Hello Annette -
Maybe I never should have offered this since I'm the only one
able to cast and with finishing tools and I'm not ready to have
people come in and take over my little home shop and yet I'm looking
forward to the camaraderie.
I would hesitate to encourage you to create this atmosphere at your
home studio - especially if you already have doubts before you have
even started - as you said above!
I, personally, do not teach in my own studio (however, I am also
known to break that rule!) - mainly, because I do not have enough
hours in my life to add that level of involvement. I would encourage
you to perhaps have these individuals work in their own spaces and
perhaps you all could get together for critique and perhaps a short
technique demo. In your generosity - it seems that you foresee the
time factor of the future involvement - and I would think you could
respectfully set whatever limits work for you without guilt. I
learned in a classroom first, then took several jobs in the industry
and then many more years of college and self exploration under the
guidance of an experienced jeweler. It is a lot of your own studio
time that you will be giving - especially if you have more than one
student. I would recommend setting time constraint limits - if you
are already committed to the offer of teaching - and stick to it. In
other words - have an end date set. Perhaps let them know that this
is a one time experiment - to help them decide if they might like to
continue on their own. Also, if you have a deadline to meet - that
they would have to work around your schedule - to be flexible. It
will test their commitment to pursuing jewelry work - and hopefully,
they would then continue on their own - as we all have done.
Teach technique - refer them to books. Encourage them to find their
own designs. Have them sketch and proceed. As far as the copying of
your design - I would not feel that you “have” to teach your design
unless you want to. I will demo techniques that utilize the same
tools that I use in my work - but I do not teach my specific designs.
I strongly suggest that you have them make their own designs - and
when they get in trouble you can offer technical suggestions. Give
them a design problem to solve - send them on a visual sketching
exploration! If you do choose to teach this particular item or design
to your friend, I would encourage you to let her know that copying
this piece for the sake of learning technique is valid - but copying
to sell is not acceptable. If you have no attachment to others making
what you make - then you can teach it - otherwise, there is a good
chance that your style will be proliferated. If you have
reservations and concerns, I would communicate that to your “students”
- so, the friendship can continue. Actually, my friends are so
independent, this has not been an issue - we have very different
styles and tastes!
We all benefit by learning different techniques, and it is very valid
to share. My best teachers have cut me a lot of slack and will nudge
me to “see” and perhaps find a better solution and to always improve
the aestheic quality of the design. This way, I will get in and out
of trouble first hand and really learn from the experience - rather
than too much hand holding. Much of what I have learned is passed on
from others’ experience - but transformed through the many hours of my
own exploration. So, I always thank and give credit to my many
teachers - some of whom i have never met.
One of my best art history professors had us study an artist or style
of work made in history as a project and learning experience. He
always gave us the option to do “hands on” work in whatever medium we
were interested in, rather than just write a paper. I learned a LOT
through that period of exploration - and our challenge as metal
artists is to take these various techniques and experiences and make
them our own.
I have given workshops at the high school level and it is always a
pleasure to teach - very energizing. . . . however, I consider my
home studio my refuge and also, I might have liability concerns.
Still, I will help a friend on occasion - especially if they are
proceeding on their own and not reliant on my guidance solely.
I did have an unexpected fringe benefit by teaching a friend for free
(before I took the leap to do this work as an independent jeweler
full-time) - she later helped me to sell at many events - and would
not let me pay her. So, it became something like a trade of time
spent. And actually, it was great - because she understood how to
forge a spoon and could talk very intelligently to the public . . .
and customers would sometimes think it was her booth! That was fun to
me - because we could share that exhausting experience of being in the
public - plus, as it turned out, she was very good at selling!
So, back to the commitment of teaching at your home studio . . . like
many things in life, you can try it once and if you don’t like it -
don’t continue. ! Set boundaries though - otherwise, you may be
casting for them for the next 30 years. Do it if it is something that
works for you. Refer them to Arrowmont, Penland, Revere Academy or
any school or classes in your area and then get together to share
stories when they return! Then the “camaraderie” is a give and take
rather than just a give. You might consider charging for your time
spent. I never did - but that was before I made the full time
commitment to my art form for my livelihood. I have had to become
more “business like” since then - but still have the flexibility as an
independent to break my rules!
Best wishes to you - it is always good to test the waters of the many
different options - you might love the teaching aspect of our medium,