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?