* * * Gathering Places * * * Solo Exhibition featuring downtown architecture at The Gallery at the Frances Morrison Central Library August 1 - August 30, 2018. Reception Thursday August 9, 7pm - 9pm.

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Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Learn as I Teach. Teach as I Learn.

Hand work is really taking off in my life right now.  I am so grateful.  More and more people & groups are asking me to teach.  I love a needle and thread like a painter loves a brush and paint.  I spoke to a dear friend this morning about how we start off as artists and then somehow we shift into the realm of teaching whether we plan it that way or not.  It was a good conversation.

packing supplies & samples for a class

When it comes to teaching, I don't have a lot to go on.  I have been teaching creative sewing classes for three years now, but haven't attended a lot of classes myself.  I was terrified of teaching large groups (8+) but after leading a couple workshops for groups of 15+ in Manitoba, I found that it is indeed possible!  Still, I often wonder if I doing this right.  I got some wonderful positive feedback in my last Postcards class which really helped.  I asked for clarification and it sparked some great conversation - things I'd never considered.


Like art, once you start, more and more people want you.  Word gets around.  I find it a struggle to juggle teaching and art creation time.  Fortunately, once you put a class together it's always there.  You don't have to start from scratch every time.  That's a big perk.  I know the same will be true for video classes, but I am concerned about the initial amount of work in putting something like that together.  That's the exact reason I dropped out of going to Denver at the last minute for Craftsy last year.  I need to get over that.

"Come for Tea & Stitch with Me" in Winnipeg was my pilot attempt at teaching a class on basic surface embroidery stitches.  Already I'm getting booked for it three more times in the next month!  That's crazy great!  One is in Winnipeg again, one will be at Creative House in Saskatoon (details coming soon), and one will be a 3 hr module for a 6 day long workshop lead by Elizabeth Babyn.  I met Elizabeth over a year ago at USCAD's Experimental Fibre Art II class.  She went on to do some part time teaching with the University's art & design program.  Now she's offering this through her own art studio.  See Elizabeth Babyn's blog post about the Experimental Textile Workshop HERE.  It's six days long!  WOW.  She's doing it because she feels there's a need for it.  Awesome.  I'll be doing my workshop for her class on the morning of Sunday May 26th.  THIS time I will make sure to bring my camera!  : )

So - I took some time to reflect and ask myself this:  as a teacher, what am I learning?

I answered: Lots.  (Monika - please elaborate)

I am learning:

- Students love to see samples of finished work.

- Students really love to see samples of techniques of work in progress

- Showing things that didn't work & explaining why are equally great ways to learn (learning by MY

- Students appreciate prepared kits so they don't have to go mega shopping for an unspecified project.  I was told this one over and over...  I want coming to my classes to be easy.

- Always make a point of spending a bit of time with the quietest ones who don't ask for anything.  ; )  They often have a lot on their minds and many questions they are shy to ask about.

- I will likely always need to keep a point form schedule of planned things to cover in class or I will forget important things / stray...

- Their creativity is spurred when I supply fabrics and fibres for them so they aren't always staring at their old stash.

- Tips - I am full of them!  I see how the simplest of tips make enjoying the process of creating so much less stressful (like threading or tying off... really basic pointers are really helpful).

- Show & tell is golden.  Because the results in-class projects are not based on patterns, everyone ends up with something different.   I like the students to take a break and look at each other's work - whether completed or in progress.  They learn so much from each other.  This point in the class is often a real creativity booster.  You get a lot of, "OH!  I never thought of that!" and everyone is generally quite impressed. : )  I am right in there with them squealing, "WOW look at that!".  : )

- Students are sometimes nervous to be there too.  I did not know that before.  One woman giggled at my disclosure of being nervous, and said, "You are nervous!?  How do you think we felt coming in to this class?"  I really had not contemplated that.  But yes - I do recall going to a class and being completely terrified of messing up or being put on the spot.  Even going around to introduce yourself is highly intimidating for some.  (I hated that part - but as a teacher, I always do it!  Should I be??  Do you hate this part at the beginning of classes?)

- As a teacher, I'm always learning and thankfully that will never end : )  I am blown away by people's creativity!

- I still consider myself an artist first and foremost, and want to remain that way.  That will keep priority as there is so much more I want to create.  I have ideas pouring out of my ears and some days it drives me mad!

Do you teach?  Are you a sewing-class-aholic?  What's your feedback on your experiences?

...linking up to WIP Wednesday @ TN&TN - since teaching is what I'm workin' on. : )


Anonymous said...

Great comments Monika, I have attended some classes with out local Guild and also think about teaching myself as I have sewn things for well over half a century, but still worry that people will not think I know enough. I am changing direction and becoming more of a fibre artist than a quilter or person that constructs garments and home decor necessities, although I still enjoy and have those skills, art is calling my name. I have so many things I want to be able to leave a fibre "footprint" other than drapes or slipcovers, or bridesmaid dresses etc. Vivien Levermore materialgirl@ripnet.com

Bernie said...

Count my attic as number 4 and let's book a date in the fall - how many hours should it be. Class size of 8 is about max for up there. I'm super excited about it as I really like landscape wall hangings and think this will really enhance my work there. I'm pretty sure I'll be able to fill the class in the blink of an eye!
Professionally I can understand the nervousness of the teacher. When I started in my new role 5 years ago I was so hesitant about the best way to teach and how to do it on the fly (which is how one learns in my environment) and I find that I have really grown in those 5 years as a teacher and a person. I do a lot of hands on, I draw it out, I speak it over and over and over again. I also ask each student/new staff member how they learn best and try to remember that as I am going through our work day. It does get a lot easier as time goes on although I must admit that some days I could easily run out of patience but I don't. Thank heavens for the release of my end of day walk with my dogs and my attic sewing room.

CitricSugar said...

I tend to be shy by nature (yes, I know you laughed at that - but it's true). However, I've learned from teaching that other students are often encouraged by the work and openness of other students so I tend to be as generous as I can be as a student and a teacher and hope I don't annoy anyone who thinks I'm a nerdy keener. :-)

Love your insights! And we need to do vietnamese again soon. :-)

HollyM said...

I've been a teacher all my life and believe its what I do best. You are a really fast learner! You seem to have intuitively picked up on all the important things. It sounds like you're very organized and open to anything.

elle said...


Bee said...

Having been both a teacher and a student, I agree with your whole list. I found the introductions at the beginning of a class intimidating as a student. However, I also did it as a teacher!

Cheryl Arkison said...

Great post. So much resonates with me as my teaching career expands.

Jeito Mineiro de Ser said...

Difícil para eu entender tudo pela tradução do google mas, acho que você está se saindo muito bem como professora. Alunos são inicialmente tímidos!
Continue por este caminho! Felicidades!
Um abraço!


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