I wonder how many of you needed to have a bit of a rest after this years Conference at Canterbury? As is always the case at Conference there was never a dull moment, a packed programme of talks, events and classes left me in need of a bit of a lie down.
 
Having had that lie down and a chance for some reflection, I’d like to take this opportunity to publicly thank retiring members of the Guild Executive Committee. Joy Funnell is handing over the reigns to Catie McNeil our new Treasurer. Beverley Archard is handing over the job of Librarian to new member Marion Edwards. Gillie Hoyte- Byrom is stepping down from her successful tenure as Bursary Officer to be replaced by Carol Griffin. Erika Speel is standing down after many years as Publicity Officer to be replaced by Lynne Glazzard. I would like to say a particular thank you to Erika who has not only given her time in her role on the Executive Committee but has also acted as a Selector and Chair and freely shared her extensive technical knowledge with the membership. Anyone who has the chance to hear Erika talking about the history of enamels is in for a treat. Last but not least I’d like to welcome Jane Ball our new Vice-Chair and thank Ruby Tomes and Liz Gilliland for organising such a great Conference. Sadly Liz has said that she will be standing down after our 2012 Conference so we are looking for a new Conference Secretary.
 
Many enamellers hold the Guild in great affection; as a result we are lucky to be able to persuade some of the most highly skilled exponents of our craft to let us into their world. We were lucky to see and hear Fred Rich demonstrating his approach to producing his highly detailed and much sought after pieces at Conference. Thanks also to Rachel Gogerly for her personal look at working as a professional enameller. And to Phil Barnes who gave us a look back into his early career with his dad Fred, or should that be Charles Barnes? His funny and touching presentation provided us with the proof that, yes, Phil was young once and that he did have a head of luxuriant flowing, auburn locks!
 
Phil’s talk was also a testament to an approach to training; the traditional apprenticeship, that seems to have almost disappeared. Whatever one might think about the old approach of starting at the bottom making the tea, fetching and carrying for your elders and betters and generally doing whatever needed to be done, it seemed to have totally immersed a young person into the craft they were following, giving them a depth and breadth of training today’s young crafts- people can only marvel at.
At the present time training young people in any skill seems to be becoming more difficult. Respected courses are closing and training is becoming less easy to access across so many areas but particularly the creative subjects. The Guild has always been keen to welcome new members and the number of classes running in different regions is proof of the continued interest and necessity of maintaining and passing on skills and knowledge.
 
As someone who has spent the last 24 yrs teaching the 11-18 range at Secondary level, I know the value and enjoyment to be had in encouraging young people to take up craft skills. The Judith Harris Memorial Award for Young Enamellers was introduced to encourage those members who are under 18 to submit work for exhibition at Conference. We now have three enamelled awards, one for each age category, designed and made by Laura Ball our first Under 18 winner. Unfortunately we were not able to award the Under 11 category as there were no entrants. So if you’ve got any little enamellers out there please submit their pieces at the next Conference.
 
I’d like to finish by thanking all of our membership for their support and look forward to seeing as many of you as possible in the coming year.