A glimpse into teaching

I’m off to the Bead and Button show for six days. It’s always wonderful to leave the Phoenix heat and land in Milwaukee where I have to make a conscious effort to remember to pack my umbrella and I can still wear closed-toe shoes. (grin)

Since I get questions almost every show from folks wanting to learn more about the nitty gritty of teaching, I thought maybe this is a good time for a little history and a glimpse into the process. Hang on, folks, this is a long post!

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First, history. I’ve been teaching a while now. This important piece of my career began when I was doing mixed-media paper arts. Even though nobody called it “mixed-media” then, I was fortunate that what I loved to do was popular with the “chunky book, mini book” trend in scrapbooking. I took blank canvases — mostly chipboard or acrylic albums — and then loaded them up with family photos, paint, inks, stamps and just about anything I could glue on to a substrate. By 2001, I was teaching chunky book techniques at paper arts stores in Arizona and California. This was a hobby, since I was still working as a part-time magazine editor.

Teaching took a back seat to learning when I decided I wanted to make jewelry. I continued to write, but spent my free time taking metalsmithing classes at my community collage and obsessively adsorbing what I could from books and also through osmosis when Susan let me assist in her workshops. By 2009, I felt the calling again and returned to teaching, only this time at national retreats. Oh my goodness, I had so much to learn in the beginning! Fortunately, I’m a believer in lifelong learning so that’s what I’ve been doing ever since. I truly believe that to be a good instructor, one must continue to tweak, adjust and attempt to innovate.

Ok, with all that said, here’s a little peek into the process in case you’re interested in teaching at national shows. Believe me, there’s definitely a process and know that it can be time consuming!

Every event organizer has a mailing list of potential instructors. If you want to teach for their event, you ask the person in charge to add you to their call for proposals list. The organizers work hard behind the scenes doing what it takes to host an event. This includes every event-planing skill imaginable, from finding a good hotel or place to hold the event on the dates and times they want to negotiating contracts (not easy!) to figuring out food, lodging, transportation, budgets, contingency plans, refund policies and more. Fortunately, as an instructor none of this is your job. Your job is to answer the call professionally and before deadline. A little note here. Some retreats are by personal invite. How do you know which ones? If you ask to be added to a call for proposal list and the organizers say they don’t have one, then it’s invite-only.

Once the call for proposals comes in, I start making brand new work and art samples. A lot of the time, I’ve already built work that I know I’d like to teach. I use these pieces as inspiration or a starting point to still create work exploring a new idea or technique or a new twist.

After building the art, comes photographing the work, sizing and scaling it in Photoshop to the organizer’s specifications (each one is slightly different). I always save my images in high resolution and then also in low resolution 72 dpi so that I have them print-quality ready and also web ready. This little tip took me a while to learn. Now it’s just part of my process, and that makes it much easier throughout the year to quickly respond to emails I get from people requesting images for various opportunities. Here is another tip: Photos are key! The most well-written description will not make up for a low light, out of focus photo. When it comes to photographing your work: practice, practice, practice (or hire a professional).

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The next step is to write concise and (hopefully) exciting descriptions. As I’m doing this, I’m thinking about every single detail of my workshop. This is important because in addition to the descriptions, the instructor has to decide what’s included in the kit and what students must bring to class. With airlines making it expensive for luggage, the tools and materials list has become an even more important detail. Students often tell me they don’t like to bring too many supplies. If you, as the instructor, supply them then its an added expense to your personal budget. Shipping costs are expensive. Many of my fellow instructors drive to every event they teach in order to make their workshops as seamless as possible for their people. This is a time vs cost factor. Shipping is expensive and you’re in hot water if your stuff gets waylaid, but driving across country is not always a viable option.

Writing descriptions is definitely a learn-by-doing process. It can take some a long time to get this down, while for others it’s a breeze. I put a lot of time and editing into it, always trying to find the balance of being inspiring, yet detailed enough that my students know what they’re getting when they sign up.

Next it’s time to send your proposals off to the organizer/decision maker. Then comes the fun part, waiting to see how your proposals are received. Nothing is guaranteed for the national retreats. You turn in your best work and hope that your ideas are interesting enough and that your classes fit the organizer’s vision for the retreat.

Here’s another important teaching tip: You may get rejected. It stings. It puts you in a bad mood for a day or two, but it happens. Dust yourself off and try again. You have no idea why your work wasn’t accepted. Maybe someone else turned in something similar. Maybe that year too many people decided to follow a trend and that left the organizer top heavy with those techniques. Very rarely is is because someone doesn’t like you. I’ve been turned down for teaching gigs and have never known why. Other times, I’ve been told its because I used butterflies or that the retreat had too much jewelry or that they want to follow the trend of soldering and I did wireworking. No worries. You know the saying, “There’s always next time.” When it comes to national art retreats there’s always next year.

