I wonder if there’s a word for “beyond exhausted?” I’m certain there are words for “beyond contented.” Pleased. Delighted. Charmed. Enchanted.

Yep, those work. So…the Portland 2008 Glass Art Society conference (mostly) ended last night, and I’m pleased, enchanted and plumb wore out.

Learned a great deal, got all kinds of energizing ideas for new work and validation (or redirection) for work in progress. Viewed up-and-coming products like kiln controllers and extruded shelves, lamination services and lighting systems. Saw more tattoos than I’ve ever seen outside a sailors’ bar, including some that were every bit as much works of art as the stuff hanging on gallery walls.

But most of my enchantment came from the people. If you never went to a session, never viewed the technical exhibits and just stood in the halls, the conference paid for itself just in networking. Made several new friends, renewed friendships, and got to say thanks to many artists who’ve inspired and taught me through the years.

I suppose that’s why my collection of bests and mosts for this show so often involve people more than art or technique:

Best technical discussion: The kind folks at Digitry, on attaching multiple sensor inputs to a kiln to make it “smart.”

Best process discussion: Karl Herron, on Bullseye glass layers and powder combinations.

Best aha moment: Gaffer’s technical staff, on heat responses of cadmium red/yellow crystal.

Most lifesaving: Gary Brown, who patiently and cheerfully filled in wherever help was needed,  going ‘way over his 12-hour volunteer requirement. Accompanying him on a museum or gallery tour is a not-to-be-missed hoot.

Most fun: Dragging people over to the far too well-hidden William Morris artifact wall at the Portland Art Museum and watching the jaws drop as they looked up…and discovered it.

Coolest art: Klaus Moje’s chatoyant grey vessel forms, looking for all the world like carved silvery moonstones.

Best philosophical discussion: Jeff Grundemann (hope I got your name right, Jeff), on the difference between realistic nudes and pornography, life-casting and sculpting.

Most exhausting and stimulating at the same time: The Gallery Hop, a walking tour of Portland art galleries (and the Museum of Contemporary Craft), which covered several hilly miles of art in a three-hour span.

Most intriguing (and welcome) contrast: Doing the high-toned gallery hop right before heading over to Uroboros’ get-down after-hop party. It was Mozart-meets-washtub band that night, and I thought both were successful.

Best tips for future GAS conferences: I’ve got three, actually. First, work on communication and training for conference workers. When the guy staffing the help desk knows less than the guy asking for help, well…

Second, open paying, packing and shipping services the minute anybody can buy ANYthing. The number of well-heeled folk who literally put their wallets back in their pockets and walked away because they had no way to get artwork home still makes me wince.

Finally, take a tip from marketeers and think about who really buys art when you’re picking your fundraising auction audience. (Hint: If you have a choice between art collectors on tour or a bunch of starving artists, go for the ones with money.)

Best moments of awe: Talking casting (and her books) with Lucartha Kohler. Or maybe chatting about goblets with Bill Gudenrath and Robert Mickelsen. Or perhaps getting previews of new kinetic glass machines by Bandhu Dunham.

Most appreciated: The GAS volunteer squad, which I had the honor to co-manage, all 145 or so of them. Even when WE weren’t organized, or quite sure what to do, they were.

In fact, sometimes they were so efficient that there was nothing left for the next shift to do. And sometimes they were yelled at by harried attendees (or harried GAS employees), but above it all they maintained a cheerful, professional demeanor. Many thanks!

Best art/craft: I ought not to touch this one, but I’ll give it a shot (and make it a three-way tie). I’d say a piece called “Winter Containment” by April Surgeant, at the Bullseye Gallery, a working glass spinning wheel by Andy Paiko at the Museum of Contemporary Craft, and the violin collage tattooed across the collarbone, shoulder and biceps of Penland’s hotshop manager.

That’s it, until I can think of more…