Wednesday, February 25, 2015

PantheaCon 2015!

I am recovering from being on tour with the band for the last few weeks, and more specifically the plague, but I wanted to write up my PantheaCon experience before I forgot/moved on to the next 60 projects.

Some background: I first attended PantheaCon way back in 2002 to scope it out, shortly after I had moved to the Bay Area.  The next year, Crescent Magazine got a booth there - and I don't remember if we started off with panels or presentations that year or the next - which would have been the "Kali Ma Dance Ritual" and I lead some ritual/sacred dance workshops along the way. What stands out in memory is that "The Red God Revel" took place in 2005 (me, Anaar, and Thorn - it was later performed again in 2010, but I was on the other coast then and could not participate) and in 2006, I presented "Dance of the Djinn" (also a performance/ritual). In 2007 I was in the process of moving back to the East Coast, so I just informally attended.

That would be it until last year - 2014, when Nathaniel and I decided to check it out (his first Pagan convention) - and we presented our live music/dance/ritual performance "Dreaming The Raven: A Morrigan Dance Ritual."  It was so well-received that we decided to apply to bring the whole band for 2015, offer a movement workshop, and to get a booth space - and we got in across the board!

I opted for a booth space on the mezzanine (outside the main ballroom), for several reasons: I remember it being quite cold in Anaar's booth last year (one side of the ballroom was freezing while the other was sweltering), the mezzanine offered lots of natural light, and extended hours. The downside was mainly being needed to pack small things up and cover it all every evening, and reset every morning.

Since we were bringing the whole band down (and doing a tour down/back), this meant we were driving, so I could bring ALL of the set-up - which sounds great until one realizes that it's a lot more complicated to hang ALL the artwork and display when you're used to just setting up some print racks - oh and forgot the zipties back in Seattle.

 I think I spent most of Friday trying to keep calm as I tried to figure out how to make it look good.  What really helped keep me sane was the immense number of folks who kept stopping in their tracks to look at the artwork and compliment it as I pulled it out.  There is nothing quite so satisfying for an artist as watching folks stop whatever they were in the middle of doing, and from 8 feet away just look at the art with such an expression of awe and inspiration. (SO much better than the typical regular art festival reaction, where many folks seem in a hurry to run away and dowse themselves in holy water...)  

I was determined to start Saturday off early and fresh. Best laid plans of mice and maidens.

The morning flew by as I worked on setting up the booth and trying to eat breakfast before my 11am workshop "Merging Movement With Ritual" - and then I had a waking anxiety nightmare.  Ever have one of those dreams when you are late for whatever event you're supposed to be at, in the wrong room, missing clothes, etc?

Well, as I handed the tablet over to Nathaniel to get him set-up, I happened to press the button that showed the time: 11:01am.  I was in complete disbelief because I had just checked my watch and I had at least 20 minutes - but my phone also confirmed it.  In changing my watch over from East Coast to West Coast time (as we had just been in RI for TempleCon), I must have not synced it properly - and now was LATE for my own workshop - and I am the gal who is always there early.

Commence me grabbing my laptop, tea, dvds, some cards, and running from one end of the hotel to the very farthest room on the ground floor.  When I arrived (11:03), I discovered a room packed full of Pagans and a very worked-up door person who proceeded to admonish me harshly in front of the entire room for the next few minutes while I sincerely apologized and was so embarrassed.

Apparently, even though I had checked in the day before as a vendor, received my badge, etc - I was supposed to also check-in with the Green Room so they had me listed as missing (despite numerous people having seen me.) (btw, 11:03 - was also the same time my phone registered a missed call....which begs the question, if they thought I was missing/not checked-in 15 minutes before the event, why didn't someone call earlier?) I totally understand her frustration with the situation, but as an event producer myself, I believe there are more graceful (positive) ways that that could have been handled. Especially at an energy-sensitive type of event. And I know it just wasn't me feeling it in the stress of the moment, as others expressed their concern afterwards.

That negative (and mortifying) experience aside, the workshop went splendidly.  The class was wonderful, receptive, and enthusiastic.  Afterwards, I apologized to the Green Room staff for the check-in misunderstanding - and they were so kind and gracious - and reminded me that what mattered most was that I was there and taught the workshop and pretty much started on time.  Then they gave me an "early check-in" ribbon since I could take care of the band's Sunday event while I was there, so LOL. Those folks were really helpful to us throughout the weekend, and are always so awesome - so extra kudos to them!

The rest of Saturday flew by at the booth, where my art was being so well-received.  By the time we shut down that evening, I was exhausted.  Yet when I got back to our hotel (one of the overflows) and grounded for a few, I realized I wanted to go back and socialize.  Dogwood was up for heading back, so we refreshed ourselves and walked back to the DoubleTree.  We spent some quality time with Anaar, Onyx, and their DIL + grandchild, then explored the hospitality rooms - including the Pandemonaeon and Black Rose rooms.  It was great to just chat and catch up with folks - and I had so many people from the workshop that morning relate their experience to me - so satisfying!

Sunday started off more leisurely - and with bacon. Everything is better with bacon. Dogwood and Nathaniel had an acoustic set in the Pandemonaeon suite, and then were off to load in for our 9pm show.  As circumstances would have it, The Nathaniel Johnstone Band concert was scheduled at the same time as our friends at the bellydance show, which cause some sadness (and confusion), but now we all know next year to work to avoid that.  Despite that, we had a full room with lots of folks up and dancing with great crowd response.  The sound guys rocked too :)

Monday finally started off at a fair space and we were busy until the end as folks scooped up last minute items and finalized large purchases they'd been pining over all weekend.

Over the course of the event, I sold over a dozen originals, most of my jewelry stock, a ton of prints and cards + band cds + dance dvds.  Presenting my work there (and the band) far exceeded my expectations, and I'm still a bit in shock over it. (Thanks again to Thalassa for accepting me as a vendor and for a great spot!)

Alas, I didn't get as much time as I would have liked to catch up with friends and network more - I think I managed to only get waves in at Macha, Thorn, Oberon, Jason P, and many others. Some folks I only saw once for a few minutes and not again all weekend.  But what time I did get to spend talking with folks was glorious.  I love hearing what people see in my work, how it makes them feel, talking with them about their work, and sharing ideas.  I love to see folks get inspired, to see the lightbulbs turn on, and a whole new level of excitement come upon their path.  It's wondrous.

I didn't happen to experience or overhear any of the unfortunate situations/events that transpired for some (as shown in many a blog aftermath) - and sad to hear about it.  But I am also heartened by the response of the community.  I feel that PantheaCon is a special event that IS very welcoming. Everywhere I went, I was met with many genuine smiles and good cheer.  With any convention (as with any segment of the human population), there will be some assholes - but the majority of folks are really awesome and positive.  Next year I am hoping to make more events, which means bringing a few more helpers along to watch the booth. I will definitely be back!