Clayathon, an annual three-day get together for polymer clay artists and hobbyists, started because Arlene Groch, who had retired from the practice of law, brazenly decided to turn her conference room into polymer art studio. Polymer enthusiasts from the South Jersey area started to gather for all-day creativity sessions. They began to talk about about how wonderful it would be if they didn’t have to go home at night, but could continue to play with clay in their pajamas fortified by wine and snacks. Arlene took these sentiments to heart, found some hotel space and the first Clayathon gathering took place in 2006.
The event grew over the years, first from the addition of guest artists such as Donna Kato, Kathleen Dustin and Jeff Dever, and then by the addition of pre and post Clayathon workshops with an impressive roster of teachers. Clayathon convened yearly at various hotels in the South Jersey area through February, 2020, which was the last in person Clayathon, just before the lockdown went into effect.
We took Clayathon online in 2021 with guest artist Carol Blackburn and in 2022 with guest artist Loretta Lam. We scheduled an in person Clayathon for February, 2023 after conducting an online survey to see how we would fare but registration was down, and late cancellations due to concerns about Covid-19 forced us to cancel it.
Things have changed since the pandemic. A lot of instruction has moved online, which is good and bad. It’s good because people can attend classes anywhere in the world and teachers have a wider audience. But online classes often lack the warmth and collegiality of in person classes. Plus traveling to take a class can be a wonderful experience for those who can afford it.
I can’t say I missed the frenzy of mounting two online Clayathons in 2021 and 2022. Even with all the support and great volunteers, I missed the in person interaction. So I was really looking forward to Clayathon 2023, even though we would be attempting for the first time to combine an in-person Clayathon with a virtual component. Looking back, that was probably too much to take on, although it didn’t matter in the end because we had to cancel.
I hope there will be a Clayathon 2024. I will be stepping down from the Clayathon board because I think it is time for fresh blood. We are looking into possibilities for a transition and are always looking for new ideas and volunteers. If you have any thoughts, you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. In the meantime, if you want to learn about Clayathon, what it’s all about, and see pictures and videos from past Clayathons, press here for all the links.