Wait, it doesn’t end once you’re accepted. You need to do you part to tell people about your classes and the retreat. These days this means social media. Hopefully you have some really good friends and they will help share the word for you. Also it helps if these people have taken your classes and have had positive experiences and they tell others. Nothing builds your reputation like authentic word-of-mouth advertising. It’s invaluable, and also why I’m grateful when people share my info.

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The last little tidbit is this: There are great artists and great teachers. The two do not always go hand in hand, so if you’ve had a less-than-stellar experience as a student remember it could be just as simple as this. Fortunately for most of the well-known people teaching the retreats today I can tell you they are in sync. I have truly met an amazing tribe of artists who’re called to share their knowledge.

I realize that sometimes I can seem daunting to break into the industry. But remember this as well; There is always room for new talent and expertise to enter any field. Your voice, your skills, your passion is needed in this world. So is your commitment and hard work. Teaching is wonderful, exhilarating, sometimes exhausting, sometimes drudgery (prep work and clean up), sometimes hard but always humbling.

Thanks to all of you who read to the end. This is a long post, and if you’re interested enough to read this much on a blog when photo stories and 140 character Tweets are the norm, then I believe you might just have all the patience inside of you to be a great instructor.

JenSig

Charity Wings adventures

I’m off to one of my most favorite places in the world this week — San Diego and Charity Wings Art Center. As many of you know, I’ve been a supporter of Charity Wings mission and vision for about five years now. Elena, the founder of the Charity Wings non-profit, and I hit it off one year at a Craft and Hobby Association convention and we’ve become good friends ever since. Even without the dear friendship, I’d still be a huge supporter of this organization because as far as I know, it is the only non-profit that truly works hand-in-hand with the crafts industry.

Each year, I donate my time to Charity Wings to teach various mixed media techniques. Most times, it’s jewelry, but mostly I try to listen to what new skills and techniques the Ahmazing volunteers and supporters of the Charity Wings Art Center want to learn. Of course, resin is always right up there on the list. The BEST part about this year’s visit is that it is in conjunction with the organization’s Art Decade*nce Celebration and big come-one-come-all free festival that culminates the activities on May 14th.

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My classes are Thursday this week. There’s still time to sign up. The metal etching class is almost sold out, so if you are interested, I’d suggest you jump on board toot-sweet (Ok, it’s actually spelled tout suite in French and is an idiom for right away, but I think this spelling is much cuter.:-)

Here are some photos of what I’m teaching. In the caption is the individual registration link. Remember, taking my class at Charity Wings is like learning for good or learning with a cause. How cool is that?

 

 

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ICE Resin Basics and Beyond class — Registration link: http://charitywings.org/ice-resin-basics-beyond/

 

 

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Metal Mania etched copper pendant necklace: http://charitywings.org/metal-mania-class/

 

I sincerely hope I see you there so we can have a truly Artful experience together.

JenSig

Art Jewelry Adventure sale

Creative150ArtJewelryAdventureHey guys! Just wanted to let you know the Art Jewelry Adventure online retreat that’s taking place this entire year is on sale now for 20% off. If you use my direct instructor link – http://bit.ly/1M1Rs0f – and register now, you pay just $80 (normally $99).

Not sure what to get your crafty jewelry-making mom (or even for yourself) for Mother’s Day this might just be a great prezzie.

Once you register, you’ll be able to watch all the online lessons that have been taking place so far. And good news, you haven’t missed my class yet. I’m up in October teaching how to make a pretty transparent resin bezel and a handmade chain necklace from 18 gauge bronze wire.

Remember, please click my direct link to register.

Also here’s another peek of my project in case you’ve forgotten or haven’t had a chance to see it yet. The deadline to take advantage of this sale is May 7th so hurry now if it’s been on your mind.

Jen Cushman Transparent Necklace Class Image

 

 

 

Mold making and casting process

My Peep Pie Journal workshop at Art is You Santa Rosa is almost full. Only two spaces left. By this time next week, I’ll be hanging out in gorgeous wine country with my artsy tribe. I can’t wait! Since so many folks are interested in the mold making and casting process with ICE Resin, and since this technique is the focal point of my workshop next week, I’ve been sharing process pics on my Instagram and Facebook business page this week. To give credit where credit’s due, Susan was the first to cast a lock. I saw hers and fell in love.

I’m teaching myself how to do video and editing since it’s my plan to start offering some online classes. Let’s just say I still have A LOT to learn about making and producing videos. However, in an effort to jump in and try out my skills, I put together a little marketing video for my journal class. I wanted to share something with those of you who might not be able to attend the Art is You retreat this time around. (Put it on your bucket list for sure though. It’s a pretty amazing art tribe, and you know there is serious truth in that saying You Vibe is Your Tribe!)

I hope you enjoy this little sneak peek:

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Going, going. gone…Art is You registration

AIYlogoGetting down to the wire here with Art is You Santa Rosa. I hope you will be joining me, as I’m super excited about this new teaching event for me. I have only a couple of spots left in my Peep-Pie journal class, but more openings in both my Wild and Free Gypsy Heart and Bronze Bambino workshops. These classes all focus on some really awesome ICE Resin techniques – pouring, mixing, coloring, layering, embedding, casting, resin paper. In addition I’m teaching wireworking and beading techniques in a skill-building way.

