I am in Rockport Maine teaching the first 3-month Woodturning Intensive. Intensive is the key word. I have 8 students who have stepped out of their lives to commit to learning woodturning for twelve weeks 40 plus hours a week. We are all in one studio together all the time. The funny thing about woodturning is that you are mostly looking down at an object spinning on a machine so sometimes the students do not even know there are others in the room. The lathe is mesmerizing by nature. It is a kind of craft hypnotism. I introduce something in the morning and at noon I say,” lunch time”, and no one can believe that 3 hours have passed. That is what I have always loved about the act of woodturning. It is meditation. We have had two wonderful guests, Mark Gardner and Al Stirt. The students have gone through, tool making. Sharpening, duplicating, architectural carving, hollow vessel and bowl making. This week we made stools.
I always realize so much through teaching. This class has multiplied the realizations exponentially. I have come to realize that teaching like this is similar to creating a piece of artwork. I am interested in the concept, what is the purpose of the piece. The technical intricacy, how will you make it? The puzzle, what do you do when problems arise? The personal understanding, what have I actually accomplished with this piece? Within the scope of the class all of this has arisen. I am someone who tries to work on some kind of object or writing everyday, in the class I do demo pieces but I have not made much. I am working on one piece, which will be for a show this spring, but I find it has been taking my attention away from what is really interesting me, and that is the personal creative development of each of my students. As a teacher how do you help 8 adults find their own personal aesthetic? I do not want them to have mine. To this point they have been given projects to mimic as a way of developing technical skill, some students have a background in some sort of expressive medium, but others do not. As a teacher I think it is always important to go back to the first time I faced something I did not understand and work back from there. I am taking a class in metal forming one night a week in which I place myself in the position of beginner. I find that really helps me be in the same place as my students. I will ask myself why I am making this curve or that shape. How do I know it will look better this way or that way, and then I will try to put that information into a meaningful lesson plan? This is why grad school was so good for my teaching. It let me observe other teachers and really critically think about the act of teaching. It allowed me to be a beginner after being an accomplished craftswoman. I am excited to have this opportunity to start putting all this experience together. We are at a critical juncture in the class, the moment the students step away from comfort and enter the world of risk taking. I cannot wait to see what happens