Artists who teach often discuss the benefits of teaching techniques vs. projects. Some teachers wonder if teaching a project prevents the student from discovering their own voice, or following their own creative nudges. Overwhelmingly, my students tell me they want….BOTH! They want to learn techniques AND (because life so often seems an eternal list of unfinished To Dos) they love walking out the door wearing something they have actually finished!
For a teacher, it might seem easier to teach a project where students undeviatingly follow a specific path. I think you can be flexible. With a willingness to not always KNOW outcomes, you can give your students wriggle room. You can teach techniques in the context of a project but also teach about other applications. Provide examples, encourage exploration, model creative risk taking. I think that is the role of a good teacher. You often need to sing a few known songs with someone you know before you find your own voice. Hopefully you are teaching songs, making harmonies and inspiring new work!
That metaphor is ironic coming from one who sings like me!
I was thrilled by what happened after a recent class. Local enthusiastic polymer artists wanted to learn about cuff bracelets, extruders and good finishing techniques. I designed a class to bring these things together. Seven ladies participated and as well as making the specific cuff in the project, we talked about variations, the value of mistakes*, and looked at lots of samples. We discussed extruder use in many other contexts. I provide extensive notes. Each lady walked out wearing a gorgeous unique cuff. (One walked out too early to have her photo taken!) They saw for themselves you can all start with similar techniques and end up with something that is them!
KBV went home and, using the techniques she’d learnt in the class, made an entirely different item! A gorgeous bead which she strung on a collar, wore to work and was asked to make by a colleague who loved it so much. Her very fist commission. She had made a project, learnt a technique and sung with her own voice!
*This was in the contexts of Neil Gaiman’s inimitable advice to Make Glorious Mistakes!