Tag Archives: teaching

Celebration of Intention

Part 3 of my Evolution as a Teacher

Another piece I’ve started incorporating into my classes is Celebration time, which really to me is more the Celebration of Intention, rather than the Celebration of a Finished Piece.

Celebration of Intention
A huge guiding factor in Kathryn‘s way of teaching is that it’s about the process, not the finished product.  I didn’t realize how eager I was for the celebration of process, but as soon as I realized what this was about, my mind ached for this focus on intention.

At the end of every class we gather on the couches & everyone takes a turn talking about their work of the day.

Celebration of Intention
Why did they choose that fabric?
Why those shapes or patterns?

Celebration of Intention
And what I love the most: Do you feel the piece is finished? Sometimes we don’t know then if a piece is finished, but we just have a feeling & we need to stop & think about our work.

Celebration of Intention
In an earlier Celebration, one girl commented that she hated her piece & wanted to throw it away. I felt this needed discussion. Instead of just disposing of what we don’t like, let’s stop to think about what made us dislike the work. Was it a design choice? Thread choice?  Do we need to add something to it to improve it, or take something away?  Did it even begin in a place you wanted it to start?

I feel there’s a need to stop rushing from project to project working only for completions sake. We need to slow down & think about our work, become involved & truly connected to what we’re making.

Creating is a part of us & if we work for production, we don’t give ourselves the space to grow.  We grow by learning & reflecting.  The Celebration of Process gives us this space.

Read Part 1 & Part 2 of my Evolution as a Teacher for more background about my journey.

The Evolution of a Teacher, Part 2

Be sure to read The Evolution of a Teacher, Part 1 first!  This post will make a bit more sense!

Yesterday I started telling the story of my teaching & left you at the point where I had observed Kathryn teaching.

I went home & had a serious discussion with myself on how I taught & how I could possibly move forward.  This is what I knew:

1. I didn’t like how my current classes were going.  The students didn’t own their work & it seemed to me that they weren’t looking forward to what they could make in the future.  I feel that education should spur the student to take the lesson, make it their own & move forward.  That wasn’t happening.
2. I could tell that the kids I was working with had a lot of stresses put upon them.  They also had a lot of “this is how it’s done.”  And in a way, my project based class was just adding to that burden.
3. I wanted the students to love sewing, & I didn’t feel that they were falling in love with sewing.  Yes they had a good time & enjoyed class, but I didn’t feel they loved sewing so much they wanted to convince their parents to buy them a machine & again, own their sewing experience.

So I sat down thinking how I could change the class.  I wanted them to love the medium of sewing.  I also wanted their creativity to come through & for them to own their projects.  I knew that collage was a large part of Kathryn’s studio work (have you read Collette?) & quickly realized paper collage can easily be translated into fabric collage!  Thus the Fabric Collage Class was born.

Fabric Colllage

The first class was a hit!  It was so much fun & drastically different.  I began by giving the sewing machine rules & then guidelines/suggestions for how to make their collage & then I let them go.  We started by using 6″ squares of white fabric.  I’ve included pictures of their work throughout this post.

Fabric Collage

The class also just ran smoother.  There was more listening & fewer distractions.  They were more willing to focus to thread the needle.  There were fewer needles that became unthreaded.  It was a completely different class from the project based classes.

Fabric Colllage

I also was strict about us having clean-up time &  Celebration time.  There were fewer clean-up protests, & Celebration time allowed us to stop & talk about their work.  There’s more I want to say about Celebration time, but I’m going to leave that for another post.

The next series I taught was 3-D Creations.  Here I went through the basics on how to add dimension to our fabric pieces, mostly using the technique of adding “stuffing” or poly-fil.  Here was struck me was that they didn’t just create art, they also created elaborate stories as they worked.  The art became bigger than just the fabric- it became part of something else- something entirely theirs they needed to bring to life & share with the world.

I love how this method of teaching inspires the students to act on their own.  I love how given the chance to have reasonable responsibility, 8-10 year olds are able to safely & efficiently use the sewing machine.  I love how this encourages to ask “what next?”  They are constantly evaluating their work and asking how can it improve.

The greatest gift I received was this past May when I had two repeat students & on the first day one told me all the things she had made over Christmas break (a sewing machine cover, an infinity scarf, more dolls & all of these weren’t from patterns- she knew what she wanted & planned out from her ideas how to make these!) & another told me she had asked for a space in the basement where she could keep her sewing machine up at all times, so she could easily go & sew whenever she liked.

