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Pilgrim Firs Field 2017This year marked the 30th Anniversary of our Washington symposium, our first at the Pilgrim Firs venue and a hallmark event for everyone participating. We had nearly 100 carvers here throughout the week communing and learning and inspiring each other. I asked for everyone to write down their experiences, impressions, and thoughts on the symposium, then spliced them together (Ending each person’s thought with a bullet point) for this expression of our shared community experience.
Thank you, contributors: Bill Weissinger, Carole Duree, Vic Picou, Cyra Jane, Deborah Wilson, Julianne Kohn, Barbara Davidson, Kirk McLean, Ed Salerno, Maya Kilmer, Tamara Buchanan, Leon White, Michael Timmons, Beth Krehbiel, Daniel Colvin, Sandra Stowell, Cherie Perry and Grant Bowman.
-Cyra Jane, symposium director.

Counting the years.
I've been to all 30 of our Symposia • My first symposium was number eight • This was my first year at the symposium, NWSSA's first year at Pilgrim Firs, and the 30th anniversary of the group • Having been here since 1986, it’s heartwarming to witness the highly creative, empathetic, non-judgmental environment having been maintained • Beginning in 2003, I’ve attended Brotherhood (now Pilgrim Firs) every year but one • I could not have asked for a better alignment of the moon and stars • The most amazing thing about Pilgrim Firs, for a 28-year NWSSA veteran, was that it brought back the nostalgia of the original Fischer Lodge days • I had never attended one before. I could only imagine a huge gathering of stone artists from near and far all converging in one place. When I arrived, it was exactly that and I felt that I was finally among the people of my tribe.
2017 Pilgrim Firs Group Photo

What we do.

What I enjoy the most about that week of bliss that never comes soon enough then drifts by in a heartbeat, is fellowship • What caught my attention in particular was the lack of competitiveness among artists and the utmost willingness to help one another • There was a wonderful mixture of those new to stone sculpture and folks with years/decades of experience...all of us sharing, learning, laughing, encouraging. Everyone there truly wanted me to succeed... so I did • All of these Sculpture artists were excited to be talking of stone and tools, happy to be sharing the music of the grinders and the clouds of dust.
Al Mangold teaching Therese Dougherty and Elle Hockman how to blacksmith their own tools.
All For One and …
Initially it took me a few days to believe what I saw around me in the people who knew each other. Their ease, their joy, their beingness to be again with each other. I found it wonderful to see and watch. So many smiles – so many hugs! • Perhaps the one aspect that rises to the top would be a chance to be part of a community, a group of individuals whom are all incredibly diverse, yet are united by the interest in expressing their creativity • The camaraderie amongst us is why we keep coming back. It comes from sharing experiences and knowledge gained as sculptors and from living our lives the way we have chosen to • I am part of a number of groups (teaching, mountaineering, paragliding), but I can say hands-down that the people at the symposium were, by far, the most generous, open-hearted, supportive group I have ever worked with.

Camp logistics
The camaraderie, food and beds were awesome. The kitchen staff deserved their own standing ovation • The new home at Pilgrim Firs is perfect • Was it the absolutely beautiful setting at our new digs? Was it the more intimate spacing on the field, or being framed by the forest where we work and show the finished pieces? It just felt... perfect! • A fantastic NEW home and I agree the closeness made it a success • The weather was perfect. The lake an inviting diversion. The camp, cozy and comfortable. The food, fresh, in copious quantity. And so many smiling faces! • The old knotty pine main buildings and cabins, trees, LOTS OF TREES! Plus, the wonderful lake with campfire pits and benches along it for evening gatherings. The overall, re-established "Closeness" for everyone • The ambiance of trees, water, trails and like-minded people at Pilgrim Firs all added to the feeling of coming home. Bob Olander working on his sculpture during the symposium.

Didja have a good time?
This year's symposium was one of the best for me • I am still glowing from the excitement that pervaded the camp all week • I am still amazed what an interactive encyclopedia of stone sculpture this group is • I am still learning new techniques, new stones, new ideas and getting to be with my stoner clan for a week, visiting good friends whom I may see only once a year • Every year, I forget just how nice it is, once I’m finally there, to see all of you again, to get to know you just a little better, to be welcomed into the group, to admire your work, to have you interested in mine, to help others with their sculpture problems and have others wanting to help me with mine, to learn from those willing to teach and to help those needing some advice. And, of course, to dance with whomever wants to dance on the one night a week when there’s music • It was definitely the high point of my summer!

