Friday, June 4, 2010

Off to teach a workshop!




Tomorrow I’m flying upto Columbus OH to teach a 5 day workshop. It’s .5 hour to drive to the shuttle, 2 hours on the shuttle, 2 hours in the airport with luck, 1.5 hours on the plane and probably 1 hour to exit the plane and get the shuttle to the hotel totaling 7 hours – I suppose it could be worse! If I drove it would be a little over 10 hours, says Mr. Google map – but then I bet he hasn’t been stuck in the endless traffic jams of Knoxville…still that’s not that much longer.

How to get there (and whether or not it’s worth it) is one of the many decisions the workshop teacher has to make when accepting engagements. The second big question is how much to charge (if you have an option, many places don’t allow any negotiation). Third: how long the workshop should be, and, fourth, how many people you should allow them to put in the class.

When thinking about a fee, I always add in the workshop prep time, the travel time and the actual workshop days. Even if the distance isn’t that far, you basically lose a day travelling each way – sometimes 2 days if you drive. Most workshops require several days thinking, planning , writing, making sketches or samples, packing and that needs to be part of the equation. I try not to do one day workshops because the travel and workshop prep time is about the same for one day as for five – which reduces my actual “day’s pay” considerably.

It’s important that if the fee is low, that there are other factors that balance against that such as the reputation of the place, the history or the location. I like to visit new places, I love to be in beautiful scenery and an art center with excellent facilities gives me opportunities I might not otherwise have. If the venue is somewhere I’ve never been before, an offer to take me out for a day to see the local sights is a great plus on the profit side!

I’m very against the overly large classes that some of the for-profit organizations encourage. I think it does everyone a disfavor – it is difficult and frustrating for the teacher to get to know the individual people well and to understand what will help them the most. One place I’m teaching this summer has a limit of 12 people, another has no limit and the class is already brimming over with folk. Teacher to student ratio does count for a lot in learning, we know that. And if you are one of 25 paying the same as if you are one of 12…I know which I’d choose!!

I really enjoy a mix of people in the class. Varying skill levels in the class add to the energy and excitement. It’s both wonderful to help someone’s first few steps and to find something new and interesting for an “old hand”. And it’s lovely if there’s a huge range of ages. Only once did I have a range of sexes, though! And sadly, he was a bit of a dud – which was a pity with all those lovely ladies to help him!!

I like to prepare for a class by coming up with some new ideas each time, even if I’m teaching the same overall topic. It’s just too boring otherwise!! One of the main things I teach is composition and design – there are so many different ways to come up with designs that I would be limiting everyone (especially me!) if I just stuck to 3 or 4 ideas. I just don’t know how other teachers do that!! I love devising different possibilities: some I’ll have tried myself, some I’ll have snitched from the fine art world, some just appear as I work through the variables. My aim is that at the end of the class everyone’s piece is different reflecting their own personal aesthetic and choices throughout the design process. I’ll be sure to capture the work next week and post the photographs the week after!

If you have been, thanks for reading! And if you teach yourself or want to comment on the above issues, I’d love to hear from you. Elizabeth

Okay, yes, that’s me at the top – about a hundred years ago…sewing..of course!!!


Willa said...

This does bring to mind my former life! You raise questions to which I mentally respond but hesitate to lay out except maybe one on one.

One thing I did find about watercolor workshops was that 25 people working together who were self motivated, creative, energetic, etc., made an easier group than 12 with one or more prima donas. I sometimes thought that with 25 or a few more, there were more ideas in the air than with the smaller groups.

Not sure this applies with in the same way with a fabric quilting workshop. Just thinkin' and remembering.

Diana Parkes said...

Like Willa, your blog reflects a previous life. I loved it and weathered the many hassles. I have now moved on to concentrate on my own art work and it is wonderful!

Terry Jarrard-Dimond said...

Hope you took your skates! I once had a class with over 50 students and it was a studio class at a university. I survived and the students did great work but then I also had 2 studio assistants. It has never occurred to me to ask about class size when applying to attend a workshop but that's a great idea. Have a wonderful week and I loved the picture.

Anonymous said...


Virtual Quilter said...

I loved teaching beginners classes (quilting) to 15 to 20 .... with that number I was running to get around to everyone for the important one on one times, but the students often helped each other, and seemed to learn and understand a lot by explaining steps to each other. The ideas and inspiration flew much more than in small classes with four to six students too.

However, 50 would be a little over the top!

Judy B

彥安彥安 said...
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Rayna said...

The largest class I taught - forced upon my by the for-profit-org - was 24. It was exhausting and frustrating that I could not get around to everybody to give them the kind of individual attention they deserved.
For me,12-15 is optimum and 8-10 is a dream.
Fees - another story. Don't even want to go there!