Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Muddy Monday: Some Dirt on NAN/Bfest Week

Dirt, mud, clay, it was all there in Lexington, Kentucky, in particular concentration during July 9th through the 11th. Kentucky itself is known for its ball clay, which is an ingredient in many ceramics, but the events of this past week encompassed more than pottery. In fact, it was an extravaganza for all materials of model horses and animals... wood, plastics, plaster, metal, bone china, porcelain, stoneware, and earthenware.

My visit this year was short, because after all these years of attending, vending, and competing, I needed a rest. I opted for a light version of The Week that, during my annual phase of intense and insomniac preparation, I have no printable words for. On top of that, I have my own ceramics show to prepare for, and a month earlier this year, which means I can only spread myself so thin. More about that show in an upcoming post...

Here is a ceramics-centric bite out of the big week that actually began Monday the 7th, when many of the North American Nationals exhibitors arrive in Lexington. Tuesday is the first day of Nationals competition, which continues through Thursday, the ceramics day. Although several of my friends likewise needed a rest from this year, and others had circumstances that forced them to cancel, I managed to find a traveling partner who also opted for a "BreyerFest Lite" excursion. My longtime ceramics pal Maggie Barkovitz picked me up at the studio. I had huge boxes of restored models to deliver to owners at the hotel. Luckily, her vehicle is large and accommodated the whole mountain of stuff. There is no way I could have brought it all in my tiny car. The car packing procedure is likened to the game, "Tetris" for good reason. 

A carload of such infinite and subtle complexity
 that organic life itself will form part of its operational matrix.

We arrived at the host hotel at 2pm on Wednesday. While I was walking these patient pooches after the car ride, a smiling lady with a box approached me in the parking lot. It was my first trade of the weekend, from Jane Chapman! She was excellent to deal with, and it was particularly easy because we both had the same trade value in mind. Nothing says "BreyerFest Week" like being found as soon as you arrive, with the number-one horse you wanted to bring home. So much happiness! You can see him in the "loot" photo further down, the reissue Thoroughbred and Jockey in gray and green, a mold subject covered in this blog

Collectors already had some hotel rooms open for model sales. I saw that Ed Alcorn's room was already hopping, and so I directly delivered a box to him, straight from the car. This gave me just enough time to see the amazing old Hagen-Renaker factory seconds he had for sale. Of course, there were things I had been seeking for ages! And, you all know how much I love flaws and missing decoration... Can we say "Candy Store"? If you are now drooling with envy, wishing you were there, don't stress; you can buy many online, through Ed's store. Ed had some really odd ones, like the full-body-warp Swaps, plus broken and missing-parts horses, which he gifted to me. The box I dropped off in there was a gift to him, in gratitude for sending Jane to me as a potential trade. 

As I passed open room doors, I peered in to spot any chinas. Imagine my surprise at seeing more HRs, and finding they belonged to my old California pal, Susan Candelaria! When I was a beginning artist and collector, we went to shows together with Joan Berkwitz and Trep Parish. Susan and I even worked at Laird's together, one summer. She had some lovely models available, and I selected a handsome HR San Dimas Two Bits to trade. He's what I have been looking for, to start my Two Bits conga! Thank you, Susan! He's staying "in the family".

Now, to get him a Monrovia brother...

Later on, collector Bev Manderfeld handed me a trade Love "Mystery Horse", the 1155 in cocoa and gold. You all know how I adore "ugly horses". 

I love and appreciate this network of collectors! And since there is a trend online to share our Bfest loot photos, here is mine (at least, most of it unpacked at the same time).

Side note: I found most of the seconds to be particularly nice. HR Quality Control was tight, they must have been picky for all of these to be seconds. Some had warpage, which was easily corrected for cabinet display with a tiny clear silicone dot (as from scrapbooking and framing supplies) under the offending hoof. This tendency of the forward hind leg to warp is interesting to me, because I had the same problem with my CC2 racking horse mold, in a similar pose, in almost the same scale, and using the same earthenware formula.

San Dimas browns, white, all three from Ed.
The Monrovia white on the right, missing leg decoration, is from Jo Ellen Arnold.

Other seconds have glaze bubbles or pinholes. I personally can't recommend re-firing to "get rid of" pinholes, since the underlying cause of a pinhole may be a flaw or resist on that exact spot of the bisque underneath, or a too-thick glaze application. Re-firing can't address these issues, and it kills all that beautiful age crackle. Even worse, as the too-thick glaze oozes downwards with gravity, it could cause more caldera-like holes to appear on the lower legs, where it becomes thicker.

Meanwhile, our hotel room had just been painted. The window was wide open and the air conditioning blasting when we walked in. The construction crew continued painting and remodeling the rooms across the hall, through Thursday.

Each time we reached for the bathroom light, the switch plate fell off the wall.
No screws, that's a fresh remodel!

