What a rollercoaster ride we went through in Toledo! It’s taken me a few days to process all the information received and experiences we had. We arrived in Toledo on Sunday and the SAMA and SGAA boards met separately Monday morning (6/27) and then joined together for lunch where we introduced ourselves with basic biographical information and the first stained glass or mosaic we ever made. We traveled together to the Libbey House in Toledo, the historic home of Mr. & Mrs. Libbey who were the founders of the Libbey Glass Factory. The SGAA board members immediately gravitated to the aging and beautiful stained glass windows in the home and began to talk amongst themselves about why they were failing and how they could be fixed.
It was fascinating to listen and learn. We came back to the hotel and were hosted by the International Year of Glass committee and reveled in viewing the seven stained glass windows made by Tom Holdman, Board member of SGAA and the vision he nurtured and created – Pillars of Humanity. Tuesday, SGAA & SAMA members began to arrive at Confluence Toledo 2022, the joint conference for members of both organizations.
Workshops were held on Tuesday and Wednesday and the Vendor Marketplace began to load in. Wednesday morning roundtable discussions were held with 60 people attending sharing their thoughts about a SGAA & SAMA partnership, what is wanted in a conference and future collaborations.
Members of each group continued to learn about each other and realized we had so much in common with our processes, designs, and experiences. Wednesday evening we were able to watch the documentary Holy Frit. The story followed the experiences of the Judson Studio with David Judson and the artists Tim Carey and Narcissus Quagliata as they figured out how to make the largest fused stained glass window in the world for the Church of the Resurrection in Kansas City. More about that in a bit.
Thursday at the conference found us listening to presentations about glass and mosaics and again, watching SGAA and SAMA members realize we have so much to learn from each other. An awards ceremony was held and we watched the traditional passing of the mantle (it’s an actual mantle that looks like a big chunky necklace) from the outgoing president to the incoming president as well as recognizing members who had been with the organization from 15 to 40 years which was very humbling to watch and be a part of.
We had the art salon and YES, it got lively and the SGAA members loved it! I think there will be way more people participating next year in this event.
Back to Holy Frit, my take away from the film was Judson Studios had a vision and while they REALLY DID NOT know how they were going to create the end result, they kept plugging away – the creative process was hard, at times scary financially, the interactions between the artists were supportive, contentious and encouraging – but they kept their eye on the deadlines and kept working day and night to get it done and in the end it was so worth the energy and effort. I woke up Thursday morning and gathered our SAMA board and said to them I’d like to say we are all in. We have come too far to give up on our organization. My personal reason for agreeing to navigate this process was to leave a place for future mosaic artists to find a community to learn from and be inspired by. SGAA wants our membership and our energy and the programs we have created. We do several things really well that SGAA has admittedly struggled with: conference, education, creative process inspirations, and exhibitions. SGAA does several things well. They network well within the stained glass community and have strong partnerships between vendors, supporters, museums and insurance companies. They also have a quarterly publication that has been continuously published for 116 years. I learned that all issues are stored in the National Archives and are printed on archival paper. SGAA is an aging organization (as are we) and need and want new blood and young people to join and learn from their older members and teach them a few things along the way as well (think social media and experimenting with new processes and designs). I met several young people who are chomping at the bit to make their place and share what they know with everyone. Each generation can learn from the other. Each organization can learn from the other. It was a beautiful thing to behold Thursday evening when we said we’d like to keep going ahead with the merger. I wish you all could have been there to feel the love.
The other thing SGAA does well is their Accredited Professional Member program. In a previous letter I mentioned that we are in the process of creating a committee to discuss and decide how we could create qualifications to allow mosaic artists to become Accredited Mosaic Members. SGAA’s accreditation comes from the position that if you hire an SGAA member, you will get the best of what they have to offer. Some can be direct competitors with each other for jobs but they hold each other accountable to make sure they are doing good, reliable work. After spending time with SGAA members and speaking with them, I understand better why SGAA was formed and what is important to keep. Remember I had said that they are a 501(c)6 that was created to help their members get business. It’s a big deal to be an Accredited Professional Member of SGAA, it takes work and perseverance to become one. I want to create an Accredited Professional MOSAIC Member. This membership level is being created within this merger as an option for mosaic artists who want to have a studio or workshop and be accredited within the mosaic community to assure the public the studio or workshop has been peer-reviewed and found to be in compliance with all safety and quality standards set forth by the organization. And while I’m not sure how many SAMA members who will need or want to become an Accredited Mosaic Member, I think this process will be beneficial to create within the organization for the next generation of mosaicists. Over the past 15 years SAMA members have asked for something like this.
Now you may be asking what about the members who are in the professional and individual levels of SAMA? Where do they fit in? Regarding Professional level membership, SAMA’s professional level works differently than SGAA’s level, SAMA’s members self-appoint as a professional member. SGAA Professional member is juried in after submitting requested information and documents. SGAA and SAMA are still in discussions as to how to define the professional mosaic artist. This is going to be a process that will be undertaken together with SGAA and SAMA members.
The equivalent of a SAMA Individual Member is called an Affiliate Member in SGAA. The total number of Individual members of SAMA and total number of Affiliate members of SGAA make up the bulk of both organizations. SAMA has strived to provide quality education and programs for the makers and enthusiasts of our community. In my opinion, the Individual and Affiliate members are the most important to both organizations. Without your curiosity and excitement about learning and making your art, where would our vendors be? Who would the teachers be teaching to? Who would be learning to get better at their art and aspire to teach or create a studio or workshop and pass along the knowledge to the next generation?
During the conference at the SGAA General Member Meeting the members voted to undergo a major revision of their bylaws over the next year. One of the changes voted on and passed at this meeting to the by-laws is to hold any future conferences in months other than June or July. I was also elected to their board as a Director. We are proposing the SAMA board becomes the Mosaic Art Advisory Board that will advise and report to the SGAA board and will be adding more people to this committee.
I had the opportunity to speak to many SAMA members at the conference, some were always for the merger, some had trepidations prior to coming to Toledo, by the end of the conference, all were in agreement this would be a great merger.
There are discussions about a name change and rebranding. The direction those discussions go will depend on the number of SAMA members willing to engage in this merged organization. There are opportunities to become an active part in forming this new organization via the Conference committee, Membership committee, Education committee, Publications/Editorial committee and others. We will need everyone who values SAMA to be all in and join committees and join SGAA. It’s really up to our membership how this plays out. To join SGAA is $85.00 per year and you will receive The Stained Glass Quarterly. SAMA will not be mailing anymore magazines to our members. I do know that there will continue to be more mosaic content in future issues! You will need to become a member of SGAA to receive any more issues. (And by the way, SGAA just voted to increase Affiliate membership from $65 to $85 a year, you might be able to get in on the earlier price if you act now!)
We have a General Member Meeting scheduled for our membership to meet on July 30, 2022 at NOON EST to discuss and vote to decide to proceed with merger discussions with SGAA. You will be able to ask questions during the meeting via the chat feature. LINK HERE
I hope you felt the flavor and experience of attending our first partnered conference via this letter and had some of your questions answered. We will continue sending emails as we learn more. Please let me know if you have questions or concerns!