Anna Hergert, Art & Design

Letting the Light in…

Crystals_HDR_editHappy New Year! May 2016 bring you happiness, prosperity and health!

I do not spend much time on making lists formulating New Year’s resolutions. In the past I have found that by day 5 I am looking for reasons to shorten the list, and by day 14 I have abandoned all resolutions. These days I use the holiday season for reflection, reading and lots of quiet time.

I was so fortunate to have discovered the book by Chris Orwig “The Creative Fight” last month. Don’t let the title discourage you – let it beckon you to start reading. I have spent some time working my way through the first part of the book. Is the information earth shattering? New? Not really – what it has done for me is to provide me with less clouded views, it has washed away some doubts that have crept in, and it has helped me to start pushing aside a general sluggishness when it comes to my art. I picked up my journal and started writing again. Every day I find time to put my thoughts on paper. Just yesterday I had a real light bulb moment!

I have been teaching for many years. First it was Kindergarten, then parent craft groups, handwork to children at the Calgary Waldorf School and eventually spinning, knitting, basketry, dyeing, embroidery and quilting to adult learners.  I always loved teaching, in fact it was my persona mission to share what I know to keep the crafts alive! Over the past three years I felt I was beginning to question why I was getting unreasonably tired and was greatly lacking energy and creative impetus in the studio.

While journaling yesterday I realized with extreme clarity that I still love to teach, but I was getting frustrated with myself that I had succumbed to teaching with kits! Teaching for me was always about design and helping others to find their voice while acquiring skills that would enable them to create original work.

Where is the originality in teaching with kits? I resisted teaching one and two day workshops for many years. One and two-day workshops leave little time for creative exploration – I will even go as far as stating “they provide NO time for personal expression” – we have at best six hours with up to 25 participants… how can I even remember someone’s name?

One and two day workshops are popular with organizers despite the feedback I have received from participants. Yes, they like the fact that I spent weeks preparing kits so they don’t have to worry about packing more into their suitcase, but when setting prices for these kits (which rarely allow to factor in time spent assembling said kits) participants are hesitant to spend much more than $ 10 or $ 15. Participants regularly share that three days or more with one teacher/mentor is much more beneficial. Well, there isn’t much one can change when we get hired by the quilt show organizers. We propose classes, most times two and three day proposals get ignored, and if we want to stay on the circuit we toe the line, create detailed handouts for those wanting to finish at home on their own, ensure that the kit has everything needed and hope for full classes.

Until 2011 I didn’t entertain providing kits, some basic supplies yes, but I just wasn’t into cookie cutter outcomes in my workshops. These days it appears that all workshop organizers request are short classes that fill. Yesterday’s lightning bolt struck hard and I suddenly realized that I had been frittering away precious creative time for the sole purpose of teaching with kits. I saw the light, as the saying goes. And a promise to myself was made: I will finish up all contracts in 2016 but after that I will not teach workshops that require kits or are less than three days in length!

Art Quilt Campus has been a huge success. My model of spending 5 full days with up to 15 participants in a setting that fosters creativity and personal growth is tiring for me, but it has provided me with a way to employ a personal teaching approach, make connections and observe continued growth in participants. THIS is what teaching and sharing is all about. I have known it all along – the fact that presenting a topic on a platter, spending very little time on design and not being able to allow for additional time to explore does not my support my teaching philosophy. Organizing my thoughts today, formulating this post and potentially opening myself up to negative repercussions has not been easy. I was inspired to share yesterday’s epiphany after watching this YouTube video, a TED talk by Chris Orwig.

Why did I decide to share my resolution (not a New Year’s resolution, but one for the entire future)? It all came from Chris Orwig’s statement in the video “All good art requires some sort of fight… and beauty (not be confused with perfection)”. I am fighting my way back to the studio, back to being true to myself.

Thank you for “listening” to my rant… Happy New Year – what is your goal for 2016?

This entry was published on January 1, 2016 at 6:08 am. It’s filed under Art, Creativity Update, Daily Prompt, Journaling, Motivational, Nature's Art, Networking, Sharing Resources, staying in touch and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

36 thoughts on “Letting the Light in…

  1. Marilyn/Serafina on said:

    Hi Anna , I was the second person to reply to your post , but it got lost because I put in a different email and by this time (being 80,lol) I had forgotten what I had written and gave up. But it did say that your spirit was trying to get your attention and you had to be true to yourself and I would always take your classes , especially the 3-5 day ones etc etc . So follow your inner promptings, knowing that everything past , present and future is always in divine order, nothing is ever to be regretted , just accept the gifts and move on. Now does that ever sound all mixed up, but I think you know what I mean. Cheers and happy New Year


  2. Bravo! One day classes are teasers, not true learning experiences. I marvel at how much you pack into your courses and love sharing that time with you. I’m in a dig deep and reevaluate mode this year as well – trying to INTEGRATE a variety of interests in my life. I love focusing on my fibre art but frustrated at my lack of progress in other interest areas. This is a major birthday year for me and it is making me think about how quickly time is passing and how I need to step back and consider my life goals and how to accomplish them.


