This weekend I attended the Colorado Metalsmiths Conference (CoMA) in Salida, Colorado. It was the first time I attended this event and I don’t think the enormity of what I experience has even begun to sink in yet.

The conference started on Friday afternoon and went through Sunday morning. This year was a record breaking crowd of 170 attendees from all over the United States.  I think there were even some international visitors.  I was told this event has grown tremendously.

My dear friend and mentor, Lexi Erickson, was my tour guide & constant companion for the weekend.  Thank you Lexi!

The presenters at this years conference were truly Masters of Metal. For me, the standout was Albert Paley. I couldn’t take notes fast enough as he shared his thoughts, philosophy, and work. His life’s work is jaw dropping, stunningly beautiful, masterful.  “Understand the material and its limits.”  “Find an environment to express who you are.”  “Self imposed limitations are your greatest limitation.”  Pearls of wisdom here folks!

Albert Paley

I took a number of photos and I apologize for their quality. Given the lighting at the convention center, I’m actually quite happy with the way they turned out though.

This is an example of Paley’s work, from one of the slides in his presentation.  That’s metal!  The graceful lines, the connections with all of the parts within the piece.  I am in awe.

One of my newest prized possessions is the book, Albert Paley | Portals & Gates.  He could only bring a few of his books to this conference.  And there were 170 people in the audience mind you.  At the end of the question and answer period, he said he would sign copies of the books he brought with them.  Now, I was probably about 10 rows up from the stage with Lexi and a group of friends….and we didn’t pull a “Wonder Woman” to get down there, BUT both Lexi & I found a book to purchase and have him autograph!  Talk about blessed, excited and thrilled!!!!

Now you would think that would be good, and it was, but Lexi said “Take my picture with Paley in the background”.  Of course I obliged.  Then I thought, ok, take mine!  Which Lexi did.  People thought it was quite amusing to see me in the background grinning like the Cheshire Cat.  I just couldn’t help myself!  I was so tickled to have procured not only an autographed book, but now a picture with a metalsmithing celebrity!

Albert Paley (left) and me

The next morning I was drawing Paley inspired designs in my sketch book.  Whether I can pull any of them off, remains to be seen, but I am delighted to have had this experience.

The next presenter that wowed me was Michael Good.  He shared his thoughts about being a jeweler and his work.  “Eliminate barriers”  “Keep things simple”  “Minimize what you do”

Michael Good

An Example of Good's Work From His Slides

Sunday morning was the finale and concluded with Pat Flynn.  He works with steel and gold.  He started working with old iron nails and found metal from house renovations.  How interesting is that?  “Look at work you don’t like, to define how you want your work to be”

Pat Flynn

Example of Pat Flynn's Work From His Slides

All of the presenters shared their points of view and the path they followed to be where they are today.  Fascinating.  I think my subconscious will be digesting the vast amount of information for quite a while.  I’m anxious to see the impact this will have on my future work.

Salida has some wonderful settings.  This river runs along where the convention took place.  Great to take a walk and listen to the sounds of the water as it flows past.

Here’s a shot of some of the conference attendees gathering around the stage after a presentation.

CoMA really did a great job putting on a quality conference.  The banquet took place Saturday night, very casual, very Colorado.  There was a silent auction to raise money for the group.  Lots of wonderful donations.  As things progressed over the weekend, I do think I was under the influence of information overload.  So many sights and sounds.

Since it was my first time attending the conference, I became Lexi’s shadow.  She knows so many people.  It was great fun to watch her reunite with her friends and meet new ones.

I was fortunate to acquire a pair of Julie Jerman-Melka’s earrings.  She is one of Lexi’s closest friends and it was wonderful to finally meet her after admiring her work.  On Saturday, she was wearing one of her new earring designs and I fell in love with them.  I asked her if they were available for purchase and presto chango, they became mine.  Julie works with river rocks, silver and precious stones.  This pair has raw diamonds and I am honored to have them.

My New Earrings by Julie Jerman-Melka

I can definitely understand the importance of attending this type of conference.  The exposure to such Masters of Metal, along with the outstanding talent within the group of attendees, is an opportunity that shouldn’t be missed.

I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into the CoMA Convention.  Until next time, aspire to be more as an artist and a person.