I came back last night from the 2015 AWGB seminar. Oh my god! Even after several drinks and hours, I was still mentally on total overdrive. And today I felt completely exhausted, mentally and physically. I’ll need a few days to recover from this.

But let me give you a brief report:

Arrived around 11:00 on Friday, check-in was no problem, then grabbed my box with turnings and walked over to the seminar building (about 15 minutes walk). Long queue at the gallery check-in, so I went for lunch with some fellow club members from the West Mids club. After lunch I managed to get my pieces into the gallery, and even had a quick pre-snoop around. Let me tell you, impressive is no word. Have a look for yourself here.

Then the first demos. I had marked out which ones I wanted to see, but that plan went out the window quickly. In the breaks in between, I had already exchanged a few friendly words with people like Nick Agar, Phil Irons, Simon Hope, Mark Hancock and a few others.

I ended up being quite early at the restaurant for dinner, so had a bit of time and killed it with a double G&T. When I eventually walked back into the restaurant, there’s a table right in front of me, with Nick sitting next to Ashley (Harwood, from the USA), and waves me towards the table. Did I feel pleased? Stupid question. We had (counter-clockwise) Simon Hope, Carlyn Linsay, Joey Richardson, Nick Agar, Ashley Harwood, Cynthia Gibson and Phil Irons at the table, plus 3 folks who had come all the way from Spain. What a privilege! And what good fun these people are.

Dinner went in a flash, and then it was Ray Key’s time to give his speech about the history of wood turning in the UK. Clearly he’s the man for the job, since he’s been there forever and a day. Unfortunately he overdid it a little, and after about 40 minutes (and he had only just arrived in the 80’s) just about everybody around the table started rolling their eyes. Simon was the first to get out, under the pretext of needing another drink. Never came back. I was next, and gradually people started leaving and filling the bar. And the party started. No loud music, but good conversations everywhere. I don’t even remember everybody I spoke to, must have been several dozen people. I ended up in bed around 02:00 in the morning, with no alarm clock (my phone had run flat) and wondering what the next day would bring.

I stopped wearing watches a long time ago, and have realized since then that my mind and my body clock are actually very reliable. When I woke up the next morning, I had no idea what time it was, but later found out, it must have been 06:45. And that was on the spot, since breakfast was served from 07:00 to 08:00, with demos starting at 08:30.

It was a hot day, but with a huge variety of wonderful demonstrations, although to be honest, Mike Gibson was a little disappointing. At the end of the day, about 25 pieces from the instant gallery were moved to the biggest auditorium, and we had a critique session by Nick and Ashley, with the odd comment from Ray (Nick had threatened not to give him the microphone if he overdid it). All good feedback, with advice on where to improve those very last tiny details that sometimes make the difference between winning a competition and coming second (although there was no competition here to be won). The final two pieces were a lidded box from Mark Sanger and a big hollow form from Ray Key himself. Both got standing applauses from the audience, and we were off for dinner.

No repeat from the day before, and for a reason (see a little further down). I ended up on a table with Marcel van Berkel from Holland (who also did a one-off demo slot on Sunday where he managed to set off the fire alarm) and a retired lady who had run a police station with 120 officers. After dinner a short speech and then the main attraction of the evening: an auction of 21 pieces, all from the estate of Pablo Nemzoff, and finished by 20 turners on invitation (the 21st was a blank which was signed by all 20 turners). I managed to get my hand on 2 pieces (Ray Key and David Springett), and this auction was concluded by a very warm and heart-moving speech by his daughter Einat. From there on followed another auction of pieces donated by various people, where apart from having a long chat with Ashley I also managed to buy another piece by Mark Hancock.

And finally everybody moved into the bar again. I ended up outside, being a smoker, where another conversation with Ashley and Mark ensued, followed by an even longer one with Einat and her sister. When the bar closed at 01:00, things started to slow down a little, and eventually Einat, Mark and myself ended up sitting outside our block of flats, with some beer and some cigars, and chatted until around 03:00.

Sunday started similar to Saturday, and sometime during the morning the pieces for the year-long wandering exhibition were selected. I have no words for the joy I felt when I realized that one of my pieces was in that collection. I must have looked like a complete idiot for the rest of the day, walking around with a grin stretching from one ear right to the other one.

There’s lots more to tell, but I won’t bore you all to death, so let me stop here by saying that this was an energizing and exhausting, joyful, inspiring and overall fantastic weekend.

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