Saturday, April 7, 2012

Studio Saturday with Heather Powers

Welcome to Studio Saturday! Each week one of our contributors gives you a sneak peek into their studio, creative process or inspirations. We ask a related question of our readers and hope you'll leave comments! As an incentive we offer a free prize each week to bribe you to use that keyboard.
The following week we choose a random winner.

This week's winner is Alice! Congratulations! You have won headpins and charms from DaisyChainExtra compliments of Rebecca Anderson! Send Rebecca an email with your address and she will get your prize out to you soon!

Welcome to the Humblebeads Studio:

Good morning!  It's Easter weekend and my brain is overflowing with ideas, renewed directions and a plan of action.  But it's Easter weekend!  And my schedule is filled with decorating eggs, baking and spending time with my lovely family.  So I do what I do best, sketch and make notes when my hands can't get dirty.

In all my planning for the future and re-adjusting my goals, I realize one of the things I love doing the most is teaching and organizing retreats.  I would like to add more traveling and teaching across the country to my list of goals.  I would like to teach at some of the national shows next year which means I only have a few months to come up with a solid plan and proposals for applying.

Hence the sketches and my first step on that journey, which is creating a solid body of work to offer as classes.  I have been teaching for over 8 years, both beadmaking and beading classes.  I'm no longer offering polymer clay classes, because one cardinal rule of teaching is never teach something you aren't willing to give up to the universe.  And I'm not ready to give away my polymer clay super powers just yet. 

These are the current classes I teach - a resin beadmaking class, the steel wire bird nests and a beaded fringe bracelet.  While they are awesome classes and my students have loved them, they aren't exactly a body of work.  I'm not willing to pick one material or technique to become an expert.  I think my expertise lies in sharing my creative spirit and getting my students to translate their love of nature into design skills they can use in creating jewelry.

Here are some past Bead Cruise classes - I really run the gamut - a little bit of metal work, stringing and seed bead work.  But nature is the theme in each piece and it so happens to be the theme of my book. While they seem like a little bit of everything they really are tied together by the theme of designing jewelry from nature.  Which hey, that is my speciality!  I wrote the book on it after all!

What I've done is taken the four materials/techniques that most appeal to me, that I feel I can express myself easily and can share my knowledge base in those four areas with confidence. 
  • Those are bead embroidery over felted forms (like the Tidepool Beads above). I have leaf and flower designs in the works.
  • Woodland inspired designs in steel wire and beads, like the Birds of a Feather Class. 
  • Seed beads for wimps - can I specialize in that?  I think I can!  My seed bead pieces are for those who are little afraid of those tiny specks of beads but long to create things that are opulent in texture and color.  I also don't like following patterns, so my seed bead work is pretty organic and take a minimal amount of attention! 
  • My last set of classes focus on using Resin and UTEE, so a nice mixed media exploration - which can also open up doors in more of the mixed media type events.  I also happen to love using them and have several great projects to round out my Faux Sea Glass offering. 
What do you need to start teaching?
First you need that body of work - decide if it's a specific material you'll teach, like Barb Lewis' enamel classes or Tracy Stanley's metalwork classes.  Or if you are going to teach using several materials and share more of a design style with your students using whatever material gets the job done - like Gail Crosman Moore nature infused pieces.

Once you have your prototypes created and you've worked out any design kinks and discovered some tips and tricks to make it the best way possible, it's time to write your directions.

Step by step photo directions that are easy to follow are the best for student take-aways.  You can create your directions into mini-booklets or as individual sheets that are printed on cardstock.  Once you have your instructions finished, send it to a few good friends who have eagle eyes to proofread your directions or give them a test drive.  (This is my preference - there are as many ways to create your instructions as there are teachers in the world!)

You'll also want to take great photos of your jewelry for samples and create several class samples and a few extras to loan to bead stores.  Some bead stores like to display the samples to promote your classes. 

