Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Third Time Is The Charm: Simplifying A Design For Beginners

Teaching my first craft class has been a unique experience. Just like being a Peace Corps teacher in Africa, you learn to get lessons across by the seat of your pants.
The thing I learned in the first two sessions with a Pennsylvania Dutch mini birdhouse was that for beginners it can't be too complicated. I didn't learn the lesson well enough for the second project, another birdhouse.
Three birdhouses based on one design!

The second project was supposed to be this birdhouse, the first one on the left. I realized after teaching the first birdhouse, that this was way too complicated. I think a good teacher wants to help their students to succeed. I know I did.

This brought me to the middle one where things were bigger hence easier to paint for shaky hands unfamiliar with paint, brushes and experience. I was satisfied that I had done a good job until looking at it again later, I realized it still might be too complicated, hence the third birdhouse on the right. One bird, big leaves and flowers that kept the flavor of the original birdhouse but made it doable. To be fair by the end of the second class, some of the students were getting the hang of craft painting and even followed the lines drawn. Not all however.

How do you tackle such a problem? In my art classes, it was pretty clear what we are supposed to do. You pick the class you want to learn, the teacher gave us the materials we needed and the teaching began. However, one teacher, teaching us Rosemaling on a wooden bowl with a lid, encouraged us to do our own design. She then taught us what we were supposed to trace on the piece. Hopelessly lost, I packed up to leave when startled, she realized what I was doing and stopped and came over. I told her what I had done and that I didn't have enough skill in Rosemaling to "wing" it so was packing up. She asked how many others were having trouble and half of the class raised their hands.

She then gave us a quick course on Rosemaling, how to play with the forms and then moved more cautiously visiting us nearly constantly to help us with our "own" designs. It turned out well and I am quite proud of the finished piece.

It was this in mind that I was constantly on the prowl with my neophyte learners. I would show them what to do and where and immediately went around to show them, often using their own hands, what to do and how to do it. Once they knew what I was trying to teach they did very well. Not all of course but most. I learned that this was the first time any of them had ever done this type of craft.

I have a feeling that we crossed a hurtle for several and may have more luck with a very simple flowerpot with nothing but straight lines, dots made from the other end of the paint brush and petals using the push, drag and lift motion. To make it even simpler I will mark in white pencil the lines on the dark brown pots. It should be fun. Adding floral foam, sticking in a fake flower and tidying that with moss they will have created their very own decoration!

Simplifying maybe is a parable for life. We tend to make things far more complicated than they need to be I realized. While I love the first birdhouse, the last version is in many ways far more powerful. Maybe its time for all of us to step back and look at what we do! Create a design and see what happens when you create another simpler version. You just might like it better!

Thank you for visiting. Please check out my earlier blogs. I hope that I both educate and enlighten.

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