Caught Up With?

The small bits of the Watermarks conference I experienced in Cleveland were unexpectedly fabulous: warm, fun, stimulating, exciting and enlightening. These are things I never thought I would say about a conference; they’re events I usually avoid, because they are so geared to hearing people. I fully expected to just skulk around the edges, and have a nice time reconnecting with folks and meeting a few internet friends in person; I also very much wanted to support the Morgan, Aimee at her book launch and the William Busta Gallery. I’ve never been active in either Dard or IAPMA, so I figured I could occupy myself by quietly taking photos from the sidelines.

One of Helmut Becker’s handwoven moulds shot with my phone; these took my breath away, imagining the texture they’d impart.

That just did not happen. I forgot my camera both Thursday night and twice on Friday but would have had no time to take pictures anyways. Every time I hit the conference, it was nonstop meeting and talking. Papermakers are huggers! I was amazed and humbled by the number of people who introduced themselves who knew my work or teaching; and also simply by the sheer number of people I already knew who were there. The five-floor party at Tom’s studio Thursday night (which I attended minutes after arriving in Cleveland) set the noisy, joyful tone.

A gorgeous tiny beater! in the ‘Jury Rigged’ show, I think belonging to Donna and Peter Thomas, whose Gypsy Wagon was parked near the Morgan.

I learned quickly on Friday (with no surprise) that the lectures were not going to work with my ears, but that didn’t seem to matter; there were lots of people out in the halls, and so much (good!) talking that after a nice (quiet!) lunch with Aimee, I had to go back to the Smiths’ and rest my ears and myself by taking a nap before heading to the Morgan (fabulously en fete, festooned with gorgeous, unique paper works everywhere) and then to the William Busta gallery while five busloads of conference folks came in and out in waves on the gallery tour, with a few independent carloads in between. The show was nicely hung and very well lit (and appreciated!) and I had a blast, but my ears were worn out again by the end; I literally collapsed back at the Smith’s. Saturday after coffee and a good (quiet!) talk with two friends, I went round to the hotel for a few hours to say my nonstop goodbyes (and met even more lovely people!), and then to the Morgan – finally with camera – so I could show at least some of it to you, and to congratulate Tom, Bruce and the other Morganites.

Aimee, doing Author things, captured by my phone.

I am so, so, SO proud of the Morgan: they did it all fabulously and flawlessly, with inimitable Cleveland style! Aimee recapped some of Tom’s opening speech for me, about how “the Morgan is for everyone” and we both just grinned at each other. And it was wonderful to see Aimee signing and signing her books which were flying off her publisher’s table, and to see everyone carrying them in the halls (now you can get yours online!). I was also so grateful to the Smiths for providing much-needed sanctuary for my ears and tired self, for their calm, relaxed energy in which to recharge, an easygoing, humorous flow, with periods of comfortable quiet. Saturday evening, an old dear friend (‘Wilson’ in Smith’s book and on my blog) came to visit and that was a good, sweet closure to everything…though, from the look of Aimee’s photos here and here, perhaps next time I will reconsider attending the banquet, which I thought would be hopeless for my ears, but now am a bit sorry I missed with my eyes. (Yes, I am thinking of a ‘next time.’ – but much less tightly scheduled).

Half of my favorite wall at the Morgan: In The Field, a show of papers with recipes and/ or harvest notes.

Sunday, a good breakfast with Smiths, and lovely sunny weather for the drive home. But, shortly before the Ohio border I began to feel foggy and achy and to suspect that I might be coming down with something; halfway across Indiana, I knew it, and that it was coming on fast. There was nothing to do but keep driving. By the time I finally hit the Skyway I had a nasty fever, with bone-shaking chills. It took another hour and a half of horrendous Chicago freeway crawl to reach home, shivering and blurry-eyed, cursing and whining aloud at the traffic like a two-year-old having a tantrum. In retrospect, I’m grateful for that snail’s pace; it probably saved me from having an accident. Poor Paul was preparing a delicious welcome-home dinner I couldn’t eat, which fortunately involved orange juice. I downed what was left, and went to bed, where I’ve spent the past three and a half days.

Helen Hiebert’s big balloon…

Now I’m slowly emerging and am unsure whether or not I’ll be able to get to Vermont on time. I’ve got important work to finish here first so now I’m playing it by ear – or rather by body, what it will let me do. It still adamantly required naps today, twice. Wish me luck, please.