by John Creighton Petersen
Perhaps the most important part of attending CHA and other large trade shows for manufacturers, store owners and designers is the education. Without education, we cannot use products properly and sometimes miss the true creative possibilities that a particular product may offer. I have the unique opportunity to hold the title of “Educator” for IMAGINE Crafts, which is honestly the best dream job anyone could possibly imagine!
I have been teaching art and design classes for over 15 years and although trends and products may come and go, we’re just like the fashion industry with the “what’s old is new again” mentality when products return with a new name, color or different use. Through it all, the constant will always be the important role of the educator, whether it be working for a manufacturer, a store owner showing a new customer a technique, or watching a video on your favorite blog.
Most educators and teachers do not take on this role because we think that we will become rich and famous, but instead it’s for the love of our craft and the need to share this with others. My role as an educator is to simply give students the tools and fundamentals to create. When teaching a class, I demonstrate a variety of different ways of how to (and sometimes how not to) use a product but I always leave the creativity up to the student. At this point in my class, my role has transformed from the educator into cheerleader, coach and troubleshooter where as the students are now teaching themselves and each other.
At the CHA Winter 2015 Show a couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege to teach an Art Board class that introduced retailers to many of our new products including Creative Medium Iridescent and Metallic. The role of the educator is to judge the skill level of the class and begin teaching from there.
Sometimes we have to remember that a quick review of the basics is always great. An example I always use to illustrate this point is assuming that everyone knows how to heat emboss with a heat tool and embossing powder, when in fact there are always at least a couple of students who have blank looks on their face and no clue as to what I’m describing, along with those who do not properly know how to use a heat tool. I’ve often found that the quick review of the basics tends to be the place in class where the million dollar idea rears it’s head, that moment when you see something so basic that you’ve been doing wrong for years that it takes your breath away.
In my Art Board class, I quickly discovered that although I have been in the fine arts and mixed media realm for many years, the majority of students from the crafting world have never learned the basics of using tools like palette knives or the proper way to spread and apply texture pastes. After showing students how to use our tools and products, I was absolutely amazed by the spectrum of projects created in class! Each student brings their own knowledge and perspective to class and I am always humbled by the works of art that my students produce in my classes.
Partnering with manufacturers is crucial for the craft industry to continue transforming and growing. At the recent CHA Show, I had the opportunity to teach a joint class with Fran Seiford from Stampendous along with Jen Cushman from ICE Resin. Co-teaching with these amazing and inspiring educators was contagious, as I’m sure every student in class could tell you! For the craft industry to continue it’s relevance, our role as educators is continually evolving. Not only do we need to inspire our students, we must also strive to develop new techniques and applications for existing products to always give that WOW factor that our students expect. I joke with my students that you have to learn the rules to know how to break them, meaning that at some point we all need to learn “the basics” before the real fun and experimenting can begin. Most of my artist growth has always been when I asked “I wonder what would happen….”
I will be the first one to admit that no matter how many classes I teach, I always learn at least one new thing in class from a student! I would love to know what you think of the role of education in the craft industry. What inspires you? What do you think the industry is doing right? Which instructors have inspired you the most creatively? Do you learn better in a classroom setting, a retreat, or at home in front of your computer?
Remember that at some point on our artist journeys, we’re all students who eventually all become teachers and educators. It is everyone’s role to support and encourage learning whether we are the student, the educator, or somewhere in between.