It’s been nearly a month since this year’s Clayathon happened, and I almost didn’t bother writing a recap now that so much time has passed. But, Clayathon 2021 was a different experience, to say the least, and it probably bears mentioning! I only wish I had done so while it was all fresh in my mind.
Last year, in February 2020, we had a normal 100-ish person, face-to-face Clayathon, unaware that in a few short weeks, everything would be shut down for the foreseeable future. The timing last year was lucky for us, no doubt. But for 2021, we did what many conferences have been doing: we took it to Zoom.
Now, for me, one of the biggest benefits of attending this event every year is that it gives me the opportunity to get away from home for a few days, have a nice hotel room to myself, maybe order some room service. I get a huge work table to play at, I get to hobnob with fellow polymer clay enthusiasts, and when I don’t feel like doing that, I get some blissful introvert time alone in my comfortable room. But a virtual event takes most of that away.
So I had to adjust my expectations for Clayathon 2021. It would be a fairly different experience. I’d be working at the dining room table, with my family only a few rooms away. And all of my socializing would be taking place on a small laptop screen. As it turns out, the dining room table is plenty big. And the people on the small laptop screen had enough personality to make up for the lack or real estate.
I didn’t mind so much that it was a short day, over by 3 or 4. And I didn’t mind that I was still at home through it all. These two things surprised me, to be honest. As the slogan goes, Clayathon is all about “claying `round the clock.” But I didn’t miss that aspect of it. As it turns out, six hours of Zoom is surprisingly exhausting.
I helped plan this event, and was on the technology committee, but mostly my involvement was limited to creating and maintaining the website, setting up the Slack workspace for some after-event chit-chat, and volunteering my opinions when asked. I didn’t have anything to do with the actual running of the Zoom meetings (glad to have escaped that duty). Even with the occasional hiccup, it went amazingly well. We had over 300 attendees, and it never once descended into chaos. My hat is off to the Clayathon Zoom team!
As far as my own personal workspace goes, I was not as productive as I have been in previous years. But I’m still pleased with what I managed to do. You can see evidence of it in all of these photos. Barrettes, hair clips and such dominated my output. Thank my newly grown head of pandemic hair for that. I always end up making mostly things that I would use myself (and some things specifically for me to keep). This year was no different.
I bought a set of metal clips on Amazon and dressed them up for myself, and I kept a few of the barrettes, too. I didn’t take enough care with embellishing the clips to actually sell them, but they’re good enough for me 🙂 Everything else I made was lovingly sanded and buffed, and is hanging out in the shop.
Now that Clayathon 2021 is in the bag, what’s the plan for next year? It’s as yet undetermined, but hopefully the Clayathon will go mostly back to normal. I do think it would be nice to keep some aspects of the virtual edition. The featured artist demo, for one, was so much easier to follow via Zoom than it is in a crowded room. Perhaps it could be a hybrid event where some people could attend classes and demos remotely, while others did the whole in-person hotel thing. However it evolves, I’m sure it will be interesting 🙂