Designing on the design wall.
Recently a friend pointed out to me that the pages on my website which listed my exhibitions, awards and teaching experience had disappeared! I checked and indeed the pages were missing. I suspect a recent change in the software for my website was the cause of this disappearance. My friend pointed out that I needed to fix this omission quickly as this is the time of year people make their plans for upcoming workshops and if someone was interested in taking one of my classes they would likely be interested in this information. Of course my friend was right about this but as I thought about it I decided I wanted to share not only the list of accomplishments but more about myself which might help someone make the decision to study with me. So here goes.
Question: What qualifies me to teach a workshop working with textile materials?
Response: Like many artist my age I have worked with different types of materials but fabric and fiber have almost always somehow found a way into my work. I learned how to sew as a teenager and continued to make clothing until I was an adult. Along the way I taught myself or studied with others to learn many of the traditional fiber related techniques and processes: weaving, spinning, embroidery, knitting, crocheting, dyeing etc. and even had a hand weaving studio for a time. About ten years after undergraduate school I returned to university and earned an MFA. Actually, I went into that program as a weaver and came out of the program doing mixed-media sculpture.
For 13 years after finishing graduate school I worked for the South Carolina Arts Commission on their Crafts Truck and then as an Artist-In-Residence all over the state of South Carolina. Even though I was making sculpture in my studio, most of these residencies involved some type of work in textiles. During this time I also taught Two-Dimensional Design, Drawing and Sculpture as an adjunct faculty member at Clemson University, Anderson University, Lander University and The Museum School at the Greenville County Museum of Art. In addition to this teaching I also did numerous workshops for other colleges and art programs including being on the faculty for The South Carolina Governor's School for Arts for 10 years while it was a summer program.
During these years I worked with every age group except kindergardeners. My students ranged from those seeking degrees in art to the casual student wanting to try something "different".
Later I left teaching and worked as a textile designer until I retired.
Working directly with the fabric.
Question: Having had these very diverse experiences, what did I learn?
Response: Teaching and then later working as a designer in a range of situations was a challenge. Each group has its' own dynamic but universally I saw that people want to do well with their work, however, depending on their background and their personality, being in a group of people that often they don't know personally can be very stressful. A workshop is a kind of "hot spot" where I believe you have to be willing to risk something in order to get the most out of the experience. This can mean trying something you've never done before and not getting the results you want. It can also mean sitting next to the person who is a total "newbie" yet everything they do comes out "perfect". If people get too much into comparing themselves or judging themselves against one another it can be very difficult. One of the most important things I learned was to work from achievement rather than disappointment meaning that I try to find the best in everyone's work. If someone desires a "hard" critique I can work with them but I only do this if invited. Most workshops are only a week long and that is not enough time to establish a relationship which supports tough criticism.
Trying something new.
Question: How do I plan workshops?
Response: Most of my workshops are planned around the Elements and Principles of Design. I use this as a format because it seems there are so many people who haven't had the experience of formally studying design. While I do incorporate some technique, I don't think that is the most important thing I have to share with people. I want my students to leave my classes with added confidence in their ability of make observations about their own work and feel they can solve design issues for themselves. This is a tall order for a weeks work but these workshops can be a start.
I spend a good deal of time working on my programs and try to find unique ways to approach exercises along with the tried and true approaches. I'm a great believer in experimentation and while students may not go home with a stack of finished works I work to see that they go home with ideas to carry them along to a finished work.
Enjoying new territory.
Question: What's the most difficult part of workshop teaching?
Response: I myself have participated in many workshops as a student so I understand the commitment that is made in time, money and emotion. Knowing that, the most difficult thing for me is to try and meet the needs of all the students. I don't know if that can be done but I do try to spend individual time with every student every day and contribute to their growth as an artist.
Having a one-on-one talk.
I invite you to check out my workshops for 2014. There are links at the top of the page. If you have questions please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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