workshop lessons

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When I first set out to teach workshops this year, I was admittedly incredibly nervous. Imposter Syndrome is real. Then there's also a level beyond Imposter Syndrome when you feel like you aren't even at a level enough to experience Imposter Syndrome and you feel like you have Imposter Syndrome about having Imposter Syndrome. Make sense? 

I had mostly taught private workshops and friends when it came to natural dyeing, sewing and indigo, and had little experience with large groups of strangers coming to learn from me. It's a humbling experience to be put in that position. My main concern was that people wouldn't feel as if they had gotten enough out of the workshop. Accordingly, I crammed in techniques, fabric and lessons into the workshops. Somewhere along the way, I almost forgot the inherent magic of indigo itself--when a student sees a square of muslin being pulled out of the smelly vat, and sees it turning from a toxic-yellow-green to that beautiful indigo blue, everything else falls away and the student is reduced back to a giddy school kid. 

I also forgot the value of imparting a skill to someone else. I was really concerned with the tangible goods students would take away--scarves, totes, fabric--and not focusing enough on the value of the intangible experience of sharing a day and a meal with other likeminded people, and the value of having a new skill to add to their artistic practice and daily life. 

The students in the first two batches of workshops were very different, and I am very grateful for that--it gave me the opportunity to learn hands-on with two very unique groups. The first workshops in New Orleans took place at the incredible studio of Kate Beck. I first met Kate when I worked at Kentuck, and I came to admire and covet her incredible textile designs--her work melds naturally effortless silhouettes with beautiful prints and luxe fabrics. If you're ever in New Orleans, her showroom is MUST VISIT, but you can also shop online. More information about her here. I admire Kate and her work so much, so being able to share her space for a few days was an incredible experience to me, and I value her friendship and generosity so incredibly much. And the students were thrilled to take part in a workshop in such a beautiful setting!

The students in New Orleans were very focused on precise techniques and exact folds, which was wonderful to watch, and a dream for a teacher. The work they created was technical and beautiful, and I learned a lot from watching their intense focus. Everyone created such different work, and I can't wait to see what they do with the fabric they made and the skills they learned. I can't wait to go back to New Orleans--I'm already working with Kate to develop an indigo quilt class--more on that to come!

The next batch of workshops was in Tuscaloosa at the wonderful Grace Aberdean Habitat Alchemy, part vintage store, part art gallery, owned by a dear friend Jamie Cicatiello. Jamie is a huge figure in the DIY and creative community in Tuscaloosa and has been a huge catalyst for positive change there. It was wonderful to share her space for a day! The group at this workshop was a different type of group. I was hardly through the first lesson when the students threw caution to the wind and dove right in. They were totally fearless, using found objects as resist shapes, dyeing fabric to use as the basis for paintings, dyeing their shoes--it was wonderful to watch and I, again, learned just as much from them as they probably did from me. The work they created was beautiful and entirely unique--you could walk down the drying line and tell whose hands had made which work.

Both of these groups taught me a lot about my approach to teaching, and I'm excited to implement what I've learned in upcoming workshops. I've learned to scale back a bit and focus on creating an experience, and be flexible within the workshop to accommodate the type of students who are there. It's a never-ending learning experience for me.

I hope to see you at a workshop soon.

-Aaron

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