These students are learning more than how to sew.  They are learning to work through problems thoroughly.  They are learning to be present while working.  They are learning how to ask questions & search out answers themselves.  To deal with challenges as they arise.  They are telling stories in a new way.  They are using math & applying design techniques and evening learning some physics along the way.  And they are doing all of this through intentional play.

collage 3

The Evolution of a Teacher, Part 1

I recently wrapped up a session of my Fabric Collage class for kids & had several revelations I wanted to share.  But first, I need to share how I got to where I am today.  Because you need to understand that before you I can share these thoughts.

I started off teaching project based classes.  All the kids would come to class & I’d have a sample of a specific project & they’d all walk out the door at the end of class with basically the same item.  And it worked.  Sort of.

Art at the Center
And then we moved to Virginia & one morning as I was walking to the Farmer’s Market, I noticed the sign for “Art at the Center” in a cute white house & stopped in & chatted with the owner, Kathryn.  I mentioned I taught sewing & before I knew it, there I was teaching again.

I did the project based classes again, but as I chatted with Kathryn over time I became interested in how she taught.  If you had the opportunity to visit the old building, you probably noticed that it wasn’t your typical Art room.  There was an abstract mural in an “active” state, there were signs all around about how to rethink art, there was advice to parents on how to incorporate improv art into their lives.  It was different because rather than talking about how great art is, this place seemed to resonate with “Make Art.  Play with Your Art.  Think About Your Art.  Own Your Art.  Know Why Your Art is Yours.  Know that Art is a Process.  Respect the Art of Art.”

This idea of playing as art intrigued me & I asked if I could observe Kathryn teach.

The result was mind blowing.  I’d never seen something like that before!  8 kids walking around the room all doing their own thing, but everyone was calm, it was quiet & everyone was working.  I mean- they were working.  They were serious & focused & you could tell by the atmosphere that these kids had art to make; they were busy owning their art.  And Kathryn wasn’t all in their business.  She was hanging out in the background, reminding them of some of the rules of clay & letting them be.

At the end, they gathered around a table for “Celebration” & the kids talked about their pieces.  They spoke about what inspired them, what they found challenging & what they enjoyed.

After leaving that class I knew I wanted to change my classes.  I wanted to create an atmosphere of an active self directed studio.

Thanks for reading the story of my evolution!  I hope to have the next part posted soon!

The Evolution of a Teacher, Part 2

Another Busy Weekend

Wow, was it ever crazy here! I keep waiting for the weekends to settle down so I can relax, but that doesn’t seem to happen.

Anways, I wrote about getting a quilting machine for my quilting business. It’s a Pfaff 18.8 Grand Quilter w/ the Qbot System (to those nonquilters out there, I spent a crazy amount of money on a computerized quilting machine.) I assembled the quilting frame this weekend (finally!) & had a few snags along the way. Luckily Becky at Sunshine Stitches was wonderful & helped quickly. (Let me just toss in here a personal comment, if any of you ever buy a quilting machine, pay the extra money to have someone else assemble it. It’s worth the money, trust me.) Although, I discovered this evening I’ve hit a snag in the QBOT installation & I will need J’s help in making anymore progress. This will be difficult as I put him on a plane Sunday. Oh well, there’s plenty else to do around here.

I also canned 14, 1/2 pints of pickles. Had a sample tasting tonight & I’m very happy with how they came out. The relish, well, that was a learning experience. I also picked 18 cucumbers today. Yes, 18. To add to the 9 already sitting on the counter. I wonder if we know enough people to give away all these pickles to.

I also prepared 12 ears of corn for freezing. Note to anyone who would like to freeze corn- corn strippers don’t seem to be very user friendly. Thankfully J took care of that part for me. Also, while blanching corn is a relatively simple process, it better be darn good for me to repeat this again next year.

I designed & pieced a table runner for a paper piecing class that I will be teaching. Yes, you heard right! I am going to add “Quilting Teacher” to my list of jobs! Wohoo! If you do live in the Omaha area & are interested in this, just e-mail & I’ll send the details.

I also designed & started a Christmas Wall hanging for said quilting class.

I made Julia Child’s Quiche Lorraine from scratch. This was the absolute best quiche I’ve ever had in my life. To top it off, J said he liked it & would like to try more Julia Child recipes!

And did boring house chores like mow the lawn, laundry & other such necessities.

If only today was as good as the weekend. But no, today was not a good day. To go into the number of frustrating things that came my way (& this is saying something after assembling that quilting frame!) I decided to take the evening off & watch TV. You want to hear something even more shocking…I didn’t even knit while watching TV!