I have wanted to write this post for a while. Last February, the Santa Clara Quilt Association invited me to give a lecture and teach a two day workshop. They chose the workshop Abstraction of Place.
Quilt maker and teacher extraordinare, Roberta Horton once told me, that if as soon as you learn something you want to go out and share it with others—you are a teacher. That is me. The minute I get something right in my head, I can’t wait to tell you about it. Here is a great piece of Roberta’s work.
One of the best things about teaching is that you, as the teacher, learn so much. When you first realize this it can make you feel insecure—as the teacher you are suppose to know everything. But you do not. And there will always be a student who will try and stump you. At first, I would be defensive when this happened. But eventually I realized teaching is learning. Embrace it.
There are many different types of teachers out there. Some are stern task masters while others will have you hold hands and hum together. I fall some where in the middle. (Thinking about over-the-top-break-you-down-and-build-you-up teachers, always makes me think of the movie Whiplash. J.K. Simmons’s Academy Award performance is insane.)
I believe the most important thing for me to do is to create an enviroment where the vulnerable state of creativity can manifest itself without censorship from me, the student, or her peers. As visual artists and quilt makers our work is visible to everyone around us. Writers can easily hide what they have writen on the page, but we cannot. As we work through ideas everyone can see our struggles and our successes. This can be an incredibly intimidating situation.
Conjuring a safe space for creativity is easier to do with a group that already knows and supports each other. The Santa Clara Quilt Association had this down. They were ready to learn together.
Before the workshop some of the students had expressed concerns about their ability to do the work. I had concerns about my ability to lead them. Abstraction of Place is probably my most advanced workshop. It combines lessons from all of my other workshops and challenges you to abstract an image using color, pattern, and repetition. I also realized on day two of the class that the name of the workshop was ALL wrong and really giving students mis-information about the class. We talked about this and with my students help we decided to change the name of the workshop to—Abstraction Through Color, Pattern, and Repetition.
I also believe that it is my duty as a teacher to met the student where she is. To work from that place. If she only feels comfortable copying my work. So be it. If she wants to go off on a tangent and make things unrelated to what I am teaching. Okay. If she wants to learn what I have to teach. Let’s go.
I knew the first few hours were going to be very rough, but if we could get through that, and I could start working one on one with each student things would begin to happen.
I am so glad we had two full days together. This gave everyone, including myself, time to work through an assortment of obstacles. Some were stuck on selecting their palette. Some had chosen images to work with that were going to take lots of time to break into abstraction. Some really wanted to learn about another one of my workshops—Making Prints out of Solids. We did it all.
Once I deliver the lecture portion of a workshop, I then begin to work the room visiting every student whether they want me to or not. I tell my students I Want You to Want Me.
When I was a young quilt maker, I would hid my work from the teacher. I was that insecure. Then I realized. DUH. She is the teacher because she has something to tell me. If I don’t share my work, I won’t get to hear it.
I see the students who try to hide from me, and I understand. So I will visit with them, and we may or may not talk about their work. We may talk about grandkids, cooking, or travel. It all goes back to creating an enviroment where students feel empowered to share what is inside of them.
You know what Oscar Wilde said—“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
And that is my role as a teacher. I hope to put my students in touch with their creative selves and then translate that into pieced cloth. It’s a good gig.
One of the great joys of teaching is when a student sends you an email with images of her finished work. HINT. HINT. Joan Spencer sent me these lovely images of her work from the workshop. She combined lessons from Making Prints of out Solids with the now newly named class Abstraction through Color, Pattern, and Repeition.
The piece was designed for an exhibition of Arts of the Covenant called “Awakenings in Darkness and Light”. It will be shown at the Twin Pines Art Center in the Manor in Belmont, CA from June 1-June 30, 2016. You should go see it if you are in that hood.
In Joan’s words, “There are two main awakenings involved in this piece. One, is the germination and growth of flowers and plants from seeds in the dark depths of rich earth. There is joy from their bursting forth with a vast variety of color, pattern and beauty.
The other is the dawn of a new day bringing the sun’s glorious light to dispel the black darkness of night. I think I will call this piece “God’s Wake Up Call”.
It’s a beauty. I hope this will inspire all of my students to think about sending me their work, so that I can share it with a larger audience. It’s a good thing. We are in this together.