Thursday, May 7, 2015

Why are there so many Quilt teachers?

I notice that a great many quilt makers are teaching nowadays;  I wonder why?

If I talk with my painting friends, very few of them teach.  And in my piano playing group nobody teaches at all!  Nor in the square dancing group.  So what is it about quilt making that leads one to teach?
For me...I had one lesson - the very first one in traditional quilt making where you cut out precise triangles and put them together also very precisely to make a cushion/pillow cover.  (Cushions and pillows mean different things in the UK and  the USA by the way.  An American pillow is an English cushion!  I've never yet discovered what an American cushion is!  Also it took me a long long time to realize that in America, a garden is actually nothing more than a vegetable patch - people say "I'm putting in my garden this weekend" and you're thinking "a whole garden???!! in a weekend?!!"..ah well, I digress.)

My beginning: I had one quilting lesson, the teacher had to go into hospital, I went to visit her - no grapes, no health enquiries just "when is the next lesson?"  Like an addict!  I quickly volunteered to help her teach the next lesson and the one after that....and so it began.

And so, I began teaching because I wanted to learn...and I would say that has continued for me.  I wanted a class in design - nobody was teaching it, so I went out and learned it in a different medium, then taught it to myself for fiber, then was asked to teach it to others. (of course now, Everyone is teaching design!)

For me teaching has always been about what I wanted to learn myself.  I love to do the research required before I put a class or set of classes together.  I rarely devise a class where I already know everything!  I want to be able to go out and learn something new, analyze and synthesize, really get to know it and then put it together in a class.  So I really enjoy coming up with new classes.  I don't know how people can just teach the same class over and over.  When I was a university lecturer and had to do three sections of the same topic in one semester, I felt like an automaton!!  Of course soon I would deviate from the curriculum in three different ways!

 I'm currently really enjoying putting together a Master Class where I get to choose the topics!!  (if you're interested by the way, call Linda at  508-477-0057 , she's organizing it and there are a couple of spaces have recently opened up because of late cancellations.  Cape cod.  June 8-12). 

  I've chosen to study something called the Hidden Order, the structure that holds a composition together.  It's a way of seeing the bones of the design, like the skeleton supports the human body.   But that's just the first thing!  
Then I thought it would be really interesting to look at some of the male abstract artists that I ignored when I developed my Abstract Art for quilt makers class.  Funny that...ignoring the white males!!!  So we're going to take a look at them, examine and analyze their abstraction processes then apply those to quilt design. 
  After that, I decided it would be really neat to show how one photograph can lead to many many different designs.  By the end of the week everyone should have a whole folder of great designs, and several small quilts all blocked out.  
Lots of critiquing to help make designs stronger - which I could have used myself when I made this shaggy dog below!!

This winter, I plant to expand the Hidden Order part of this class into an online class for next year....and then develop a Part 2 to my Abstract Art for Quiltmakers class after that.
But who knows what I will stumble across that I really want to learn!

So Learning is why I teach.  Here's a link to my workshops.
Of course there is also the wonder of visiting so many different beautiful places.  I've been all over the West Coast now from San Diego  upto Salt Spring Island (July).
On the East Coast I've been down to Sanibel and upto Cape Cod - never, alas, to Maine!!
I've been from Alabama to Canmore, north of Calgary. From Gateway Canyon to Hudson River Valley.

But why is teaching so popular for other folk?

Perhaps one reason  that people start teaching early is because the basics of quilt making are pretty straight forward and easy and it's so much fun you want to tell everyone about it and get them doing the same thing!

Another reason is  that it's a lot easier to make money (albeit not a lot) with teaching than it is with selling work which seems to get harder and harder every year.

What d'you think?   Why are so many of us quilters out there teaching? Do comment!

And, if you have been, thanks for reading!   Elizabeth


Margaret said...

