Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Long Ranting Post on Learning and the Economy / I Have a Dream

First I want to honor all the hours of work, paid and unpaid that go into every fiber festival, workshop weekend, sock summit, fiber shopping extravaganza, guild gathering that thousands of participants enjoy every year and that support the fiber habit of all of the teachers and vendors.
I have been teaching (and shopping) at several of these gatherings for the past few years, including 30+ years of volunteering at Maryland Sheep and Wool and I found time to take a class at this fall's SAFF in Asheville, NC.
This past week I started to get emails asking for my class proposals for 2013 and I find myself honestly not wanting to apply to any of them.
Truth is I don't enjoy teaching or learning at these events.

 Most learning, these days comes in bits and pieces;a class here, a Youtube there, written pattern. this is very different from the way I learned and the way I want to share with others.
My expectation of our time together is that you leave understanding what we have shared- even if you only make 1"-fully understanding how you got that inch and full of excitement to go home and figure out how to make more.Process.
Festival organizers and  participants( I am talking in generalities here) seem to be  looking fo project classes where you can complete a finished project in the allotted time period, even if you  have no clue how you got there.

I had the priceless opportunity to gain my skills and knowledge all of a piece. I learned by being with the women(and some men) in my family and community . Growing up, my play and work and learning and family and community were all intertwined into one wonderful( mostly) life.
I learned to love learning and how to apply what I knew to new situations,maybe the best knowledge to have of anything I have ever learned.
Sitting at the feet of people who wove their creativity into their daily lives, everything is art. Each meal is finely crafted to nourish, delight and satisfy all who come to the table.
I could learn in my own time, when I was ready to receive, rest when I was tired and watch and watch and watch and listen till I got what I needed and wanted to know.

This is True economy .
Everyone getting and giving what they need, when they need it. Everyone having enough.

Festival classes tend to be in poorly lit,noisy, over or under heated and cooled rooms, with finite beginning and ending times.
Participants -bless their hearts- are over subscribed, overtired and over stimulated, wanting to pack in as much as possible into the few hours they paid for.
I have to pack and bring everything with me- always forgetting something( airline baggage not appearing)-as well as anticipate the things others will forget to bring .

I find, healthy rested adults can learn for about 2 hours.
Actual instruction time, new material that you can absorb is about 20 minutes and the rest is practice and questioning and me spending time with those who are having a hard time getting it and feeling guilty that I ignore those who are faster learners.
I leave exhausted, hoarse, and always wishing I could see the group next week so we could continue our learning journey together.
My classes are almost always filled and the evaluations very complimentary.

With deep humility, I want to tell you, I have a skill set and knowledge that I passionately want to pass on to all who are interested and I want to show you the joy of learning, creating, making a mess, cleaning it up, watching, listening, making mistakes, finally getting it !!!!!! and the joy I receive watching your faces as you get it and want to learn more. I do the best I can in the few hours we have at the festival and then...

 Here is my big question.

Why are all my classes under subscribed in my daily offerings?
At Nice Threads (and other fiber shops) I ( and others) offer scheduled classes as well as pick  your own time slot classes, in a comfortable well appointed and well lit studio. I am here after class to answer whatever questions come up. We have the supplies and answers you need to take you where ever you want to go on  your fiber journey.
And you can just hang out if you don't want to go anywhere.

Why will thousand of folks sign up for festival classes and we fiber folks doing our best to be here for you six and seven days a week  are finding it tough to fill our classes?
Nice Threads would love to offer more classes and week long and/or weekly intensives and I just don't know if anyone would come.

My dream is to be able to share with you the way I was shown.

Please leave a comment and let me know your fiber dreams and how we at Nice Threads could help to make them come true.


  1. Great post! I feel the same burn out for craft shows and am retiring from that arena!

    I'm enjoying day long workshops where maybe only half the day is working. On the project while the rest is song and shared stories in a safe place that very worked hard to create just the right environment.

    I agree wholehearted at the over stimulated vibes at such festivals. I prefer the quiet and good conversation over a slowly learnt craft.

  2. I believe you are on to something. People don't know it yet, but these big events don't feed nor nourish the soul in a sustainable way.

    Hooray for broaching the subject.

  3. I think you are a little narrow on your perspective on this issue. There are many reasons people take classes at a festival/event that are valid and have nothing to do with learning.

    I was in the class you took last fall and I feel I got a good understanding of why things worked the way they did, but I am sure others in the class who are less analytical than I am were merely following the motions. We both (me and the repeaters) got what we wanted out of the class material wise.

    Taking festival classes can be about:
    -Meeting and socializing with other students
    -Enjoying guided project time with like minded individuals
    -Exposure to teachers and techniques you may not have on a regular basis
    -Having a few hours to sit and relax from the bustle of the event

    These are very valid reasons to take classes at an event that really have nothing to do with learning. There are other reasons too.

    The most valuable things I learned in our last last fall had nothing to do with spinning. I picked up on presentation techniques of the instructor, who's thought process is much like my own.

    So I don't feel you should devalue event classes and you really can't compare them with the style of learning you prefer. They have their time an place and purpose in addition and aside from the local shop teaching.

    And just a final thought. Not everyone can, should or wants to become a master of these crafts. There is a high level of commitment we have invested to gain the skills and knowledge we have and we are always looking to go deeper and learn more. Some people just want to be able to make a sweater sometimes. The Dabblers help keep out craft alive too. I have many things I dabble in and enjoy, just not with the passion or commitment I put into my fiber arts. That's ok too. There's room in the world for all types.


I love comments,constructive criticism, suggestions and RAK.