Confession of a collaborative junkie

by Graeme Priddle

I attended my first collaborative event, affectionately dubbed ‘Emma’, held at Kenderdine Campus on the shores of Emma Lake in Northern Saskatchewan back in 1996.

After an initial couple of days dealing with the fear and intimidation of performing in front of an international who’s who of woodturners from all over the world, people I had only read about in magazines, I dove in and started making a object I had made before, knew I could pull off reasonably well, and not totally embarrass myself.

This piece was quickly picked up by another artist and taken in a direction I would never have dreamed of. It was a great lesson in overcoming my fear, letting go, and also viewing what I make through others eyes.

Since that first ‘Emma’ I have attended nearly 30 collaborative events in Canada, NZ, USA, Australia, Hawaii and now France.

Every event I have been to has had it’s own unique energy created by the mix of people talking part, the organizers, the materials on hand, and even the weather! It’s amazing how the energy built and how much work was produced during four days of tropical cyclone in NZ!

I was very excited when Alain invited me to take part in the inaugural French Collaboration, to be held at Ecole Escoulen, a woodturning school established by Jean-Francois in the village of Aiguines, near the beautiful Gorge du Verdon in the SE of France between Marseilles and Nice.

With main support from AFTAB and Ateliers d’Art de France, and generous support of the school, many local sponsors and the village of Aiguines the organizers put together a fabulous event.

There were about 50 attendees, mainly French artists, with myself, and Greg Wilbur, a metal smith from USA providing the international flavour.

I was very impressed with the high caliber of all taking part. Most events I have been to include a mix of professional, amateur and student artists, but here everyone was very professional.

This resulted in an astounding array of well thought out and made objects that deservedly bought far more in at auction than any of the organizers expected.

The organizers, with assistance from many wonderful volunteer helpers, did a fabulous job making sure everyone was well housed, fed and had everything they needed in the way of tools and materials.

Ecole Escoulen was a perfect venue with accommodation on site or in nearby Aiguines, well-equipped workshops with ample space and a large outdoor area that included a vast array of materials and ‘treasure’ attendees had bought to add to the pile.

The weather was perfect and the food was amazing, especially the banquet night at the school where all attendees bought out the treats they had bought from their home regions… cheeses, meats, breads, oils…. and wine of course!! It took me back to reading ‘Asterix and the Banquet’ by Goscinny and Uderzo when I was young.

Also memorable were the evenings of laughter, music, dancing…and a little more wine!!

I am sure that there will be many more wonderful events like this in the future and highly recommend all to experience ‘la joie de la collaboration’…. French style.

Merci beaucoup mes amis!

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