I have neglected my blog for too long, but the winding down of 2012 can inspire us to reflect. My personal thoughts seem so trivial in light of the horrific losses suffered around the world this year, but the endeavor of creative expression can be soothing. With that in mind, I write.
My good friend Joy (an art teacher and new feltmaker who’s taken flight) asked me yesterday, “Does your work feel like work?”. As a feltmaker and teacher of feltmaking, my quick response was to smile and say “No. Not at all.” People are generally happy in my work world. Through the workshops I teach I can provide my students with a creative break in their routine, an opportunity to step away from daily demands, and a chance to be social if they choose. I feel lucky. I have never had a big problem to diffuse in my workshops (knock on wood). I try very hard to meet the expectations of my students by giving them the best of my knowledge, encouragement and patience. I try to be aware and respectful of an individual’s style of learning and interacting. Because my teaching is often one on one, this is critical and possible, if not easy. I try to approach new situations as a creative challenge for me as an evolving teacher.
I guess the thing I have been a bit surprised to discover in my work is how forthcoming my students are, and how our relationship develops. It usually evolves like this: I receive an email from an individual inquiring about my workshops. With some back and forth correspondence, we settle on a date. I try to determine the level of experience, what the goal of the student is, and recommend a workshop topic. Most of my students are traveling to reach me, so I recommend accommodations, transportation, where to eat, and play. I make sure to be helpful to those who need help (and I try to make sure those who don’t need help remember to book their room).
Because a student and I spend an entire day together, often several days, we really get to know a lot about each other. Maybe it is the nature of people to open up when they are engaged in creating? Maybe people don’t often have an opportunity to talk about themselves to someone who won’t be in their daily lives to judge them. I used to be concerned about conversations distracting from focus on technique, but now I accept it, and I work with it, while refocusing on technique as needed. I guess I feel it is just as important to let individuals be their whole selves while they learn technique.
I am not suggesting I promote touchy-feely workshops. I’m the sort who would back away from any formulaic touchy feelyness. But when I teach, my biggest pleasure comes from my student’s satisfaction. It has just evolved naturally. I want to have someone leave wanting to learn more. If people feel safe to explore, to try something new, to respect their materials, and the influence subtleties of technique can have in their practice… this is building something important.