August 26, 2008

Balsams Grand Hotel Demonstration Week

The Balsams is an amazing Grand Resort Hotel, in northern NH. Far far far Northern NH, seems like it is almost off the edge of the map of the USA, and in some ways if feels like it is off the edge of the 21st Century! The scenery is fantastic, the food is heavenly, and they have an unusual craft and art demonstration program that is both supportive of artistans and entertaining and informative to the guests. Each week during the summer, a different person sets up their equipment and a display of completed works, and the visitors spend time viewing and learning, and often getting involved in a hands-on basis.

2008 is my thirteenth straight year being involved with the Balsams. It is a huge physical effort to get all my stuff up there. I have even built a special water-filled lathe for making small lampshades on-site. But once I am set up, I love the whole experience, which is so different than a craft show. The interactions with the guests are leisurely, and the beauty of the location is simply breathtaking. My demonstration area is outside under an awning I build, and when I gaze out over my lathe, I am looking upon spectacular gardens, a lovely lake, and right up into the rugged cliffs of Dixville Notch. I am prone to exclaim to the guests that for one week each year, I have the most beautiful "office" in the world.

Last week I worked on lampshades and bottle stoppers outdoors, and also helped a lot of people have their first experience holding a turning gouge and making shavings. Many of them are young, sometimes less than 10 years old. And then some are guys who have not turned since high school, and that may have been 60 years ago. There is joy and amazement as they hold the gouge and discover how it works, how to control the cuts, how to reveal the beauty of the wood. I keep it safe by holding my hands on the gouge from the side, but after the first few cuts, my instant students are already doing most of the control and application of effort.

Being at the Balsams is a working vacation for me. I get lots of useful work accomplished, I sell my work and make great connections with prospective clients, and Kathy and I are guests in the hotel ourselves, which means we get to eat the award-winning meals and use the amazing facilities. I hope you someday get to enjoy the Balsams yourself as a guest. Think ahead to July of next summer.... I don't yet know what week I will have next year but it will probably be in early July.

Check out their web site to get more information: