Sharing Stories

After spending a week rebuilding an old boathouse deck, which provided fodder for last week’s column, I spent this week in my office, working on the 88-page catalog for next February’s 29th National Arts and Crafts Conference at the Grove Park Inn.

One of the emails I received last week came from one of our longtime attendees, who also volunteers as one of our thirty-two Small Group Discussion leaders. Indicative of the enthusiasm of our attendees, he wrote to make sure he was included in our list of discussion leaders for February.

His email reminded me of a conversation I had during one of our early conferences. By our third or fourth annual gathering at the Grove Park Inn, our seminar audiences had grown too large for any question-and-answer sessions with the speakers.

Bill and Patsy Porter, two of our dedicated attendees with amazing 28-year perfect attendance records, came to me with a suggestion: hold daily one-hour Small Group Discussions where people with similar interests could gather to discuss a particular topic. The idea proved so popular that we have since been holding Small Group Discussions all three days in meeting rooms, hallways, alcoves, ballrooms, lobbies, and anywhere else we could set up a dozen or so chairs.

What has made these discussions so popular is that they give everyone the opportunity to share stories, ask questions, and listen to other collectors doing the same. The volunteer leaders know that they are not expected to prepare and deliver a presentation, but are asked simply to introduce themselves and get the discussion flowing.

Of course, we do get the same complaint each year: no one likes to choose between ten or twelve great topics. And I have the same answer: if we didn’t have several running simultaneously, they wouldn’t be Small Group Discussions anymore.

But we also repeat some of the most popular topics each year, giving returning attendees the opportunity to sit in on a topic they missed the previous year.

Among those repeated topics we always include several new ones, which prompts me to ask you today, “Is there a topic you would like to see included in our list of Small Group Discussions on February 19-21?”

If so, please send me an email ([email protected]) and let me know what it is. If we think it has enough appeal and can find a place for it inside the Grove Park Inn, you’ll find it listed on our website next month and in the Conference Catalog when you arrive.

And speaking of, in addition to finding information on the pre-conference workshops, seminar presentations, demonstrations, and Small Group Discussions, you should also watch the two-minute slide show featuring highlights from previous conferences.

If you’ve never attended, it’s the best way to get an idea of how exciting and how much fun this three-day conference is. I often tell the story of how each night when I finally head for my room, there invariably are three or four groups of people huddled in various parts of the Great Hall, where its two cavernous fireplaces burn until well after midnight.

And when I make my way back down to the Great Hall at five o’clock the next morning, I invariably find a different group of attendees, each enjoying their morning coffee near one of the fireplaces, doing the same thing.

Together we grow stronger — and have fun doing so.

Until next Monday,

“Anybody can cut prices, but it takes brains to make a better article.” – Alice Moore Hubbard


To go directly to the slide show, simply click here: