise liner the ground beneath my feet never felt 'still', and this, combined with the incredible humidity that would steam all the windows on the ground floor so you could not see the street, made me feel like I was on some glassy island. To venture out into the City was not a comfortable experience given the heat averaging about 100 degrees!
But when you have travelled from little old Devon to Texas a journey of many thousands of miles and many hours we had to brave the elements and see abit of Houston so, on our day off on the first Sunday, taking a deep breath we caught the bus and had a retail experience the like of which you are hard pressed to find in our part of the world, every designer under the sun and Manda and I darted from shop to shop. After a few hours boredom got the better of David untill he found a fish tank to play with!
Monday was a busy day for Manda and David as the filming started for her presentation so I left them to it and had an adventure of my own.
I took the opportunity to meet up with some Facebook Friends who I had never met before! We 'met' through our mutual love of Dogs....Lakeland Terriers and Airedales and I was thrilled to meet my Milly Lamb's Canine FB friends Bailey and Lexie and of course John and Nancy who showed me around and gave me a huge Texas welcome.
Then on Wednesday the fun began with my class with Jari. We had two days to learn how to make and construct these beautiful Ornaments and Genie Bottles!
And remarkably under Jari's wonderful instruction we all managed to achieve our very own!
And here they are:
During this time there were also a range of one day and mini workshops on everything from Beadrolling with Donna Felkner to Photography with Doug Baldwin to writing an Ebook with Diane Woodall and of course lots of glassy workshops too, infact the choice suited every taste and skill set.
Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evening were open torch night.....time to watch others at work, talk glass and play with fire!!
Thursday Arrived and the start of the Conference we decided to breakfast early and Amanda managed to sell some beads to another guest in the hotel as we were eating our bagels!!
Then the Conference started to swing and first a huge goodie bag...YAY!!
The opening of the Vendors Area with a huge array of glass, tools, torches, findings and the Bead Of Courage Stand. I managed to spend far to much on glass and tools but was absolutely thrilled to bits when the Girls at Bethlehem Burners gave me an Alpha Torch, I had been runner up two years running in their Show Me Your Glass competition on FB and they thought I deserved one! Well I was not gonna argue, so grateful and cannot wait to get it set up in my own workshop and give it a go.
The day continued with a choice of events, A couple of really informative Instructor seminars run by Marcy Lamberson, a very useful First Time Attendee meeting, the AGM, and various others followed by an opening night Drinks Reception where we got to mingle and chat with friends old and new.
The Conference began early on the Friday morning and were treated to a succesion of inspiring and motivational speakers and presenters. Gwen Rukenbrod who is the Executive Director at Society of North American Goldsmiths was our Keynote Speaker...both inspiring and thought provoking she asked us all to explore our superpowers and shared a great video from Eppy Bird to make us all think outside the box and be ourselves.
As an aside she and I ended up talking hairstyles at the Banquet on the Saturday night and decided we were 'hair' sisters, her wanting my copper and me wishing I could go blond again!
Then followed a procession of great presentations from Bill Struve, Lisa St Martin, Stephanie Sersich, Monique Swinkels and Sage Holland
Friday also saw the Gallery Tour with the RAD: Radically artistic in design, Fired UP! A personal interpretation of inner light and the pOtrait exhibition
Saturday was the much anticipated Bead Bazaar with a host of flameworkers presenting and selling their glass, each one at the top of the game and it was an inspiring, if expensive day!!
|Left to Right : Jeri Warhaftig, Libby Leutchman, Holly Cooper and Lori Peterson|
|Ali Vandergrift and her lovely mum!|
|Joy Munshower and David Knight|
|Libby Leutchman and David Knight...he gets around!!|
The talent in the room was amazing and there were so many artists I would have loved to buy from but Ali Vandergrift, Alive Glass was top of my list so her table was the first I raided. It was so lovely to meet her as we have been FB friends for a while, and her mum what a cute couple! And what a whopper! YAY!!
I was completely blown away by Lori Greenberg's incredible artwork they are SO on my wishlist for the future...
I bought a few, and traded a few, and came home with a sackful of beads. There was also a Vendors area and I couldn't resist a ring by Lisa Liddy at Metal Me this having seen the one Marcy Lamberson was wearing in my class. I then bought this Anenome Glass top from Marcy and couldnt resist this little Bluebird of hers which I left in LA with my sister when I visited her after The Gathering
Having chatted with her on Facebook, I at last got to meet, and share some time with, the very talented Joy Munshower, we had the pleasure of enduring a shuttle bus cock up and a sleepy taxi driver to!! Her work is incredible and we were treated to a presentation of one of her beautiful horse beads as part of the conference.....this little piggy had to come home with me!
I also now am a proud owner of a lot of new beads including this stunning bead by my new friend Holly Cooper Her work is indescribable the stringer work on these beads is sublime!
So the frenzy of the Bead Bazaar over it was time for more excitement with The Gathering Banquet and the live auction. There had been a silent auction happening during the period of the Gathering with some great prizes up for grabs but the live auction had some amazing prizes, a Wesley Fleming Bee, a box full of Double Helix Glass, Bethlehem Burner Torches and the icing on the cake a room and some expenses towards the Hotel in New Mexico where the Gathering is to be held in 2015 to name a few! A great atmosphere and a real buzz!
|Linda won the fashion awards for the evening with her fab necklace and outfit!|
The Hall of Flame Award was also awarded during the banquet and was given to Heather Trimlett a hugely popular choice with the crowd!
After a night filled with laughter it was Sunday and Amanda's Day with her presentation first up. She rocked it and I was immensly proud to be her friend and representing the UK for the Gathering. David, I, Linda and their good friend Jim Berry sat in the front row and cheered her on!!
A day of inspiring presentations followed from : Rashan Jones Joy Munshower Patty Lakensmith Aja Vaz and Nancy Tobey
The week had sped by and the last thing on the agenda was the Bead Swop which was a great event with Lampworkers of every level sharing and trading beads. My favourite swops were this fabulous bead by another new friend Kim Fields
and this amazing ring by Sharon Peters
I came away with a bag full of treasures and memories of all the artists I had met and traded with
|Aja Vaz, Joy Munshower, Stephanie Serscich|
|My Class with Jari|
And what was happening whilst I was away in Devonland......well that is a whole other story!