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Not in the Northern California region? Check out my class offerings for 2016 at Bead and Button in Milwaukee (search the teacher list for my name and you can see all my classes. Here’s my resin layers one) and also Bead Fest in Philadelphia. For you Phoenicians, remember that Art Unraveled is the only time I’m teaching locally, and this year I had to limit it to two workshops due to other projects in the works.

Oh and you San Diego peeps, remember that I’ll be at Charity Wings in May 12-14 for their 10 year anniversary Art Decadence celebration. I’m on the Board of Directors for this 501(c)(3) Non-Profit crafting organization and art center and have been a big supporter of Elena’s mission and vision for years now. When I teach at Charity Wings, I donate my time. The class fees collected are earmarked for educational programs of the various special needs organizations/students who attend weekly. I’ve had the sincere pleasure of being at the art center during some of these classes and I cannot tell you how much it warms my heart and reaffirms my belief in the good of humanity when I meet these amazing people. There is one woman with the most generous spirit who always gives me her project when she sees me. She tells me that seeing me smile when she gives me her art is what makes her happy. Seriously, brings tears to my eyes every time I’m such a softie. Here are links to my two classes; Metal Mania and ICE Resin Basics and Beyond

Til next time. Hope you are having an Artful week.

JenSig

 

Art is You Last Call

AIYinstagramArt is You, the fabulous life-affirming mixed-media art retreat in Santa Rosa, California is a little under a month away and I’m gearing up for my workshops. I’m not finished with my studio purge and re-organization yet, but a girl’s still gotta do what a girl’s gotta do and, for me, that’s work! I have a temporary fold up table in one corner right now that is just for Art is You. I’m making my ICE Resin castings and getting all my supplies gathered into one big heap so I can make kits next week.

My journal class has only a couple spots left, but there’s still room in my other two workshops — Bronze Bambino and My Wild and Free Gypsy Heart. If you live in the Northern California area or love wine and visiting wine country + making art or have family in the area that you’ve been wanting to see, don’t delay any longer. Registration closes on April 3rd and Salianne and Ellen sent a notice letting their folks know the block of rooms set aside at the discounted is almost full. If that’s not enough incentive, I received a notice in my email this morning that Southwest Airlines is having a tip -off sale with one-way airfare starting at $69. I just checked how much it is from Phoenix to San Francisco and it came up as $158 round trip.  I managed to take advantage of their Spring Sale a few weeks ago and also got a smokin’ good airfare. Plus, it’s Southwest so 2 free bags (important consideration when you are bringing art supplies!)

Just wanted to take a moment to reach out. I’m heading to wine country, meeting up with my art-making tribe and gearing up for an awesome trip. Honestly, I would LOVE for you to join me on this adventure.

 

JenSig

 

To bead..or not to bead

That is never the question. This little lead in is my way of telling you that I’m all packed and ready for the 2016 To Bead True Blue in Tucson. This is my sixth year attending/teaching this show and it’s one I definitely look forward to all year long.

I spent some time in my studio this week making some new art samples to show my students. Mostly ideas I had for new techniques and ways of showing some of the ideas I will be presenting.

Take a peek at the necklace I made using crushed quail’s egg shells. I kept it simple by using our brand new tints to color the background. Then I added the eggs in a layer and then the words from one of my favorite poetry books that I cut up often for mixed-media jewelry. I have all the materials on hand, so my fast-moving students are going to be able to work on the pendant after they finish their “fly” bracelet.

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This isn’t the first time I’ve used eggs in my work. I was with Susan in France the year in 2008 when she found some sweet little quails eggs at the weekly market. She bought a box for everyone and took them back to La Cascade so we could all make the most beautiful focal pendants. I loved the idea so much that when I returned home I tracked down some hollowed out quail’s eggs and started exploring other design possibilities. I made this bracelet for our first Explore, Create, Resinate book that came out in 2011. I’ve had a number of requests over the years to teach this bracelet, so I’m finally doing so this year.

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By the way, did you know it is not easy to travel with fragile quails eggs for my students’ kits? Ahhhh, the things your instructors go through for you (grin!)

I’ll be teaching this bracelet class and two more at the To Bead True Blue Show at the Doubletree Hotel Sunday and Monday. There are some spots left and, as always, I made up the max kits so I’m prepared. The other classes focus on resin casting — an all time fav! Also wireworking and cold enameling. Click on Susan’s website to register.

I will be coming home Monday evening after teaching just in time to get my daughter into the doctor Tuesday morning to get the cast on her arm removed. Yes, for those of you who might not know, she broke her arm Christmas evening being stubborn thinking she’s big enough to ride her teenage brother’s hover board.

I’ll be back at the show and at the booth Thursday, Friday and Saturday. We have some meetings set, but I’m planning to spend a lot of time at the show demo-ing all the cool new products. If you are around Tucson next week, please come see me and say hello.

JenSig