Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What are your Goals?

I was surprised to read a few weeks ago ( I don't remember where) somebody saying they always hated it when a teacher began a workshop session by asking about goals.  Whenever I hold a workshop I always start  by asking people what they hope to get from the workshop. To me this is not a  time filler or a trite obvious and redundant way to's a crucial question. 
There are lots and lots of things I could cover in a workshop, so it’s much  better for me to talk about the things the participants are interested in than prattle on with whatever I want to say!

Asking myself what my goal is, what I want to achieve with a piece, is important for every piece I make, every series of quilts that I contemplate and in fact,  for the whole of  “the full catastrophe”.

Zorba the Greek - one of the best educational films ever made! and yes I’ve discovered the fun of embedding YouTube into the blog!!  apologies!

I think it's really crucial to know why you are doing know what your motives and intentions are.  Without that, how can you mindfully engage with the activity?  I will add that I think it's just as legitimate to take a class for fun, or to be with like minded people as it is to learn how to use colour, or balance a composition.  So I don’t think one’s goals have to be presidential! or philosophical!    But since my goal as the teacher is to help you reach your goal, I can't do that if I don't know what it is.  My goal isn't necessarily therefore to teach "the curriculum" - that's one of the reasons I got out of formal education!  (Where you have to teach x or y even if the students want to learn z!)   I probably focus on self knowledge as a result of working as a psychologist for several years where sessions would often begin with in this way.  I've never been a travel agent, but I presume their first question of the would-be traveller is "now where d'you want to go?"  How could you help them get there otherwise?  And it’s fine if they say somewhere sunny, not more than 3 hours away and with something fine to look at! That’s a clear goal!

When I take a workshop  myself I want the instructor to know what I want out of the class...and I'm frustrated if they appear disinterested in my goals or  if they want to work to their own agenda of teaching me exactly what they have down in their Lesson Plan, nothing more, nothing less!  In fact I've walked out of classes like that!  Or at least gone and got some stitching to get on with while they witter away on whatever they feel is important to them!


Knowing what you want to achieve with a particular piece helps with many artistic decisions.  If I'm making a piece about  a specific place then I want to know what particular characteristics or sensations or feelings about the place I want to communicate in that piece.  Was it the quirkiness of the town?  The age of the building?




The strength of the tree?  The wierd patterns the chimneys made?  The pattern of branches against the moor?  The harmony...or the discord?

what pretty smoke full


The discovery that the industrial building (while being both practical and mechanistic) also has a surprising beauty?





a summer day, long ago 300 full

If it's an abstract piece, then I might want to convey the relationship and balance between several forms, or lead the viewer's eye through a delightful dance!

If you don't know where you are going, maybe you'll stumble across some unexpectedly beautiful scene, or maybe you'll just fall flat on your face!

When I think about entering shows, I ask myself the same question:  so what d'you hope to get out of entering this show?  If a piece is going off to the other end of the country, and then after a few weeks reappears..and that's all that that worth the time and the money? (which can be considerable: shipping there and back, packing materials, fuel for the drive to the shipping office plus the entry fee, the envelopes, stamps, Cds and drive to the post office..).

So now I’m off out into the garden: it’s a beautiful morning and my goal is to enjoy the light on the leaves, the song of the birds and the breeze on my face!

If you have been, thanks for reading!  Elizabeth
PS  I just updated my “Quilts under $950” page on my “art quilt store” blog:


Quilt or Dye said...

I love to be asked why I am attending a workshop. My time is precious and there generally is something specific I am hoping to get.

I also ask myself questions such as 'What do I want the viewer to see or feel?' when I am starting a quilt. Makes it much easier to make design decisions! I keep asking myself those questions as I work because sometimes the answer changes as the pieces come together and start making their own statements.

Jackie said...

Thank you again for thought-provoking ideas! I've learned a lot from you since you've been teaching and writing and appreciate a new perspective on things. For example, I agree about goals for a class or a quilt, but I hadn't thought of a goal for a show entry. Certainly not many entries can win, so that's not a reasonable goal. Is the only goal a longer list of shows I've been juried into? For the most part I am unable to visit my quilt at the show, so I cannot stand and listen to comments. Tell me again, please, why it's a good thing to enter shows. There is discrimination about the kind of show, I realize that, and am climbing to the next tier, but please, remind me of possible goals for entering shows. Thank you very much!

Lori LaBerge said...

You made me stop and think. The main reason I enter shows is to promote the art of rug hooking which, unfortunately is just not shown enough in shows other than those specifically for that medium and is basically where art quilts were 20 years ago. I also look at who the juror is and would it mean something to me if that person chose my work. It's not worth the time and cost to submit to shows that would not mean something to me.
My goal tonight, however, has been to try to contact you about purchasing one of your pieces and my computer has been having a bit of an attitude problem trying to get to your e-mail. If you could e-mail me at I would certainly appreciate your helping me to attain my goal. Thanks and have a great day!

Jane said...

I'm guilty of being a little annoyed when the teacher takes up class time with asking about our goals. (I'm chomping at the bit to get into the fabric, after all!!!) So this blog entry really spoke to me, and I will be more honest in the future when answering the question in class. Thanks for your always provocative musings.

Nancy said...


I both love and hate when a teacher asks about goals at the beginning, it depends on what the teacher does with that input. If it is used, it is great if not used it is a waste of time.

In my class with you, you not only asked but then gave specific steps people could take that night before the actual class time began to get on with reaching their goals. And these steps were very individual depending on the goals and student. It was a terrific beginning.

A teacher who does not incorporate what is said, at least where it appears they did not do anything but give their standard class after getting our input, really bugs me and I end up feeling hoodwinked.

You are the terrific at giving what folks can really use. Kudos to you.


Nina Marie said...

This year at QBL, my teacher started by asking our goals. I wrote them up - she read them and lightly teased - well you aren't asking much are you? Still once she knew that I was holding the bar high she helped me attain all of those goals. Still I usually try to measure how successful a piece is by if it meets the goals I set out for it. BUT its hard to judge when you are so close to a piece!

Dee J. said...

It is so refreshing to read your cogitations. I had not thought much beyond initial goals, but reading Quilt or Dye's comments, I realize there is always an ongoing conversation between my hands and my work. My initial goals change as the work progresses. That happens to in workshop situations too. As the instructor instructs and introduces new strategies or techniques, I find myself beginning to dialogue within and find my aims changing as we begin that dance.