For the past five years I happily have had a booth at the Palo Alto Clay and Glass Festival. This year, though, I took a planned break and attended as a plainclothes potter. In the relative quiet of Sunday morning, I walked the entire festival grounds, inside and out, pausing to talk to nearly a score of my clay and glass compadres, buy a couple of treasures and take the whole affair in from the vantage point of a returning aficionado.

It turned out to be way more than a sweet Sunday outing around my tribe’s village. As I strolled I recalled my initial trips there as a ceramics student and I became aware of how wonderfully things have changed for me and why. And I blame it all on the ACGA.

My mentor and friend, the late Kathryn McBride of Cabrillo College, and I had an annual summer date to the Festival. We were about the same age but she had spent her artistic lifetime primarily in clay, whereas I had come to it lately from other media. She had seen and done so much in the field – taught and fostered thousands – and I had seen precious little and done less. She chatted easily with so many of the artists there, while I had maybe heard of a few of them and was a dumbstruck fangirl. She had sold her always-exquisite work in many venues for decades but I considered entering the marketplace a terrifying ego-dousing non-possibility.

Yet gradually, over the next few years – with consistent pushing from my excellent teachers and mentors – most of that trepidation fell away. I have thanked my instructors plenty and bless their memories whenever I notice my hands moving as theirs, when I use a special trick they taught or I remember a funny phrase.

And then it dawned on me, I also want to express my gratitude to the entire ACGA for egging me on, entrancing, enticing and supporting me as well. So here’s my love letter:

Dear ACGA,

Thank you for your annual Festival! It’s a Showcase of the Superb. A Disneyland. A Cornucopia. A Field of Dreams. A Pasture of Possibilities. A rare confluence of wonder, challenge and attainment. As a student I marveled that I could walk amongst you all, see and touch the art, collect postcards and sign mailing lists, buy tools, a mug, or a lovely small sculpture and leave charged-up and aching to get back to the studio. You showed me the ceramics world beyond the cradling classroom, the ideal of books, the neatness of magazines. So I tentatively joined up as an Associate Member, honed my craft and worked to follow the beacon torch of your examples. I cut my selling teeth in a few local events, successively approximating Being There with you someday.

Thank you for setting the bar so high for Exhibiting Membership. As a wannabe it’s truly daunting to read your Jurying Process description. But it is oh-so right!

Your guidelines for Aesthetics/Craftsmanship/Personal Identity essentially say “Make Your Most Excellent Art” Actually, they say more than that: “Throw down all ya got. Sing your truest song. Gather together a goodly grouping of your best, curate it and present it professionally with well-crafted supporting documents”.

Because of your bellwether standards, I had somewhere solid to aim. Because you mention the historical percentage of applicants accepted, I reduced my Tina the Ballerina fantasies and calmly expected to perhaps not make it the first time I tried out. I pluckily planned to ask what the jury thought I needed to improve on and to work towards that until I would try again, as I knew I would. I am inordinately proud of my status as an Exhibiting Member, not only is it a ratification by my peers, but it’s a continuing reason to keep learning and improving my art.

And Big Thank You’s to the People Who Put It All In Motion

Thank you for compiling and faithfully publishing such a useful newsletter. It is my monthly lifeline from the privacy of my studio to the greater world we share. I usually read it as soon as it appears in my inbox. And I Read. It. All.

Thank you for the shiny new website, so alive with beauty and potential. I have the tiniest glimmer of how much work it must have been, since I recently revamped my own site. I am super proud to share the ACGA’s online world with others and to keep my lil corner of it up to date. It’s the hub we needed.

And Thank You, you hardy Officers, Board Members and Unsung Volunteers.

Here’s to the people who put this trolley in motion! I admire your dedication. I applaud your willingness to wrestle with the finer points in the name of evolving excellence. I know I’m not the only one who has grown as an artist with your challenge and support. Thanks for the Triple Dog Dare.



P.S. See you all back in my booth in 2017!

Liz Crain is an ACGA Exhibiting Artist living and working in Capitola, California. You can read more of her writing in her Studio Journal on her website.