Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Art of Teaching

Tulips starting to die. I thought they where still so pretty just in a different way!
As I prepare to leave in a few days for 3 teaching engagements, Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Sister's Quilt Festival in Oregon,   I am overwhelmed each time I start to prepare my supplies by how unprepared I always feel.  And I hate that.  Even though I spend days beforehand preparing.  I have taught and lectured now for the last 8 years nonstop and each time it feels like the first time for me.  I feel insecure and not fully prepared or worthy.  Do I have anything new I can add to the student's education?   Today, as I get ready it hits me again.  Maybe it’s because I had some really bad teachers in my life and I watched them and hated them for not seeing I needed help.  I don’t want to be like that. Sorry Mr. Cope, but you SUCKED!  Then there are the superb teachers that saw something special in me and pushed me in the right direction. Thank you Miss Thaure. I want to be like her. Besides, she was hot!

A few months ago, while teaching a 2 day workshop,  I noticed 3 different women in my class.  They all had the look of fear and concern but each responded differently to their fear.  Part of being a good teacher, in my eyes, is picking up on the signals that students are sending so I can meet their needs and guide them into thinking creatively.  Fear often blocks our path.  So the first thing I do is try to get rid of their fear.  For some of them that fear has been there a long time
One student sat in the back and was very quiet…. one cringed at ever word I said... and the other looked like she didn’t care as she worked on another project while I lectured, which is OK with me but she was giving off the signal that she already knew it all or didn’t care.
But as I made my way to each student in the room I could see they really needed what I was offering and hopefully I could fit the lesson to them personally.  At least I could try.
The quiet one in the back was very receptive to the attention I gave her. I figured she had been ignored like me before.  The woman that cringed at everything was just fearful and once I got her on her way and she saw the beautiful flower blooming, she wore a big smile.

I love my Coneflower Class.
But the one that was looking aloof was hard to crack.  She wasn’t going to like anything she or I did.  I think she was very hard on herself.  Her fear was the greatest of the three.  Such fear always blocks learning a new technique.   At first I thought, why would she take a class if she didn’t want to learn?  But she did want to learn, she just needed more time and we didn’t have it.  
I still think about her and wish we could have had a 5 day retreat together.

So I am folding patterns, making lists and cutting the Steam-A-Seam 2 for my classes, trying to figure out how to fit everything into the suitcases allowed by the all so accommodating airlines.   The way things are progressing, soon I will have to pay extra for using the bathroom. Won’t that be lovely?  

Getting ready for teaching and travel is an art form in itself.

Anyway, I realized today that perhaps still feeling  unprepared is a good thing.  It keeps me on my toes and I have so much to share. When I stop worrying and I think I have it all down, that is when I need to stop teaching.  The insecurity I feel keeps me sharp because I care about the audience, so I always say a little prayer before each class that I will see and be able to meet their needs and guide each student in the right direction.  

So here we go again.

Friday, June 17, 2011

 Dyed the silk chiffon and the wool roving in the same pot.
 Pictures of the silk nuno felting scarfs I made.  

I sold 3 at the Winters Outdoor quilt festival last weekend.  Next I am going to try a top!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Nuno Felting?

Who knew that a ball of colored wool roving and silk chiffon would thrill me? Well, it happened and it's Peggy's fault.  I like to pass the blame whenever I can.  
Hand-dyed silk chiffon.

It all happened on a foggy and rainy Sacramento day, which we have been having for the last 8 months.  My friend, Peggy, a knitter and yarn devotee took a class and when she called with excitement in her voice I knew it was something fun!  She is always finding the newest and most artistic craft/sewing/wearable ideas.  I love it. She said she had just taken a class on felting silk scarves and that I was going to love it. She was right!

She came to my house and walked in with a beautiful felted silk scarf. I knew she was experimenting with felting but I had no idea you could make anything but cute little animals with the felt (which I have made and stabbed my finger numerous times with the needle. Not fun).  But a wearable, that’s another thing. I love wearable art.  This technique is called nuno felting, which is felting with water and friction.  No needles, so no blood.  Hooray!!!!
Peggy and Susan agitating the silk.

