My daughter and I were snuggling on the sofa watching Netflix together when she sits up rather abruptly and asks me, “Mama how many days until you leave for your art teaching again?” I gently moved a piece of hair from her eyes, tucking it behind her ear so I could look directly into her eyes. “Friday, love. Mama leaves again Friday.”
“What is today?”
“Sunday. It’s the weekend. You go back to school tomorrow, Monday, and then I’ll be here Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday too. I have to leave to California on Friday. I’ll be gone only four days this time.”
She snuggles back into me without saying another word. She’s not sad, or even really thinking about it any longer. For some reason the thought just occurred to her. Most likely because I’ve been home for a few weeks now and she knows it’s about time for me to leave again.
I’ve been making mixed media art for 15 years. I began when my son was a baby. I’ve been teaching since before my daughter was born, but the amount of time away has really increased the past four years. She’s young and doesn’t know anything else besides mama and daddy working. She knows mama is an artist and that just about everything I do is tied to ICE Resin. She knows I leave, get on a plane, am gone for anywhere from three to five days and then I come home again. I’m home for two weeks to a month and then I leave again. She doesn’t talk to me but once or twice when I’m away because it’s just too hard on me. My husband knows the only way I can really focus and do what I do is to have complete and utter faith in him, grandma and the amazing after school caregiver.
I try not to think too much about this. It’s really hard for me to leave my family and my studio as often as I do. But this is what I do, and I truly love it. I don’t love packing and unpacking. I don’t necessarily love the constant deadlines. I don’t love navigating airports and shuttles and hotels. I honestly don’t mind the 15 hour days working at the art retreats, as I tend to teach both day and evening workshops and also vend at the artists fairs. I adore seeing my friends — the amazingly talented fellow artists/instructors whose work inspires me. I wish we had time for more than quick hugs and 10 minute stand-up gatherings in each other’s classrooms or hotel lobbies, but it is what it is. I really adore most of my students. Sure, there’s sometimes one or two challenging peeps, but there’s rarely ever people who are downright nasty or unhappy. You seriously have to work at it to be angry at an art retreat.
You know what I love the most though? It’s being with my Tribe. Talking about art. Sharing ideas. Learning from the talented artists who take my classes as they’re also learning from me. I love sharing a passion for creativity and to show others how to use my favorite products. Teaching keeps me in the world. It keeps me up on the trends. It gets me out of my own little space that I create in the silence of my studio and forces me to embrace the extroverted side of my personality.
I decided to write this post today because I know there are a lot of people who dream of being instructors. I get questions all the time and so do my friends. I feel it’s my duty to encourage people to pursue teaching if it’s in their hearts. I truly believe teaching - in any capacity -is a calling that comes from something bigger than us.
I know it can appear that breaking into art retreats is shrouded in mystery. It’s definitely a process. The best way to go about it, in my opinion, is to attend an art retreat you’re interested first as a student so you can get a feel for the event. All retreats are slightly different and have their own vibe about them. Then talk to the organizers and learn their process. Good organizers are always looking for authentic ideas and fresh projects. Here are some tips:
- Follow the rules for submission. I know this seems like an obvious first tip, but you’d be surprised how many times I hear that people do not fully read through the instructions before they submit.
- Understand the work absolutely must be your own and must be different from what’s already being offered.
- Make great samples of the class you want to teach.
- Take fantastic photos of those samples.
- Ensure students will be able to make their class work look close enough like yours so they won’t wind up frustrated
- Write clear descriptions.
- Understand how much prep time goes into pulling off successful workshops.
- Think through the out-of-pocket expenses (travel, hotel, food, art supplies, handouts, shuttles, luggage fees, shipping fees, replacing “lost” communal art supplies that you bring, etc.) and understand you will need to have resources and/or credit to pay for these up front.
- Know that at first this can all be a little overwhelming but like anything else you’ll get better with time and experience.
I’m so very grateful for the experiences I have over the years being able to travel and teach mixed-media art. I have definitely experienced challenges and frustrations at times too. However, the good always outweighs the rest. As you can see on my face from the pictures above that I plan to keep moving forward in the direction of my dreams and being able to share with others is still a big part of my life. Hopefully one day my daughter will be able to see me in action and understand why I made the choices I did.