    • Diane, thank you for the feedback – I am a firm believer in sharing more rather than less… I have participated in too many workshops myself where the message of the teacher was “If you want to learn that you must register for another workshop with me…”, hence my teaching philosophy to share with the individual.
      And I can certainly relate to not having enough time to explore the variety of interests that drive me. Our passion to inquire and learn is also our detriment in so many ways. We have too many interests and it adds pressure and great stress when we cannot immerse ourselves into one specific interest area to truly explore and master it. And the major birthday year, yes that is true for me as well – but I have all year to make the changes…. famous last words… 😉


  3. Johanna Alford on said:

    Good for you Anna. You are a wonderful artist and need to spend more time on your own art and not have to hold the hand of other want to be artists. You studied many years and now need time to develop your art.


    • Thanks Johanna – yes, I studied many years and I had a good run at being a practicing studio artist. That enabled me to mount four large solo exhibitions. My last full body of work was created and exhibited in 2012 before I started signing contract after contract for teaching and judging… I had best laid plans to only travel for 6 months of the year and spend the other half in my studio but you and I know where best laid plans often lead. 😉


  4. Helene on said:

    Good on you, Anna! It sounds like the door to reclaiming your creative space is opening further. An epiphany – what a wonderfully energizing way to start off the new year. I’m very pleased for you. You are a consummate teacher and if 1-day workshops just don’t cut it, then so be it. But please don’t beat your self up over it. You’ve managed to make a living at your art and you’re to be congratulated on that. But it sounds like the time has come for you to move on. Congratulations on gaining clarity!
    Thank you again for sharing your thoughts and your journey with us. I continue to learn from you through this blog. Reading about your struggles, over-coming them and how you continue to move forward helps me put things into perspective as well. clarity!


    • Thanks, Helene! You are an inspiration to me as an artist who has chosen to live “off the grid”, dedicated to balancing growing your own food, working hand in had with your husband to build your paradise AND continue to create meaningful textile art by hand! I am grateful we met in 2012 and have opportunities to spend time together both in a classroom setting and personally. – Moving on is one way of looking at my decision, it is really my way to reclaim to withdraw a bit for the sake of filling the proverbial well and finally letting it spill over. But – it will take some time to fulfill contracts and commitments. All this cannot fully kick into gear until late September. Changing my mindset started on New Year’s eve…


  5. Yay Anna !!!!!!!!


  6. Pat Hoyer on said:

    Good decision, Anna,
    Let others teach the kit/beginner courses. Your time and knowledge is better spent encouraging creative exploration. I haven’t taken many workshops but always find I most enjoy those that give me room to create something that is mine rather than a “paint by number” effort.


    • It was less a decision than a light bulb moment, Pat. It is time to go back to a more creative approach to teaching and sharing. It felt as if I had stepped backward with the high demand on technique = kit based classes. I also have to admit that I would prefer to attend workshops that challenge me in design and creative problem solving. With that realization put into perspective I move forward! All the best in 2016.


  7. Jeanne Rogers on said:

    I hope that the ideas expressed in your email become a trend setter. I have taken several kit-based and one day affairs and come away feeling that I gained no knowledge, skill or insights one could use in future: crowded spaces, too much noise, too many students, mostly unapproachable instructors and a feeling of being rushed into doing something one needed to give more thought to before acting. Not to mention the travel time and expenses involved. Never again! Thanks so much for expressing better than I could my feelings of frustration and truly a waste of my time and the instructors as well. Cheers!

    Jeanne Rogers


    • Thank you, Jeanne – here I was quite worried about offending those who are absolute fans of one day workshops. I believe the general trend is shifting, as you have just confirmed. How can we aid in shifting mainstream (which is no longer main stream) thinking? I believe former and current quilt show (or similar event) attendees must communicate with the organizers and effectively express their preferences. Some events provide feedback forms. Teachers rarely get to see these which confirms that the primary focus is on the financial bottom line. I welcome feedback forms – I demand to know where I need to improve and if I have met my students’ expectations. I am also a big supporter of communicating this with the people planning future events. – All this said, I think your experiences have led you to the realization that there is more then “collecting” teachers and kits. The time is here for in=depth study and an opportunity to revisit what you have been exposed to in a short workshop. As I tell my students, “Nobody learns everything in one day. Go home, explore the technique and make it your own!! Then go and share your insights – that is how we stay current and how we push our creative energy forward!” Thank you again for weighing in!


  8. Dorothy M on said:

    Anna, This is why Art Quilt Campus is such a success and why we return each year! Your share so freely of your creative spirit during these times and we all have time to grow creatively because of that combined with your encouragement. It takes energy, time and reflection to do that. My own similar light bulb experience is happening as I read an earlier recommendation of yours, Art & Fear, with its very pertinent advice for people like me – maybe 2016 will see the breakthrough!
    My very best wishes to you for your creative revitalisation in 2016.