Our Tribe
I was only able to attend the camp for a few days and am so glad that I took that time to do so • I could not have participated had the work study program not been available, so I am deeply grateful for its existence, and I almost have my carving setup completed at home • When can I sign up for next year? • I would not have known about this camp if I hadn't visited the Women's Sculpture Workshop which Arliss organized at Port Hadlock. I was greeted at that event with the same friendly and encouraging energy which prompted me to look into the camp. I will certainly be back next year! • I was also touched by the easy interactions with ALL of the attendees; people were so friendly, welcoming, and encouraging • As others have already said, it's like a family (well, what you would LIKE your family to be!) and I was thrilled to join it • One thing I particularly enjoyed is seeing how sculptors who have only been at it two or three years are starting to become more sophisticated in their design and approach to materials • I marvel at the art produced by 1st (and 2nd) timers, at their eagerness to learn and try something totally new, and by the exciting new work of accomplished carvers • It behooves all of us to search out and encourage the new talent out there who will keep NWSSA alive into perpetuity. "This is my tribe" he said to himself •

Some Things We Did
Our week at Camp was so impressive, so astonishing, so filled with gratitude, love, and magic moments • It was a full and glorious week • Having so many of us partying together Fri night; Kayaking and swimming in the lake with Grant & Gems; Enjoying the sweet, joyous spirit of James; Experiencing a mini-revival of figurative sculpture from James and Cyra; Taking time to hang out with longtime friends; Having so many folks come for the whole week...it helps provide so much continuity to the whole event • A dragonfly perched atop Dan's Escape (the sculpture with the branch bursting out and wending to the sky). How the little copper creature would flit away for seconds, but come right back to the tip of that branch and pose for our awe and our cameras • I enjoy looking up from the dust cloud to see a curious expression. I enjoy discussions about art and visions over breakfast and dusk walks on field to see the unfinished stones in their awkward angular stages. I enjoy a campfire surrounded by people who understand my passion to create, people I too understand.
Libby McGeorge spending a moment with her sculpture purchase from Ed SalernoWho We Are
Was it the NWSSA synergy on steroids? • The word 'convergence' said over and over again on the field. The smiles that never seemed to end. The generosity of spirit feeding those smiles. The support and safety inspiring such generosity.

Community
I need to be in community with those who I respect and love to be around. The well runs dry otherwise. It fills me up for the months ahead, where it's nose to the grindstone....and a solo ride for the most part. We all need community! • As when it’s over we all return home to our studios, garages and sheds. We keep doing what we’re compelled to do but now we’re alone again. The pursuit of art is by nature a lonely one • As I work through all the challenges in my art projects, it helps to know that there are others who share my drive to make art who exist out there in the world and perhaps I don't feel quite as alone • I always end the week feeling re-energized to return to my home studio and what is usually a solo enterprise • I am very grateful to be part of this group • New stone and tools in hand, I have emerged inspired to create • And then I pack up my truck and drive off into another fall and winter and spring. When I get the announcement of the next Pilgrim Firs in the mail, I know I’ll ask myself: “do I really want to go this year?” And I know that when I do go I’ll feel the same way I did this year: that it’s great to be back.
The Saturday Sculpture Show as seen from Huckleberry Lodge
Thank You
I want to express my appreciation to the many sculptors who offered their encouragement, friendship, a chair when I was trying to stay upright for Al's tool demo (thank you Tom!), etc. • Thank you everyone who made the event happen • Pat Barton, Steve Sandry and Steven Gwaliasi from NZ, thank you for making it flow so nicely in the jade tent • To Deborah, Joanne, and James for sharing with us your art and techniques • So many "individuals without borders” have kept the fires burning and the chips flying!! NWSSA has always led the way with these values and thanks to the current Board: Carl, Michael, Ken, Verena, Pat, Rick, Steve S, Ben, and Doug, for the difficult task of maintaining NWSSA. A Big thanks to Cyra Jane for her powerful and calm leadership that exudes warmth and caring for all. Thanks to Renee for her dedicated presence to manage and monitor the tribe • Keep up the good work • I thank everyone who's worked thirty years to make this possible, and I look forward to the next thirty! • The one indelible line stuck in my head from the whole wonderful week was "Panty Crotch Crunch"....a name for dog scented cereal. Thank you Ruth for that one. LOL!!! • I was so sorry to leave without saying goodbye and thank you to Tamara and Ruth for their invaluable assistance in the beginner's tent: thank you for your help! • Thanks to all those who have kept the Association’s traditions going so that it is there to go back to • And thank you all again for the wonderful honor you bestowed on me this year.

Oh what a joyous re-incarnation! • THANK YOU SO MUCH for allowing me to experience the symposium. It truly inspired me to create more art and I look forward to entering the meditative state of stone carving more frequently • As the week went on I knew I would come back. Knew I would set up a place to work the rock at my home. Knew this world of stone and art was for me. I felt connected to the people and the place • I learned, and laughed, and occasionally threw up my hands in surrender to a mean piece of alabaster, but I loved every minute of it • I still feel full and so very grateful that the life of this weird little girl gets to include this wonderful event and this incredible community • I look forward to returning to Camp PF next July! • Not sure if we can top that next year, but we can sure try.