Ahem...being Canadian, which means being mainly (in my case) of British heritage while growing up next door to Americans...I may be able to help with the odd "lost in translation" situation. :-) In North America (generally) a pillow is an puffy stuffed rectangular item on which one rests one's head in bed. A cushion, however, is what one sits on, on a sofa (or couch or chesterfield) or on which one rests one's back on a sofa (or couch or chesterfield).

Alas, even in Canada, a 'garden' is a plot of earth in which one plants beds of flowers or rows of veggies. A garden may take up all or part of one's "yard" (back and/or front).

As for teaching, I once heard Carol Ann Waugh opine that one couldn't make a living as a quilt artist without teaching. I don't teach; on the other hand, I don't need to make a living from it. Neither have I created a program nor invented a technique which warrants being taught to others.

To each his/her own. I am enjoying your Master Class; you are forthright, clear, encouraging, observant and supportive -- all of which I appreciate!

Best wishes going forward!

Molly Elkind said...

Elizabeth, I also teach because I love to learn, and like you I usually devise a new class partly because I want to learn something new, or learn it in much more depth. I am also teaching Design these days, often to quilters, because I have heard from many that they wish they had some of the formal training in Elements of Art and Principles of Design that I got when I studied Fiber in graduate school. They find, as I did, that a little familiarity with these fundamental concepts can save us all so much grief when we create a new piece! Thanks for your always-interesting blog, Elizabeth.

Melanie McNeil said...

Teaching is fun, though exhausting. Those who write books teach in order to sell the books. Those who want to get book contracts teach in order to gain credibility (on their ability to sell books, not on their ability to write). And teaching pays something, while much of the rest of quilting pays little to nothing for the time involved.

btw, I just signed up for your Inspired class at A of Quilting. I've had your book (and the other) since it came out. I've learned so much on design, which has helped me enormously for my medallion quilts. Taking the class will push me to create differently.

Elizabeth Barton said...

thank you for signing up for the Inspired class, Melanie - and I hope we will be!
I love to write - classes - but they had to hold me down to get me to write those two books - there's a big difference between Writing...and Writing a book - especially a book with a lot of illustrations!
and the books are way too heavy to travel with! so it doesn't Always work out quite as you say, but often it does of course. I'm just a bit of an anomaly!
and yes, since the recession, there is definitely more money to be made from teaching than making. I think a lot of that is because the One percent for Art movement somehow got lost. Also I find that most public venues prefer middle of the road easily digested work. Whatever you do - don't challenge!!
I'll see you in class!

Bobbin' with Terrie said...

I enjoyed your posting about teaching. I teach - I teach teachers how to teach. As my son, who is a professor, said, I passed my addiction to learning onto him. I agree it is about learning...
I often give guidance to those who ask about quilting, but to do a workshop takes a lot of time. (if you count your prep and travel, it is never a big return) And I know from experience, writing a book takes a lot of hours, and your time is worth pennies an hour. (I wrote two books in the field of education.)
Even though there are many teaching, I am sure not many are really making a good living at it. Elizabth I loves your A of Q classes, and will take more. Too bad I cannot attend your workshop at Salt Spring, but have recommended it to others I am sure you will love your time there.

Annie said...

I was a teacher of elementary school students years ago. I love to quilt, but have no desire to teach quilting. Quilting is my hobby; it will never be my job!

Dawn Conery said...

Hi Elizabeth, I just read your wonderful interview in Quilting Arts and loved it, you and your great quilts. Never been to Maine huh? Well, I live in Maine, on a lake in a log home and you are welcome to come visit me anytime, drink in the view of water, pine trees, loons, eagles, ducks and more! We can even sew on the wonderful front porch or just take a nap :). Had to look you up after reading that article and learn more about you. Someday maybe I will be able to take one of your classes. Seriously, come on up!

Elizabeth Barton said...

you never know, Dawn, one day you may find me knocking on your door and asking if you have a cup of tea!!

Anonymous said...

I find it interesting about who teaches. I think it is a life view. I don't teach because I never feel I know enough. My friend teaches all the time because she feels she knows a little bit which is more than most folks.