Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Memories of the Yuma Symposium

Meanwhile, in Arizona...

This week is the annual Yuma Symposium, a series of workshops, demonstrations, lectures and presentations by craft practitioners from around the United States. I used to attend the symposium every year as a jewellery student at Arizona State University, which was a long time ago now! Over the years some of the most memorable presentations I attended were a great presentation by enameling artist Sarah Perkins on her work, and a demonstration on making brooch fittings by jeweller Donald Friedlich.

Each year the Yuma Symposium begins with a networking pin swap event. Participants make a series of (often quirky, sometimes hilarious) brooches or pins to swap with other symposium-goers. You can swap as many times as you have pins, so the more you make, the more people you can meet. One year I made "Need a Hand?" pins, using plastic doll arms to "lend a hand". Unfortunately this was before the age of digital cameras (or at least before the age of me having a digital camera), and I've since lost all my photos of the symposium.

I think everyone looks forward to one of the more unusual events of the Yuma Symposium, the Saw File Solder Sprints. It's a relay competition where ring making is turned into a spectator sport. There are three jewellers per team, together on the starting line. At the other end of the "field" is a jeweller's bench for each team. When the race starts, the first jeweller runs to the bench with the relay stick - a square sheet of copper. As soon as Jeweller #1 saws out a thin rectangle to make a ring, they sprint back to the starting line and hand off the ring to Jeweller #2, who runs to the bench and files the edges smooth for soldering. Jeweller #2 passes the ring (which, with any luck, they've bent into shape while running back,) to Jeweller #3, who runs to the bench to flux and solder the ring with all possible haste! Jeweller #3 races the finished (unclean, still flux-covered) ring back to the start, and the first team to finish wins a strange trophy cobbled together from recycled objects that may or may not have been found in someone's garage. The only catch is that the ring must fit the finger of one member of the relay team - so it pays to have a small person on your team! It's not the most reliable or prettiest way to make a ring, but relay-style ring-making does make a good spectator sport, and may be unique to the Yuma Symposium. At least I've never heard of this sport being played anywhere else...

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