Chair Nerd Debut at Arrowmont, 2019. Part 1: The experience

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there was nobody there on the trails at the national park! Seriously? Lots of cars pulling off to take pictures at the sign but not many people on the trail....except a couple of Arrowmont people!

So I have a habit of over-joining, over-committing, over-helping. I used to say “time well spent it money not spent.” This was said when I thought about how many committees I was part of, how much time they suck away from getting my own business stuff done. I could (and still can) get properly consumed by this work when really I should be, I dunno, blogging, marketing my own business, weaving chairs, having some down-time, etc. It does pay off to be involved and be a part of a community but there is such a thing as too many obligations.

My friend and colleague Matt Tommey once said to me, “Brandy girl, you need to learn the following phrase: Having formerly served on the following committees...” So what did I say when I was asked to join an Artist Roundtable Group sponsored by SCORE Business Mentoring? Sure! And while I sometimes resent the meetings because they are one more thing on the calendar, they are great opportunities to connect with colleagues. They provide me with an opportunity to work on the business and not just in the business, to pick up some social media tips and tricks, learn how SEO has changed each month, and all that stuff people don’t think artists have to worry about but definitely have to accomplish…because it is a business.

Erin Keane’s Handmade Books with Encaustic Chair Books ❤️

I had an immediate win joining this group. I met Erin Keane, an encaustic artist and bookmaker. She sat next to me and pulled out a handmade book with a chair on it. I decided I loved her. While we are both too busy to be BFFs like I originally thought would happen, Erin wasn’t too busy to give me a personal recommendation to Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts in Gatlinburg. Next thing you know, we were teaching at Arrowmont in June 2019!

Off-site classes involve dozens, nay, hundreds, of hours of this…endlessly planning, editing material lists, contact with students to inspect chairs over the phone or through emails, intensely focusing on a week in 2019 while its still 2018, making a list, checking it twice, and packing….

It wasn’t the first time I had heard of Arrowmont. It has been on my list of organizations to check out for about 10 years. With each of these schools, there is an application process, one that is quite detailed and often takes several days to accomplish, before you are even hired. So time vs. money comes into play again. Technically right now I am feeling guilty about typing on a computer vs. working on a chair which will more directly pay our overhead expenses and our personal expenses. But in true Libra fashion, I’m going to tip the scales again, and suggest getting involved with different groups, at least for a little bit, is well worth it, if it results in you going to Arrowmont.

I’m not going to lie, teaching off site is WAY more work than teaching in our shop. WAY more work, and we get paid less. But! Damn, we were so invigorated after our week at Arrowmont in 2019. We met new friends, we were inspired by our students, we were on a podcast, it upped our game in marketing, it honed our process of collaborating with craft organizations, it gives us Craft Cred (its like street cred but nerdier), it gave us business in our own shop, and we were in an exhibit in their gallery…our little chair was featured at the very entrance to the exhibit, so even if you didn’t go in the gallery, you saw the little chair. Thanks Arrowmont!

A little bit of a backstory: I worked at a summer camp during college. It was idillic and cozy and I missed it all year long. I’m still friends with these people 20 years later. I LOVE this sort of bubble-life. The work-study program at Arrowmont is pretty close to being a summer camp counselor. If you know someone 18+ who wants to deepen their craft education, I highly recommend it. And while it is work for those who work there all year long, for me…yes, it is work…lots of it…but it brings me back to this bubble life for a week, it gets me out of the shop and I can ignore the endless tasks on my to-do list. At Arrowmont, I rolled out of bed, drank coffee someone else made, ate food someone else made, didn’t shop for that food, talked to all sort of interesting people like:

Speaking of packing, we brought 17 chairs, plus all the tools and materials, support materials, nerdy books and posters, etc.

Mark Errol a chair nerd potter and gallery owner, Andrea Keys Connell a badass potter, professor, and general store owner, and Gary Chapman who is an amazing painter and charcoal artist. Another cool thing about Arrowmont is that they host instructor presentations each night and they are very well attended. Yes, it is a great opportunity for people to say “I want to take their class next,” but it is also an opportunity for instructors to connect through each other’s journeys and professional artist struggle (it’s real).

Arrowmont has their game down…ridiculous organization with concise yet enthusiastic delivery. It was the most enjoyable orientation process I’ve ever experienced.  While the pay isn’t as good as it is in my own shop, it is certainly not bad. Plus I ate my meals on a cozy porch, I walked through a national park after work, I was a tourist (ate at a pancake house, drank great local brew with pillowy mouthfeel, and I got free Arrowmont merch in their cool supply shop! Win all around.

I mentioned a little bit in the previous post about how idillic the whole experience was, from food to cool chairs, to amazing people. I just couldn’t help sharing more photos and words (so many words, I can’t say enough goodness about Arrowmont)….ones that didn’t quite fit the other post about the upcoming Legacy Class in summer 2020.

Now I’m going to go fill out an application to get a scholarship to TAKE a class at Arrowmont. You can too! Don’t forget if you are an educator in Appalachian Counties  you can take a class for free in July, that deadline is April 1. Or just sign up today…save $50 if you sign up by Feb 1, 2020!

Thanks Arrowmont (❤️), and high five to me for over-joining….sometimes it leads to awesomeness.

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