Our hallway was likewise full of paint fumes, which mattered because we had our room door open for sales and pick ups. I had brought along cookie dough from scratch, and Maggie supplied the toaster oven... we countered the paint smell with the smell of baking chocolate chip cookies! Then, I wandered around, offering people fresh cookies. This is what the hobby is about, making the best of a situation, and sharing nice things!

"Why would one take raw cookie dough to Bfest?"

For such a short trip, Maggie and I planned ahead for our meals. We brought an ice chest, just in case there was no refrigerator in our room. The CHIN rooms can be a bit of a surprise, if you asking for a combination of things like pet friendly, early check-in, and the remodel is active. Cookies are great, but we also bring healthy stuff, like fresh veggies, salads, fruit, hummus, yogurt, lean ham, etc. It is a win-win: feel good and energetic all week, and save the fast-food money for buying models and unavoidable convention expenses. Food is a big deal to me, and I can't begin to tell you how comforting it is to look forward to fresh meals and sweet summer peaches, during each exhausting day of the con. My Bfest tip, for you!

Thursday started at 5am for us, because Maggie had a judging assignment at the North American Nationals, the most competitive model horse show on this continent. This required us to be at the hall 30 minutes before the entrants. I was an entrant, and proxying for three others, including Maggie. As you might imagine, handling 19 china horses in one morning at the Nationals level, and you only own 6 of them, requires some fortifying snacks, steely nerves, and organization.

My NAN equipment.
Emergency chocolate courtesy of Cindy Evans.

Above you see the only page of the program I looked at. I never noticed the cover of the NAN program until tonight, when Jo Ellen Arnold pointed this out to me:

Front and center is her vintage Hagen-Renaker Thoroughbred and Jockey, shown as "Santa Anita", which was also featured in a previous blog post! Congratulations! (The different trophy design shown there is the one I sculpted for the previous 2012-13 NANs.)

At NAN, there is no fraternizing allowed between proxy and judge, so I had Maggie put all her tags and paperwork out with each horse on arrival, before the show. There would be no allowance for questions, if I got her horses confused. I did not see her again until the cart was loaded with packed boxes to leave! Organization is key to proxying at NAN.

Custom glaze and OF models owned by Maggie Barkovitz,
 Jackie Hasser, Elizabeth McKinnon, and the author.

These two photos are just one small segment of the portion of the judging rings devoted to all chinas.
It seemed to me, just one opinion here, that the OF division was not as deep,
 nor as fierce, as it had been in previous KY NANs. 

The opportunity to photograph variations and oddities for future blog posts was not lost on me. A couple folks (thanks, Diana!) alerted me to oddities, while I was walking back and forth. When folks said, "There's another blog post!" and "Is this going to be on your blog?", I smiled because that's exactly what my husband says! 

Can you spot why I took his picture?
Model owned by unknown.

Check out this cool factory error HR DW Heather!
When the greenware is dry, some colors of slip look very similar.
Looks like a decorator grabbed a white slip body and sprayed it 
as if it was a palomino tinted slip body.
Model owned by unknown.

Remember the Roan Lady post?
This San Dimas white has mixed blue and green ribbons!
Model owned by Susan Candelaria.

The busy day was bolstered with shared congratulations, humility, and forgiveness. Maggie forgave me for missing her class while I was called by a steward. In all my years of showing models as a proxy for others, I have never, ever missed a class. I was absolutely sick about it, especially that my misfortune had splashed over onto someone else. But, that same forgiveness and calm in use earlier, came back to me. The ripples have to go out before they can return, and everything we do at a show is amplified to those around us.

Here are some of the horses I owned or handled at the Nationals; sorry that I do not have photos of all of them. Custom Glaze Grey Workmanship was astonishing, as the top five point-winners in the class were all glazed by me. I was floored. Here are links to the official NAMHSA results with photos of some of the others I handled that day.

Custom Glaze by the author, on the Orion (CC5) trophy mold.
"Amadeus", formerly o/b author, now owned by Jayne Kubas.

Custom Glaze by the author, on the Clinky Classic 4 trophy mold.
"Emperor's Favorite", owned by Elizabeth McKinnon.

"Ighma' ", Claybody Custom by the author, on the Muddier mold.

"Smokin' Baby Back Ribs", Claybody Custom by the author, on the Phoenix mold.

The highlight of NAN for me was winning a Workmanship Top Ten with a... BLACK... custom glaze... standing horse. The single hardest color to make appealing or dimensional, on a plain standing pose. He is my personal casting of the "Go Boy's Shadow" portrait.

National Champions I handled for their owner, Maggie, but have no photos:

"Nabu", custom glaze by Joan Berkwitz, on Minkiewicz' Stormwatch mold.

"Widowmaker", custom glaze by author on Ratrod mold. This fellow was a double-National Champion last year.

