I teach jewellery making at my local bead shop in Manchester in the UK, on a weekly basis. I run a lot of beginners classes - simple stringing with crimps and beading wire - along with intermediate and advanced classes in wirework, stringing, knotting, macrame, bead weaving, even a little metal work.....I've been teaching there since 2007 when I saw 'beading teacher required' advertised behind the counter one day. Who knew that answering that ad would be the beginning of such a journey for me....
I had graduated from college in 2005, with a diploma in performance studies, and was working as a freelance singer and singing teacher - despite the fact that whilst at college my first study instrument was not voice but in fact, the 'cello.....funny how life goes, isn't it? As I'd been teaching in schools and music centres for the past 2 years, almost full time, it was a natural transition for me, and it meant I could give up one of my music teaching positions which involved a long commute.
From Saturday morning classes in the shop itself, which involved clearing one of the tables usually covered with beads, to a small concession turned into a workshop next door to the bead shop in 2010, and then last year, to a beautiful big room, with high ceilings and space for displaying both jewellery and beads for sale at the classes, and room to comfortably house 12 people in a class.
This last space is within the shop's web premises - an old red brick warehouse near the town centre in Manchester (but out of town enough so that there is free parking for all! A real bonus that we didn't have previously). I now teach usually on a Friday morning and all day Saturday - either a full day workshop or a morning and afternoon class, and we're looking to expand the classes to include the odd weekday morning too.
I enjoyed teaching people about jewellery making from the very first class and that enjoyment led to (with a little encouragement from my partner) submitting to magazines. I am happy to say that I have had pieces in several jewellery publications and for the past 3 years I have been a regular contributor to British publication Beads and Beyond. Teaching and magazine work took up so much of my time that I never really investigated selling my jewellery until last year. I now have active etsy and folksy shops, and attend both local and national craft fairs throughout the year. But I still love to teach and share the knowledge, skills and most importantly for me, the passion I have for making and designing jewellery with new students and old, every week.
It is a wonderful feeling to send off a piece of jewellery that you have made and designed yourself into the world, and it is another kind of joy to see someone who didn't know a crimp from a lobster clasp at the beginning of the day leave a class stacked with tools, beads and an awakened sense of their own creativity. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing students surprised and pleased at what they themselves can achieve, with just a little help from me. Like many people, probably many of you reading this blog now, I am self-taught (and by that I mean no classes. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the writers and designers of the huge number of beading books and magazines that have passed through my hands), but I often wonder what would have happened had there been local classes when I was younger. I've seen friendships blossom in my classes as well as skills develop and hobbies - obsessions! - begun.
I am now looking forward to teaching at The Big Bead Show - happening down in Surrey on Saturday 20th October. My first national teaching event! Something I am very excited about. I hope to spark some new enthusiasm as well as offer new skills to those with more experience.
I have three classes scheduled - one for beginners, learning how to make this sweet bracelet with turned loops:
One for more advanced wireworkers with a little write wrapping and weaving, and some hammering - great fun!
And one on how to incorporate ribbons into your work by making these lovely knotted bracelets (sadly, these will be without Jo's lovely clasps but students will still learn this fun and easy technique with alternative fasteners!)
If you are local and fancy a fun and inspiring bead-filled day, then why not come along - I'd love to meet you over some beads. Even if you're not taking a class with me, do come and say hello if you see me around the fair.I still sing and teach singing (and even have 2 'cello pupils - you see, that diploma wasn't useless after all!) but jewellery work in some form or another now takes up at least half of my working life. And it all began with just answering a simple ad, all those years ago.... So my question to you is, do you teach? Have you ever wanted to? Do you see it in your future?
I can assure you, it is one of the most satisfying endeavors you will ever undertake if you are anything like me. If the opportunity is there, I was say to you, grab it with both hands! Why not test the water by running a small jewellery party for some friends - you supply beads and knowledge, they bring snacks and drinks. That way you can try out your teaching skills in a safe environment, and even get some honest feedback (if you're brave enough to ask for it!). You might just surprise yourself....
Rebecca is a Scottish jewellery designer and singer, currently living in Manchester, England. You can read more about beads and singing at her blog, songbeads.blogspot.com and see more of her jewellery at songbead.etsy.com.