Workshop Teaching – Creative Pressure

Vickie Hallmark workshop samples

workshop samples: metal clay + Argentium

I’ve been feeling the creative pressure, at least as it applies to teaching workshops! After several years of avoiding teaching engagements, I’ve done a few recently and booked a few more for 2017. I’m still on the fence about my suitability to this teaching long term. I can argue both sides.

Vickie Hallmark workshop sample

workshop sample: metal clay window with fused Argentium bezel used to tab-set enamel-painted glass

Teaching Pros

  1. I get to travel and meet wonderful people.
  2. It’s easier to sell instruction and supplies than finished jewelry. (Sad, but true.)
  3. Working out class projects forces me to clarify the processes that I use, to simplify and streamline as much as possible, to work out all the little bugs that inevitably arise with the development of new techniques.
  4. I learn from my students. They see things differently, and that can really stimulate new ideas for my own future work.
  5. Workshop income brings extra materials or new tools to the studio.

more complex workshop sample: metal clay window with Argentium decorative wirework and bezel, and tab-set enamel-painted glass

Teaching Cons

  1. Teaching is hard work. The pay doesn’t nearly cover all the hours invested in developing the project, making the samples, writing out notes, and travel before I even teach long hours at a workshop. I’m a bit obsessive about making multiple samples at different stages to show, an itemized timeline, detailed notes with photos,  and a comprehensive packing list, as well as taking every tool I can imagine that might be needed to solve a potential issue. Admittedly, if I taught the same workshop more frequently, all that work would amortize out and make more sense…a reason to stick with it.
  2. Showing how to duplicate my work is an artistic quandary. I sweat blood to develop my own ideas, an artistic voice of my own, and a complex body of work. When I teach, I strive to lead students to put their own personal twists on the class project rather than simply duplicate my sample, but exact duplication has to be inherently acceptable. Ultimately, I have to trust my own creative voice to always be moving forward. Realistically, I’m not teaching my latest discoveries or ideas because I don’t have those all worked out yet. I’m teaching older debugged techniques, which are second nature to me, but new to students. I release those ideas into the greater world, trusting that I’ll be rewarded with new ideas.
  3. I’m an introvert. That means that I can enjoy the group experience of a workshop, but it’s draining for me. I get my energy with solo time, not from other people. So a workshop is a one-way energy drain for me. I put my all into it, and I come out the other side exhausted. Normally, a full week afterward is needed for recovery.
  4. All that time spent preparing for workshops is time subtracted from my own work. A class sample is desirably something I as the instructor can knock out with ease. As an artist, I’d rather be pushing the edge with new ideas, some of which will inevitably fail. Time must be allowed for experimenting, but workshops are not experiments.

As we charge into the now-not-so-new year, I feel that I’ve spent the first six weeks working as much on workshop prep as on my own designs. And I have to ask myself what I really want from all of this.

Stay tuned for details about the upcoming workshops.

4 thoughts on “Workshop Teaching – Creative Pressure

  1. Nana Louise Nielsen

    I know how you feel. I have been weighing the same pros and cons. There’s a lot to consider.
    Teaching or making components to sell are two ways many of us jewellers turn to just to be able to make a living. I am extremely grateful that some artisans choose to teach as I have learnt such a lot from buying their online classes (I have your craftcast class and have watched it many times).
    But personally I am afraid that starting to teach – while I could learn a lot from it – would dilute my focus and drive. I want to be a jeweller not a teacher in the end.
    So instead my compromise at the moment is to make faster selling items amongst new designs. It steals my time from developing my design and style, but making lots of rings also serves the purpose of practice. I keep my hand in and I get better at the craft ever day.
    Best of luck with your decision. :o)

    1. vichall Post author

      Yes, “dilute my focus and drive” is a perfect description. I have yet to get my head back to my own work from the workshop development. It’s like I can think one way or the other way, but switching back and forth is super hard. Hence the desire to measure the benefits against my ultimate goals. I want to make pieces that are the peak of my ability and artist’s eye, that are a stretch. Do workshops actually move me along that path? I continue to doubt.

  2. Christy

    Thanks for posting this… It made me feel so much better that I’m not the only one 🙂 I like to teach (polymer clay and sculpting) but I’m also an introvert and it takes a lot out of me so I’ve wondered if it’s worth it.

    I’ve found that it takes about a week for me to recover too. And that’s a week of doing nothing – I read or binge watch tv. Usually my class supplies don’t even get unpacked.

    So, I’m still teaching, but I’m limiting it a bit, and trying to only teach things that I will actually enjoy, or want to explore further.

    For instance, I was re-exploring image transfers on my own, so I taught a technique class a couple months later with everything I figured out.

    Let us know how it goes… I’d like to see where you find your balance. And good luck with the workshops!

    1. vichall Post author

      Yes, Christy! I’ve lost the better part of two weeks now to catching up with life after a lot of workshop development work. I haven’t felt motivated enough to work on my own things, even though I have pieces in progress, where the place to pick back up is clear and easy. It’s a case of needing to refill the well before I can draw from it again. How I envy those artists who seem to have a better well than me!!!


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