Of the horses I was handling, I think only the affected three and my "just for fun" green decorator custom glaze didn't bring home awards. This meant I was busy, moving between judging rings, ribbon pick up, and trophy photo station. I saw several horses I made also win trophies, but everything goes so quickly, I was unable to snap pix of them. Ad Astra, owned by Marilyn Jensen- I saw you! These odds are really amazing, at the National level. I was beyond thrilled!

As soon as the car was reloaded, we rushed back to the host hotel, where the Breakables china specialty show was about to open. The show staff kindly delayed judging to 4pm, since some china entrants were still packing out of NAN, across town. As Maggie had done for me, before the show started, I laid out my models with their tags and paperwork for my Breakables proxy, Keith Bean. Keith did a great job showing my herd, and is always a solid citizen in our ceramics world. I had just part of my NAN string showing there, and my earlier misfortune of the day went on to a Reserve Champion in her division at Breakables. Every show is an opportunity, and it's never the same thing twice.

On the table closest to the door, where public are allowed to be, I snapped these blog-related subjects:

Me: "Does your Swaps have hole in his chest? He looks like he would."

Confirmed: super-old Swaps!
Model owned by Rachel Alex Stacy.

HR factory employee custom?
This sponge-dapple technique (including the shade of gray underglaze) is seen on the 
Specialties Draft Horse #3340 and the dapples-only on Percheron Tail-up #A-3213.
This is the only Love-sculpted Percheron Tail-down #A-459 known in this color.
The old dappled ones were matte, and completely different in technique.
Model courtesy Sue Stewart.

With literally nothing to do for a few hours, Breakables' office boss Maggie, Breakables former-awards producer Marge Para, and I - all taking this one year off- wandered around the hotel. We went for a walk to the convenience store, gabbed and laughed at how even without the structure of a show, here the three of us were, together! Yes, we are teaming back up again to do it, next year. We just can't be separated. Until Marge headed home, that is!

Shortly thereafter, Davina Divine arrived for her BreyerFest volunteer meeting, and to drop off a bunch of awesome Doc Holliday molds of horses and trophies! Some of the plaques are very Victorian Animalier style. She had never used them, some were poured once at DH, and she just gave them to me. Some of these will cast special awards for Clinky Classic. Thank you, Davina!

I picked up my horses at the end of Breakables, and kept our hotel room open for restoration pick-ups, for a couple more hours. At 11pm or so, we wandered into blogger Tina Dils' room, and saw some great vintage models, of all makes, for sale. Tina handed me a mystery box of broken models, which I did not open until I returned home. These were free to good home, and I'm excited because they are perfect for my ongoing ceramic outreach project.

When I am given free broken HRs, I restore them 
and then give them to people getting started in chinas.
Everyone has to start somewhere.
These are also known as "gateway drugs"!

At the end of that night, we had been on our feet for almost 20 hours straight. On our "Bfest Lite" tour. Us, taking it easy!

Then, Maggie told me she needed to run to the Kentucky Horse Park, aka BreyerFest proper, in the morning. The sudden plan involved friend favors, standing in line for models, and all the heat and humidity that July can bestow upon Kentucky. Of course, we went! Up we popped in the morning, ate a free delicious hot breakfast in the hotel, walked Pugs, and then we were off to the horsiest place on Earth. The car idled in line for a good long while, starting waaaaay back on the highway, and we were surprised to see the Park guards just waved every vehicle through. There was no badge check, no parking fee. This was because the time it would have taken to sort all the traffic would have made people miss the classes the had paid to attend. We were directed to the very backside of the Park, to a dirt road in an open field near the AllTech arena. We had never been to this part of the Park before!

The walk from the car to the portion of the Park where BreyerFest is held was long and full of sights. We passed an entire horse trials event- from stables, to warm up rings, to the actual deal. I saw a chariot, jousters, Clydesdales, Belgians, and lots of sunburns, all before I reached BreyerFest proper. Here is just a sampling of the Special Run lines. The Celebration model line was slightly shorter, but had no shade. We met a nice fellow who was standing in the sunny line with his horse-collecting family for moral support. I told him he was good guy for doing that. That's devotion.

It's true. 
In Kentucky. In July.

When the number for the noon Special Run purchase line was called, it put Maggie's ticket at the end of the line. She gave her SR ticket to Intrepid Model Horseman Jared Lain, and we made the long walk back to the car. At eight minutes to 2pm Friday, we checked out of the host hotel. A 48-hour Bfest Lite left me with some lessons:

1. Even staying in Lex for half as long, I was not particularly rested.
2. Short stay means missing the big sales windows.
3. The parking and crowds at the KHP get more intense, each year.
4. Get the T-shirt, get the program, while you are still at the Park.
5. Delivering a bunch of big boxes does not mean the car will be any less full on the way home. This is BreyerFest we're talking about.

Thank goodness for Jared picking up those last convention items for us, after we were already on the road home. I have so much appreciation and gratitude to all the collectors and staff who make this a huge and wonderful annual event. Everyone takes turns helping everyone out, and there is so much shared joy in one another's victories. I love you guys.

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