So now you have your projects, samples, and well-written and tested directions. Now it's time to create a webpage with your class offerings.  This can be a page on your blog or website. 

Start local - offer your classes to local students either at a bead shop or community center to work out any teaching kinks and to gain some hands on teaching experience with this project. 

Now you are ready to take those classes on the road.  You can contact bead stores or apply to teach at regional bead retreats to build up your cred. 

And then you'll need to hire someone to count all those beads for your kits.  Ha, ha - no seriously - it's amazingly tedious work but part of the job!  Kits give students the chance to create in the classroom without worrying if they have brought all the right materials and gives them the best results while learning your project. 

Here are lots of tips on teaching jewelry classes.
And some copyright information for students and teachers.

Don't be afraid to find a mentor to ask for advice while you are building your teaching career.

So now it's time to ask you a question for the week and offer a prize!  This week's prize is a $25 gift certificate to my website,  

And my question - what makes a great bead teacher?  Maybe it's something you noticed in a class you took or a standard that you measure instructors by or something as a student you wish teachers did more often.


Alice said...

Heather, I'm so happy I won the Studio Saturday prize! Thanks so much!

I would absolutely love for you to come to Kansas (or Even Missouri) so I could experience one of your classes. I really don't have the money to travel, which is something I need to change in the future because no one ever comes to Kansas, it seems, and we're right in the middle of the U.S.!

I've only taken one class, and that was to learn how to crimp, and the basic bead wrap. That's all we have around my area. I would have to say that clear, easy to understand instructions are a necessity, along with a patient and cheerful instructor.

KayzKreationz said...

A great bead teacher is one who explains all the steps to you, perhaps shows you on her own piece and then lets you try it. Perhaps she'll come along and watch and offer a suggestion here or there is you seem to be stumbling or she sees you having problems. But she NEVER just takes the piece away from you and does it for you when you can't seem to get it or understand what she's saying. (Had a teacher like that. Never finished the project and won't ever take a class from her again)

Shannon Chomanczuk said...

I have never taken a bead classbut many nail classes have taught me tgat making the students feel important mskes for a great class. My fav mentor ever who passed last Dec made u feel loke u were the only person in the room

jeanniek said...

ah, this is a subject close to my heart. I've been teaching since I was a teen and never stopped. I wrote a book on this subject for our school district many years ago and now it's and handbook for the tri-state area.
Here are just a few things that make a great teacher.
Passion and love of the subject
Understanding and compassion
Willingness to change and reflect
Willingness to work collaboratively

This is a great post Heather and thanks for sharing your knowledge with us.

Malin de Koning said...

I haven't taken many bead classes, but in general, I think a good teacher is someone who is well prepared, who is there first and has everything in order when the lesson starts! I like a good well structured overview explained to everyone, and then the teacher walks around and gives the extra tips and aids for each and everyone who needs it as we are trying out the method/technique ourselves.

Mackin-Art said...

A great teacher is one who lets you experiment and applauds if the experiment works and guides you in another direction if it doesn't. A teacher that insists you MUST put tab B in slot A, "just because" isn't really teaching, while one who allows you discover why tab B must go in slot A is a treasure!

TesoriTrovati said...

Great post Miss Heather! Teaching is in my blood so this is a subject near and dear to my heart. I think that a good teacher is one that is open and honest. They don't have all the answers but they have a willingness to try, to seek possibilities, to see different pathways. Great teachers are fun to be around, have a joy in what they do that makes them a magnet for others. They share their knowledge willingly and have great energy. They are able to roll with things even when they don't go as planned.

Some day I hope to be able to teach classes, just as soon as I discover what that might be! But until then I will continue to take classes from great teachers like you and soak up all the knowledge I can.

I know I can't win, but someone will be very lucky indeed, as there are some great new beads and goodies in your shop that I have my eye on!

Enjoy the day!

Beaditi said...

