Design Family REUNION: They Never Fall Far from the Tree

Written by in Events

2012 REUNION:  Hat’s Off to the REUNION Committee

{Editor’s Note:  Neenah Paper was a kind sponsor of this inaugural event. Thanks to West Coast Rep Chris Lambert, we had lovely wine for one of the great meals, paper for the block printing class and oversized sheets to adorn the dinner tables. Everyone also enjoyed the Neenah trinkets inside their Welcome Kits. Marvelous posters, note pads and post cards were printed in Neenah Paper by Henry + Company of Atlanta.} 

I bet they don’t ask you take out the trash at TED. I was up to my elbows in stinking, dripping after-party crud when Doug Grimmett of Primal Screen/Atlanta looked at me and said, “I came here with high expectations. You exceeded them.


It was get-away morning after four days of incredible joy and friendship. A skeleton crew remained to pack and clean up the two rental houses. Most were gone — or so hung over they were still in their hotel room beds. The few who remained were helping with the least glamorous of tasks, packing, trashing and separating the mess:  Michael Osborne and Jane. Anne Telford and Julie Roux. Leslie Brown and Madeleine Loh. Rebecca and Kris Johnson. Doug and Jane Grimmett. Debra Naeve. My partner George. Heads clanging. Hands shaking. Clock ticking. Indescribable, rapturous — fatigue. And it was only 9 am .

The idea behind REUNION was simple: curate a weekend of some of the friends you made over many years in the creative business but whom you rarely see. We elected to be serious only about the wine, food and setting. We set the table. Invited our best friends. And then waited to see what happened.

What happened was a revelation.  With luck, it was the start of great new tradition in creative renaissance.

REUNION was successful because everyone who came to it claimed part of it for themselves. It belonged to everyone.  “It’s you I came to see,” was not just a motto. It was a promise. The only requirement for membership to this crow-footed club was a desire to quit complaining about one’s age. Together, we of greater vintage were reminded that age is a powerful force. Age is status. Age is experience. Age takes guts. Age can party. Age is generous. Age is grateful. Age is beautiful, insured and doing yoga at 9 a.m. And, Lord Have Mercy, can the aged drink like Leif Ericson! And sing like Etta James!  Why lie about your age!? We earned these wrinkles, dammit!

Ann Willoughby, who celebrated her birthday with us on August 31, said:  “I don’t remember having so much fun with ‘designers’. And making animation and block printing with our hands and hearts was icing on my birthday cake! The reunion was my best Birthday since Burning Man when I turned 60.”

REUNION was Burning Man with plumbing and clean sheets?! Woo-hooo! Everyone was on equal footing. There were no cliques or private luncheons. No VIP rooms or better beds. You came as yourself. You gave of yourself. You opened yourself to new possibilities and friendships. You rolled up your sleeves and you contributed.

Personal and minute contributions added up to make this event spectacular.  People sliced limes, smashed avocados, wiped down counters and poured the sodden into beds. Others separated plastic from bottles and both from cake-coated plates. Kat and Jane pinched flowers from rented gardens and set them on the tables. Some mixed drinks, others ran for ice. Some taught yoga, others taught animation. We whale watched and aquarium toured. We photographed, animated, pimped hats and printed. There were hugs, tears and earthquakes of laughter. There was spilled wine and overrun hearts, broken glassware and mended hearts. There was wisdom, kindness, love and reconnection. There were children, wives, husbands, partners and people locked out of their rooms on the deck in their underwear and very, very, very good hair.

While I was covered with an avalanche of gratitude and praise, I tried to deflect it.  The contributions of my nuclear family members were invaluable: Terry Marks, Denise Gallagher, Cathy Pavy, Burt Durand, Jami Anderson, Kat Hutchison and Michael Osborne. Then there were my first cousins Francis Pavy, Chris Sickels, Woody Welch, Sean Carnegie, Emily Potts, Pam Williams, Anne Telford, Mary Scott, Dave Holcomb, Wendy Quisenberry, Mark Kaufman and Petrula Vrontikis.

But on that final foggy morning, there I stood, hands full of trash, accepting the grace of Doug Grimmett with no one left to deflect it to. As Doug spoke, I realized he was right. Yes, we had exceeded expectations. Our expectations. Their expectations. All expectations. You never know about these things until they are done. No caterer goofs. No run-ins with the landlord, neighbors or cops. No injuries (well, five stitches for Leslie caused by a careless swipe with a linoleum cutter but no other damage). No lost luggage. No blown budgets! No huge fights and no one caught cheating. Success!


We had set the bar high and cleared it by a yard. What are we going to do for an encore? And so I looked at Doug and said, “Yes, Doug, we did it. We exceeded expectations.”

“Are we going to do it again?”

“Of course.” He gave me a hug and I returned it. He got in his car and we got in ours waving goodbye.  As we headed north on US 101 towards San Francisco, I asked George how his pre-REUNION visit with his mother had turned out.

“Well, you know. I was happy to see her and happy to leave. Three days with my mother is plenty.”

Dear Family: We love you. We need you. We need time to recover. See you all in two. Somewhere fabulous. Love, Reunion Committee

  1. 09
    Neenah Paper said:

    Please leave your favorite foggy memories of REUNION 2012.

  2. 09

    I love that me, my 11th finger, and ALL my chins all got in! I had just finished laughing with Nancy Sherill about as hard as I ever have in my life, you know fall down, can’t breath good laugh.

    I also like that even though I didn’t fully engage in the hat decorating (I helped Anne Telford a little, helped aim the glue gun:-) I have a “lid” moment after all! Hurray!

    Good Times…

  3. 09
    Jen Bilik said:

    This was one of the best, most fun design experiences I’ve ever had. Smart, interesting people in a beautiful place doing creative things? Heaven. Thanks to Neenah for sponsoring!

  4. 09
    Neenah Paper said:

    Thank you for this gracious comment, Jen. Knock Knock… who’s there.. Jen and Tonic!

  5. 09

    Lo-fi and hands on. That’s how I would describe this conference. The line Woody Welch used to instruct everyone in the Polaroid land camera workshop “Pull with a purpose” is not only functional for pulling film but also in life. Especially with friends. Thank you Neenah.
    Red Nose Studio

  6. 09
    Neenah Paper said:

    ” Pull with a Purpose!!” What a great line!! Thanks Chris for bring Woody’s wise words to our attention. It is a metaphor for everything collaboration and sharing is about.

  7. 09
    Woody Welch said:

    I said that? I guess I did and yes you are right Chris. Thank you for pointing out. I actually picked that one up from coaching Edie’s soccer team. “Kick with a purpose”, “run with a purpose” and even “love with a purpose” They were a very good team who played the right way.

    Thanks to all of you who made it happen. The images from the workshop are amazing, inspiring, original, and dirty!
    I loved every minute of the shindig in the fog and will be back for more!

    So many good days, so little time…


  8. 09
    Neenah Paper said:

    Polaroid workshop by Woody Welch and Sean Carnegie was a huge hit. So was the lino block printing using Neenah paper samples! Great fun and good people.

  9. 09
    Saul Colt said:

    Sad I had to miss this. The pictures and post look like a lot of fun.