    • Dorothy – what great feedback about Art Quilt Campus and thank you for taking the time to reflect and even revisit an earlier post. “Art and Fear” used to be my go-to creativity boost. It is still very high on the list. Check out “From My Studio Window” by Ted Orland, another great book with sound advice on how to claim creative time and gain a better outlook on all things art. For now I will stick with the Chris Orwig book – still reading and working through the exercises… and then I have a book by David duChemin “The Visual Toolbox”, So much to read and explore – so little time! Happy New Year – may it be the most creative ever!


  9. Sandra Hamilton on said:

    I just watched the Ted Talk. Thanks for sharing. I always enjoy your posts. I love the 5 day workshops I have taken. I relish the chance to explore how I can tap in to my creativity. At this stage I think I need the encouragement of working with a teacher who pushes me to stretch. My techniques are pretty good but the designing needs work. Happy New Year.


    • Thanks for weighing in, Sandra. There comes a time in every creative person’s life when we realize that we know a lot in one area and we need to augment in another – this will never stop… at least that is what I have observed in myself. Enjoy your exploration of design, Sandra.


  10. on said:

    Hello Anna and Colin, A very Happy New Year to you two! I have followed your comings and goings quietly and am always quite impressed how much you do….it is all I seem to be able to do to just do emails. Hope Colin has a better year of health and vigor. I was at the SCC a few days ago to view the Dimensions Show and was so impressed with your piece, Anna.  Loved the textures. All the best, Shelley



  11. Alice Brody on said:

    Anna, I can’t agree more. It seems like a wonderful decision. I will always remember the five day class at QBL when we first met. It was inspirational. I’ve always felt that five day classes are the minumum for real learning and inspiration.


    • Thanks for that endorsement, Alice. Yes, I truly feel I have connected and become friends with those participants who were able to commit to a five day learning exchange. They are energizing for both, student and tutor – one and two day classes remind me of an assembly line from the time I gather the supplies, divide them, kit them and then try to impart the information in one or two days, especially when it is expected to get 20 – 25 students into a space that has no natural or poor lighting…


  12. Dianne Firth on said:

    Enjoy your journey back to creativity, a very good direction to travel in for all.


  13. on said:

    Anna, you have made the right decision about one or two day classes with kits. It has been frustrating to me as a student when five day classes are canceled .

    But my goal for 2016 is to focus on ideas from some of the classes I have taken. So many ideas floating in my head. Time to spend time creating my own ideas from classes I have taken.

    Happy New Year!


    • Thank you for weighing in, Linda. So glad you are planning to revisit some of the concepts introduced in classes. I wish you all the best for the new year and do stay in touch as you explore new work and “old” ideas. I was so happy that we had a chance to reconnect at QBL in 2015.


  14. Carol Ewles on said:

    Good for You Anna! I agree with your thoughts that a 1 day class doesn’t leave room for creative endeavors. I’m with you all the way. Hope you get to enjoy some sushine in Florida.


    • Thanks for your feedback, Carol. I knew in my heart that something was off when I couldn’t focus (and it went on way too long!)… Will do my best to catch a few rays of sunshine. Can’t decide what to pack…


  15. Birdie McLean on said:

    Way to go Anna! Best wishes for the New Year!

    Sent from my iPad



  16. Uncovering what feeds us and what drains us is so crucial, and requires a dedicated personal practice. Bravo for standing up for teaching methods that feed both you and participants. Teaching venues that only consider the bottom line are rationalizing their workshop models as necessary, but fostering personal growth and creativity, which is your main concern (and should be theirs), can easily fall by the wayside.


    • Thank you, Carol. I appreciate your thoughts and am happy to see that I am not alone in my assessments. Indeed fostering personal growth and creativity IS our main concern. Without it I have nothing to share or give in the future. Wishing you a Happy New Year and many opportunities to foster your creativity.


  17. Katina Chapman on said:

    It all goes back to being true to yourself, doesn’t it. My word for this year is frugality. Constantly buying fabric just for the sake of ownership makes no sense. I get overwhelmed at the cupboards and drawers full of fabric and beads and wool. Quilts of Valour are number one on the list. Also an afternoon set aside for learning. I will order that book from the library, once I can read again. Happy New Year. Thank you for your thoughts and inspiration.


    • Yes, Katina, I relate to your resolution of frugality. I committed to that several years ago. I wasn’t hard as I had limited space – but then there was my passion for hand dyeing… You will do great and find a way to put the stash to good use! Adding an afternoon to immerse yourself in learning will be so rewarding! I yearn for this myself and 2016 is my year to return to a simpler life.


      • Janet Wilhelm on said:

        I did not open this blog until yesterday. I no longer take one day classes. QBL’s format of 3 to 5 day classes has made realize for me that personally the longer time is better. That said I have taken some 2 day classes that I have enjoyed. One day classes are too stressful, hurry up and do. The enjoyment of the creative journey goes by the wayside. You have the gift of enabling others to get in touch with their creative side. Thank you and Happy New Year.


      • Thanks for your insights, Janet. I should have put this topic out on the blog a long time ago… It is so very helpful to receive readers’ feedback in personal insights.


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