Hi Heather, very thought-provoking question !
From the couple of classes I have attended at the Smithsonian in DC and local bead stores, I am soon going to go for a Vintaj workshop! Also on the lookout for a "good" enamel class...
I think a GREAT BEAD TEACHER is someone who:
1) teaches the "technique" by offering PERSONAL ATTENTION to each student
2) shares well ANNOTATED diagrams for the technique to take away
3) shares MULTIPLE samples focusing on that technique - from their own rich body of work to inspire the student's imagination
4)Gives a brief introduction of OTHER TECHNIQUES out there that can enhance what a student is learning for the day (eg. how advanced wire-wrapping can make things more fun beyond basic wire-wrapping) - basically broaden the horizon and get the student excited!
5)FINALLY has a little chat with
each student to nurture a "CONCEPT" to catalyze the "DESIGN PROCESS" that will lead to a compelling design..I think that kicks off the DESIGN BRain in a student (especially if they are new to beading) - I feel this last step is very important to learn from experts (who have mastered the technique and make eye-catching jewelry)

I know this is a lot - but an expert teacher can always offer that extra something special :)

@ Beaditi on Etsy

Gina Chalfant said...

My best teachers were patient, very patient. They made clearly drawn printouts of what they were teaching for you to take along. They were very encouraging and good at sparking the fire of creativity in their students. Also, keeping a class to a reasonable size is important for one on one help and for getting close enough to see the demos. Being prepared is important and making sure that the class or lesson fits the time allowed. There is nothing more frustrating for a student taking a class to only get part of the lesson.

Erin S said...

A love when teachers give you little tips or shortcuts on techniques that you know you wouldn't have thought of yourself--often things that are applicable to more than just the project at hand.

Beading Mommy said...

I love this topic. I am currently working on my Masters in Occupational Therapy. One thing we focus on is client centered therapy. I think a good teacher of anything is to focus on each student as an individual. Having smaller classes or an assistant to help provide individual attention is important. I have always preferred taking smaller beading classes instead of larger ones. I also feel it is important that an instructor always participants individuals the freedom to be creative. Finally, I think loving what you do and the passion for wanting to share with others foes along way. I have been lucky as the jewelry making classes I have taken had very passionate instructors.

Sahmsations said...

A good bead teacher must be organized with good handouts, be patient and work with all students in the class. They must be able to think on their feet to make adjustments to the class participants. I love a bead teacher that can teach step-by-step and keep everyone interested in the project. Not an easy task!

Sandi Volpe said...

A great jewelry teacher to me makes sure I learn the technique and I have plenty of time to practice and learn favorite tips.

Particularly in jewelry classes it is easy to get caught up on design.

I have been lucky to take classes from some fantastic teachers so I have high expectations:-)

darleen dominguez said...


I love the way you write, teach, and have such clarity in your thoughts..You state things very basic yet interesting for the beginning student.
I love your work...and it's good to keep things under your "hat"...even though I would love to know your tricks with polymer clay.
Have you thought of video classes? I prefer one on one
small classes...but this might be an avenue for those of us on a budget...for traveling..

Leah Curtis said...

I think connecting with the students is a big part of teaching. A teacher has to figure out what level the students are at, how far they can get in that day, etc. Being detailed and friendly is always a plus!

Unknown said...

Hi Heather,
Great Post ! And Thank You for those amazing tip's !! A great teacher must have passion and the willingness to share one's self with the world and truly enjoy teaching her craft. I took a class once with Ms. Jana Roberts she is a wonderful sweet person and being with her that day was a dream come true for me as I have always admired her work in polymer. She took her time and was very generous in her knowlege and of her self it made the whole expirence for me something I shall always treasure !!

Carol B said...

A great teacher is organized, shows you the technique at least twice before sending you off to create, and walks around the room checking in with students and offering to help anyone who is slightly stuck or looking a bit confused. In other words, the teacher puts teaching the students first.