Working Questions

Sunday’s brand-new Portable Papermaking class was excellent, if small. I transported a setup that would allow everyone to work simultaneously to the shop, gave a presentation, went over the handouts I’d made, demonstrated the setup and processes, then turned people loose while I circulated, answering questions and advising. Everyone worked and experimented enthusiastically for a few hours, and then we used two pressing methods, including my odd new portable vacuum press. (I got the idea for it at Women’s Studio Workshop, when I fell in love with their superb vacuum table. After Ragdale, I acquired components, then tinkered about in my basement studio till it worked…beautifully!) Everyone energetically pitched in on the cleanup, which is part of the class: if you’re going to do this, it’s an essential part of the process. (We were done and packed up in time for me to get to an opening at the Noyes Center afterwards; I’d thought I might have to miss it).

It was a lot of work, yet thoroughly satisfying, just as the class in San Antonio was, and on the way home, I realized with a jolt: I still like teaching.

Not only the in-class time, but the entire process: creating a class to expand and enhance a group of course offerings (or even a curriculum), deciding what will and won’t be presented as well as how that will happen, designing sequencing and structure, researching topics and techniques I don’t personally use that will nonetheless amplify the experience, writing supplemental materials, and in this case, making samples.  It’s something that seems to come naturally to me; not by any means effortlessly, mind you, but it’s challenging work that I enjoy and am damned good at. (I once designed a grad course to teach other artists to teach art, taught it for years, and liked it as much as my studio classes). Yeah, I still like teaching* as a job. I’m not at all sure I’m entirely pleased with that realization.

For a long time now, I’ve considered workshop teaching to simply be  a temporary juncture, a bridge to The Next Phase, and I’m definitely not relinquishing that view. Yet, I’ve been looking for an earning-a-living direction that ‘feels right’ and so far, nothing has approached the fit of making and teaching these classes.  So now, I have to re-open myself to questions about something I thought I’d ruled out; the lid has popped back off this particular can of worms.  The first and most essential question is: Can I make a feasible living at teaching without re-entering academe?

Fortunately, I do have time to come up with the answers, to that and a host of questions that follow, and to continue to explore new directions as well…and the workshop teaching is providing that cushion.

My next ‘big’ event, I hope, will be retrieving the Beautiful Bronze Beater! (It needed more work than originally planned, but is now nearing completion). I’ve been in the basement studio a lot, planning the major space revisions that will soon be carried out to accommodate it, and also having a veritable blast with fibers harvested from my garden. Except for the Triptophan Fest, and having the time to get back to the woods, that’s how I’ll be spending this much quieter holiday week, before winding up November by taking down Respite. I will document the entire show beforehand, though, and post the images.

* (Specifically, I am truly liking teaching paper processes, which is rather ironic.)

Anyhow: Happy Thanksgiving to U.S. folks who celebrate it, direct to you from from my pulpy, booky sanctuary.