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  • Writer's pictureTara Kothari

Looking back at NCECA 2023

Updated: Apr 1

My first trip to NCECA, the national call conference happened at a time when things were changing in my business, relationships and my emotional state. I could see the changes coming, but as always I was fighting them. This stubbornness was causing me to be less confident, weepy, closed and uncreative. It was only the first quarter of 2023 and I figured what better way to get over my funk than an impromptu trip to NCECA.

First NCECA conference
NCECA 2023

I booked my trip and bought tickets to the conference, less than 3 weeks before the date.

The goal was to regain confidence, network and feel creative again.

Goal 1 - boost confidence - Fly on my own to Cincinnati and attend the conference.

Goal 2 - Become part of the clay community at large - Meet and talk to a group of clay people -

Goal 3- Feel creative again - Listen to inspirational talks and watch demos.

I reached on Tuesday and checked into the hotel. Since Covid and my dependent visa status, I seem to have forgotten how to be among people, travel and do things outside my routine, on my own. The flight and hotel check in was strangely empowering.

Once at the convention center I got my badge. Everyone was busy working on the conference, so couldn't really talk. A few other people were also checking in to get their badges- but they seemed preoccupied as well.

I got lunch and wandered about some of the local galleries seeing art. As I was walking and was without a car, I didn't go too far. In the galleries there was beautiful ceramic pieces some by artists I recognized and some new.

The art gallery opening at NCECA was that night. It was lovely to see so much pottery- functional and sculptural by so many living ceramisists. I went out of my way to talk to some of the artists. However people seemed busy with their friends. My hour looking at art and trying to connect with new people was a little lonlier than I would have preferred. With my husband by my side in Jersey City or NYC, I am never alone. There is always some to be with and talk to, that I had forgotten what it felt like not to have him.

I took off and went to eat dinner at a restaurant opposite my hotel. People everywhere had NCECA badges. In an ideal world it would have been amazing if I could just go up to these badge holders and could invite myself to join them!!

Yup. It was clear that I am an introvert. Such a strange realization when one is 40 years olds.

Inspiring ceramic art at NCECA
Inspiring ceramic art at NCECA

The days at the conference continued to leave me feeling isolated. I went to the NCECA talk for 1st timers, the meeting area for new attendees, some breakout sessions where I was told to apply for residencies if I wanted to connect with people. Members of Clay Buddies, a facebook group were going to meet for lunch on the Thursday afternoon and I was excited to make connections with someone there. We chatted at the meet and I did connect with a couple of people with whom I could go to other clay buddy events. It was nice to wave at them in the halls while we crossed paths, but that was it....  

My 2nd goal was looking less likely to be met.

Today, ten months after the conference I am not sure the acquaintances I made, will remember me?

A Facebook group - perfect if you know no one at the National Clay Conference
Clay Buddies - A Facebook Group - Highly recommend

As for the 3rd goal of being inspired. I sure was from the amazing art that I saw. A couple of demonstrations were well done and I couldn't wait to try out the demonstrated techniques when I got back to my studio.

My favorite time was looking at all the vendors and the delightful tools, glazes, brushes and equipment available for my craft. I wanted to take so many things back to the studio with me; the only thing that held me back was that I was flying and didn't pay for check in luggage.

Vendors - All the clay tools, glazes and equipment you can dream off
Vendors - All the clay tools, glazes and equipment you can dream off

I may not have achieved all my goals for NCEC, but by the end of 2023, time had worked it's magic and life had turned around. I was on the top of my game business wise, emotionally I was way more content and I had reconnected with so many friends from my young days that I couldn't care less about making new ones.

When I go back to NCECA in 2024, I go back with the intention of giving.

I will be presenting!!!

I am ready to share. Willing to! I have started writing more and am working on posting more about work, pottery and living a creative life. I am even trying a way to create a group for people who would like company to go out to lunch, gallery hop and attend talks with. Send me an email if you would like to. : )

NCECA 2024 you are going to be awesome.


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