Sunday, February 25, 2018

Why I love to teach online.....

No, not a quilt ...just my favorite color!  Scotland, Bonnie Scotland.....
When Carol Miller (late of Quilt university) first called me to ask me to teach an online class for her, I thought it couldn't possibly work.  I felt that without the face to face contact there couldn't be any personal interaction, and that teaching would, therefore, be much more difficult...and dry.

I also thought - what a drag it would be having to write out all the lessons!!!  And I'd never get the fun of travel...

 ..but the more I do teach online, the more I feel it's a superior method.  Yes it's true there isn't the socializing!! but there  also isn't the increasing hassle of travel.  And travel is also Very time would take me at least a day - usually 2 or - 3 to get everything packed, and even the shortest flight meant leaving home 4 or 5 hours ahead of time, so just hopping to the next state was really an all-day affair.  another day lost.  Same  thing coming back, and then 2-3 days getting then I was  losing  up to a week without adding on any actual teaching days.

Time: Students
Many students, too, have long and arduous journeys schlepping all those supplies, and  many need to take time off work too ...that time would be better spent in their studio or sewing space, or just in a thinking place!  (like the above!).

When I started writing the lessons, I realized that, writing over several weeks as I usually do, I had many many more ideas for creating exercises, designs, explaining composition and creativity and so on, than ever I did when just talking in the class room - even with copious notes - yes, sometimes too copious!  I remember one venue got very fed up with me from holding students up from "vendor shopping time" - agh!  big biz!!  And I enjoy writing the lessons, doing the research, mulling over possibilities.

Student Development
...and  then it struck me that (as an online course takes weeks not days) the students also have a lot more time to really think about things, to do some research - usually online of course, for after all..that's where they are.  If you go to a symposium for fun, that's fine, and it's great!  especially if it's somewhere really neat and you meet some great new friends. No better place!   BUT what if you're going to learn something?   And it's a very large classroom and the teacher hardly ever gets round to you (that's happened to me several times when I've gone to painting workshops - and, initially, quilting workshops too.)  What can I personally learn from a Big Name if I'm one of 40 or 50 crammed into a classroom or hotel conference room for 3-4 days?

Personal Critiques
With the online classes I'm able to help each student personally, and other students can "listen" in and learn by kibitzing (often not possible in a large seminar work room).   I also have the time to think about any questions posed to me - in the classroom you pretty much have to answer straight away and (you never know!) your second or third thoughts on the matter could be've got time and opportunity to think about those when you're online.

...for the teacher - yes I must admit - you can make a lot more money in person, there's no doubt!
but for the student - online classes are just a fraction of the cost of one of the big symposiums, and considerably less even than a guild-sponsored workshop.  That means that many more different kinds of people can take the workshops, greater range of ages and backgrounds...and incredibly wider geographical range.

Personal Contact is possible!
It wasn't long after I began teaching online that I realized just how GOOD it is!! And how much we can get to know each other, I love especially people who have taken several classes from me and I get a real sense of who they are and where they are going.

So, if you've never taken an online class, check me out at     - as well as me there are Lots of other teachers....and just see for yourself how much more satisfying a class is that has longer period of study, with less hassle, and more teacher contact.

Now I will admit that not all online classes are equal...there are some out there that treat neither the students nor the teachers very my experience you'll get the most for your money and time with a class that is more a small personal business rather than being part of a large scale commercial enterprise. The more advertising, hype, marketing, slick websites etc etc there's you who's paying for that!!!  My next timed (weekly lessons) class begins on Friday March 2nd, and there are several "on demand" classes you can take as well.

I'd love to hear what you think the pros and cons of live vs online classes are..comments!!!
from both the students' and the teachers'  points of view.

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

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Six Hour Quilt Class

Well...I had this crazy idea last summer that it would be fun to see if I could persuade 3 victims to take a 6 hour class with me and make a quilt from start to finish - 3 people who had never made a quilt before!  In six hours....I wanted to have them design the quilt themselves, figure out a color scheme, work only from an existing stash (mine!), cut it out without a pattern, construct it, quilt it and finish it.

One person, it turned out, had made a sampler quilt about 100 years ago! One had done some embroidery, the other had once used a sewing machine to fix some hems!!  But all three were enthusiastic and open to ideas.

We filmed in short video bursts, yes, cinéma verité!  All warts very evident - especially on me (I had just been quite ill)...but I really liked the results.  It is very much a reality show...their questions were excellent and I'm sure that led to my explanations being fuller and clearer.  The question and answer process of teaching is so rewarding to both sides, I feel.

So if you've never made a modern or art quilt before, or if you just want to watch the process from  idea to quilt and all the decisions in between...or if you're looking for a way to do a six hour class for your guild....then consider this class.

It goes live with the academy of quilting this Friday.  

I have always tried to put a lot of research into my classes...and had been considering various topics, but my boss kept say "they want videos!".  I didn't realize just how much I'd enjoy going back to basics, showing three keen students just HOW to do it!  I do think it's enjoyable to watch, and you're bound to see something new - a lot of people have asked me about the kind of facing I do for example.   But I think the most important thing is seeing how the construction is really a very small part of the's the planning, the cogitating, the experimenting that's where the art is.

And I'm happy to say, all three now have a nice quilt hanging on their walls - yes in pride of place!!

Happy to answer any questions/comments.......

if you have been, thanks for reading!  Elizabeth

Saturday, February 10, 2018

The Art of Enjoying Not Getting There!

"To climb steep hills requires slow pace at first"..
.as Shakespeare tells us in Henry VIII.
or, as my teacher says
 "if it were easy, everyone could do it!"
.......and yet still we look for magic pills and easy answers and quick routes...and  we are continually seduced by those who say they can give/teach/sell us these things! But, are we on the right track?

Anna Rose Bain, the portrait painter, describes how remarkable is the patience of world class artists when working, that their working habits are often quite methodical rather than being in some kind of astral zone - a  transcendent state of mind that it is sometimes suggested we should try to achieve (without chemical help! - but probably by purchasing the latest self help book or set of videos).  

A better approach might be to allow oneself patience and care when plying our craft. Instead of panicking when something "isn't working", take the time to ask the right questions: is it the underlying compositional structure? how does it look if I squint at it? why doesn't it communicate any feeling to me?  

  Interestingly, this last question  applies to all art forms..  I was attending a master class the other day...the student played a slow tender piece technically well...but.......
.then the teacher asked someone to come and stand right by the piano and LISTEN very hard, obviously and concentratedly while looking at the pianist..who then replayed the piece really trying to communicate its meaning solely by the way she was playing...and it was much better.  She was really trying to "tell" the person not by words but by the music what it meant to her.

  Analytically what she did was emphasize certain sections a little more, she increased the contrast - of positive to negative space, of loudness to softness, of legato to staccato, of quick to slow etc...all the things that we have in our fiber repertoire: color, value, shape, space, edges.....these are the same things! We can communicate, if we think, and take our time.

But perhaps (yes there always is a "but perhaps"!), "the Holy Grail is not in the finding, but in the journey"  Saul Zaentz (and, I think, many others) said.....

Putting those two quotes together,  I guess you end up with learning to enjoy the slow pace of climbing the hill for you might never get to the top!!!

If you have been, thanks for reading!  And do respond with your thoughts about this wonderful process we enjoy struggling with and struggle to enjoy!   Elizabeth