 That night I made my first creation.  Of course, it was also when I was making Joe dinner as Peggy gave the directions over the phone again.

I started out with silk chiffon scarves.  14” x 2 yards.  Then I  hand-dyed it. The silk sucks up the dye pretty fast.  I had bought a bag of beautiful pastel color roving a while ago, never really sure what to do with it. It was just so pretty and soft.  So the game was on.

Peggy said I needed a long strip of bubble pool cover plastic. Don’t have, but do have bubble wrap. You need a PVC pipe. Don’t have, but do have strong cardboard tubing. You need nylon netting. Don’t have, but do have bridal tool. Game on!  This is called being creative with what you have. I am the queen of that.

I laid out the scarf on the bubble wrap and added the roving, trying to make a flower design, of course. Laid the netting over my creation, wet it with hot soapy water and rolled it up on the tube, tying it with string, and began the wet felting process. You roll it back and forth with you arms, from your elbows to your hands back and forth, back and forth.  About 25 times for 4 repetitions, then 50, then up to 400-600 rolls, checking the piece and making sure the netting is not felting to the wool.

Peggy had a girl in her class that wore a pedometer which measures your movement and how many calories you are burning while felting.  It determined that you can burn up to 600 calories when making one scarf.  Now that’s my kind of exercise.

I asked Peggy if she would demo the technique at Flowers On the Lake.  The demo was a hit as the girls loved it.  I couldn't wait to get home and try more ideas.

Hey, how about dyeing your own fabric and roving to match?  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

It Snowed AGAIN!

View from our class room. Its snowing on the other side of the lake.

I have spent the last 2 days in my pink flannel (Christmas sock monkey) jammies.  No, I don’t have a cold.  It’s just the coziest outfit I have and it’s pink.  I am just resting up after a fun and busy week at my Flowers on the Lake retreat on beautiful Lake Tahoe.   

The water is so clear.

Pearl taking a break.

Helen and her vibrant clematis.
You know you must have had a good time even though your feet still hurt and you have slept 12 hours straight for 2 days but there is still a smile on your face.  At one point I did question if I had bit off more than I could chew as I tried to meet the needs of a room full of 20 panicky women on that first day. The first day of all classes you have a room full of big eyes with questioning looks.

Kathy's sunflower.

Gale's roses.

We had some exciting moments and I learned that I can’t do it all.  But I can’t wait to try it again next year.

Starting to snow on the lake.

We did have some exciting moment when one of the students got sick and we had to call the fire department for help. Nothing perks up a group of woman quicker than cute young firemen walking through the room. Makes you forget you where just in a panic.

The weather was crazy. But it seems to be crazy this year all over the country. Is God trying to say something?  So, of course it did snow the second day and the girls from Arizona got all excited.  
It's only June 1.  Why not snow?

Pat and Cathy in the snow.

The student that traveled the farthest to the retreat was Donna. She and her husband came all the way from Massachusetts where it was 95 degrees and humid. Thank God she brought a sweater at the last minute.
Thread Play on a coneflower.

Claire's hibiscus.

Jan's zinnia 

Linda working hard!

Joe and I talked and I am going to try it again next May.  I like the end of May because we have the whole place to ourselves.  It’s quiet and peaceful.  
View from above!

On the last night I stood up on the second floor and looked down at the class as they worked so intensely. I was pooped, but the room was filled with beautiful colors and you could feel the spark of creativity.  Some sat contently, admiring their finished flower. 

Donna's inspiration photo.
She's got it!

Kim's zinnia.

Dede working on a fabulous quilt she started in a Janet Fogg class.

Cheri's clematis from her own hand dyed fabrics.

Leila and her flowers.

Ruby's hibiscus from her husband's photo.
I felt like a proud mother watching the group.  I thought to myself, who would have predicted that the little dyslexic girl, who felt so retarded at one point in her life, would have a group of talented, dynamic women drive 100s of miles to take a class from her?  God is so good!  

Hope to see you next year! If not at Tahoe maybe in New York in December at the Hudson River Valley Art Rhttp://www.artworkshops.com/