Please post your comments here on the front page news article American Glass Guild Conference 2009 - day one.
Dennis Swan wrote me an email over the weekend because he was confused about some aspects of the article.
He agreed to further discuss this on the forum, because I felt if he was confused, perhaps others were as well.
This is part of what I wrote to him.
The welcoming address, as opened by Art, lasted about five minutes. It was when he handed the microphone over to the audience that each and everyone said hello, where they were from, what they did, why they came to the conference, whether it was their first time or not - and some people did go on and on about how wonderful this or that was. Considering most of the presentations with slide shows were less than an hour, this hour and a half of audience rambling through off the presenters, cut most of the paid for presentations short, and quite frankly ended up boring me practically to tears, that by the time the conference started, I was past listening well. (and annoyed that this was cutting into the part I actually paid for. ) Robert Jekyll and Patrick Renytiens are older gentlemen. You could really sense that the butterflies of presenting and then holding it for an hour and a half took its toll on them. Art should have interrupted when it got past ten minutes past the official start, saying something like we did come to hear the guest speakers, that we were going longer than anticipated and that the rest of the people had to shorten it up.
The bevel reference was more directed to the forums. I have heard various people lament, getting onto a stained glass forum, they usually don't use - perhaps a warm glass forum if they don't do warm glass - and being basically told to go away. You rarely get student questions on the SGAA forum because it's not geared that way. The lamp makers aren't interested in anything but lamps. The AGG broke away from the SGAA because they are more into history/restoration/ and more on the east coast. SGAA wants the top firms and the school, stuff like that. Stained glass is full of little cliques. It's when the clique is more important than the glass, and about sharing good information with an open heart, well then, I think we all loose.
I sat hard and long before writing this article because I felt that the opening meet and greet should not have happened. There are other times and activities to help break the ice for people attending the conference.
I probably edited it so much, that it only makes sense in my head. Thanks for the feedback.
I do understand more what you were saying after your explanations here. I may have been the only one who could not follow the flow of it.
As far as the AGG, I think they will be the conference to attend, for both the "little" guy like most of us, as well as the "established" people. The networking with those you meet has been very valuable to me.
Folks should realize the valuable resources that are presented there. As a beveler, I would love to attend a conference where a lot of bevelers were. But since that will not happen do to the very small community of hand bevelers these days, folks in other areas of glass need to realize that they have this opportunity and seize it. Many aspects of different areas of glass overlaps with others, the more you know about all aspects of glass the better off we all are.
As far as forums and beveling, I never seem to fit in at any of them. I also feel that forums that just want to focus on one aspect of the trade are missing the point. I feel we have isolated ourselves and could miss allot. So I guess I will continue to visit several, learn from each and will continue to contribute anything I can.
It's totally understandable when times are tough for people to be a bit more cautious. I'm doing okay, but I've heard that some stained glass people have taken a real hit during this economic downturn. And when people are hurting themselves, sometimes its just harder to be more generous and forth coming.
I honestly don't know all the details that divided the SGAA, but it had to be some fundamentally core issues for the AGG to have been created. This is just another example of a divided house. Now it's two membership fees to stay informed. And if your not a member of such and such group, some areas of some forums are off limits, that only furthers the us/them situation. I can appreciate the idea for specializing a forum to a specific user group. It just helps like minded artists to easy communication. However there are some that I don't return to, because I find them too personal, like sharing family photos. In my opinion, that's what emails and Facebook are for.
Conferences are important. And conference providers need to think further outside the box. I love technique classes and think that there will always be room for them during a conference. But I also want to know about the really unique stuff that's going on. And it might not only be related to glass. Just like athletes cross train, stained glass could broaden it's horizons. The beauty of being creative is that we never know where or how the next thing that will inspire us, comes from. A conference is a great venue for that kind of exposure. I hope Vic is reading these posts and taking some ideas back to next years conference.
Thank you for your thoughtful assessment and opinion of the recent AGG conference in Buffalo, I am glad that you could attend. You are correct, feedback from attendees is very important and I found your comments helpful. I did want to clarify a few misunderstandings in your post.
I think you underestimated the number of professionals at our recent meeting. We encourage attendance by all practitioners at every level; but we do look towards our more experienced members to share their knowledge with those less experienced ones.
The AGG did not break away from the SGAA. It is true that some of the founding members were members of the SGAA, and some of those members are still members of the SGAA. The SGAA is an organization that represents the business of stained glass. They are not a 501c3 organization (the AGG is) and this allows them to lobby politicians on behalf of the stained glass industry (the AGG cannot). The AGG is not interested nor is it a part of our mission to represent the business interests of stained glass. We are only concerned with education and the free flow of reliable information about our art and craft to all those that are interested. We are very interested in pursuing any endeavor that we may do jointly with the SGAA or other glass organizations. We are inclusive not exclusive as an organization.
It is true that some of the founding members are actively involved in conservation but this is not the sole mission of the AGG and we welcome any specific suggestions how we can be more inclusive of new glass artists.
To answer one of your specific comments about the introduction portion of the conference, I agree with much that you said. Many members like the introduction portion of the conference so we continue to have it. I do think we as an organization should have managed it better than we did this year, but we will learn from this experience. It may be better to do it later in the evening as more of a social event, like speed dating, when we can have an open ended time for it. One year it took less than 30 minutes; obviously this year it took substantially longer. Personally, I could have interrupted the proceedings and in hindsight, maybe I should have.
I agree with your point about having an eclectic group of speakers; possibly speakers that have nothing to do with staied glass. In fact, we have done this at some of our past conferences. It is difficult to get the full flavor of the AGG just based on one conference. I hope to see you in Detroit next year. Thank you for encouraging others to join with us.
Arthur J. Femenella, VP, AGG
I am delighted that you personally chose to respond to the AISG posts about the Buffalo conference.
I appreciate your candid remarks and do recognize that there were many professionals at the conference. I have been to four conferences in the last three years, checking out the flavor of the Las Vegas Glass Craft and Bead Show, the AGG Rhode Island and Buffalo conferences and the SGAA Oakland conference.
When I started glass back in 1979, it took me a long time to work up the courage to attend a conference. The reality of being a 'beginner' and not even knowing the extent of my ignorance made me very hesitant to pay a lot of money and mix with people I didn't know, who knew so much more than I did, that I couldn't even imagine that there would be enough patience to catch me up. And going on my own was even more difficult. So when I saw and heard all those humble beginnings, from all those in the audience at Buffalo, I knew the AGG struck gold. It is the beginners that need to be made most welcome. This is the base that any organization needs to expand it's membership. Every good conference will have professionals to present or demonstrate, they are the names that draw the membership in, and is a given. And fair enough - top marks for all those greats in stained glass, who made it to the Buffalo conference, who informed, encouraged, demonstrated and made us laugh or reflect.
I am also very happy to hear you speak to the relationship between the AGG and the SGAA. My mistake for misinterpreting the evidence I saw. All I can say to it, is , if I was confused, there were others likely confused too, so it is really great to have the story flushed out and set straight. As a Canadian, the US rules about government lobby groups and the AGG numbered status, is totally foreign to me, so the details are not something I could fully wrap my head around. Again, thanks for the information about that.
Lastly, the meet and greet was what it was. I still see it as a mixed outcome, both positive - for letting the membership get to know one another and negative - because it took too long and took away from the paid presenters. What impresses me the most is that there was learning in the experience, either way. And what more can you hope for at a conference?
Thank you again for coming to AISG and posting. Everyone at the AGG is most welcome. And I continue to encourage everyone to become and member and get out to next years conference in Detroit!