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Why take a class?

The piece I learned to make in a class taught by Nancy Eha

I like to take a class from time to time, but I haven't taken one for awhile.  So I've been mulling over what I might like to do and thinking back on the classes I've taken in the past that I think were really successful.  A number of years ago, my friend Debbie emailed me to suggest that we go take a beading class together, and my first thought was that it would be a pleasant way to spend the day with her, but not much more.  Wrong!  It turned out to be one of the best classes I've ever taken.  

Although I’m used to teaching myself whatever technique interests me, either by the brute force of trial and error or by reading about it, I’m not a total stranger to the classroom.  Usually I like to take technique-based classes to improve my learning curve, or when the subject included expensive equipment that I wanted to try out before launching into buying it.  But here was Debbie, suggesting that we take a project-based class.  No way!  No how!  But still…I wanted to spend the day with her, and it might be fun.

Well it was fun, and all of my reluctance was misplaced.  The first thing you need to consider very carefully when choosing a class to take is the reputation of the teacher.  Many people can be brilliant bead artists without necessarily being good teachers.  Especially if you are a beginner, I would recommend that you check to see that the teacher you’re considering has a reputation for being organized, patient, and creative.  Organization without creativity is boring.  Creativity without some level of organization is chaos.  And patience…well, I think we can all figure out why that would be important!

Debbie working on her piece
The class that Debbie and I went to take was being taught by Nancy Eha.  I had long admired Nancy’s work, and I knew from various discussions on the internet that she had an excellent reputation as a teacher.  But I was still disappointed that we’d be taking a project-based class instead or a techniques-based one.  By the end of the day, however, I had changed my mind.  Here’s why.

In taking a project-based class, I was under the impression that I would be bored waiting for everyone to finish each step.  Not so.  Nancy’s project was  not going to be finished by the end of the class; instead, she introduced each step and gave us enough time to become familiar with it and try it out before moving on to the next part.  We ended up learning many more techniques than I had expected during the course of the project too.  The class moved at a good pace, and there was still much to be finished at home later.  When choosing a project class, this is something that you’ll want to find out, because not everyone is thrilled about leaving class without a finished something-or-other.

Another piece I made later, using the techniques I learned in class

One of my other arguments against project classes had always been that I could learn the thing perfectly well by myself from the book.  Well, that may be true for some and not true for others, but even so, there are still reasons to consider taking a project class.  There are most obviously the visual aspects of learning a new skill; sometimes it just helps to see someone else doing it.  And then there are the social aspects.  It’s fun to meet other people who are crazy about the same things that you are!
There are also the additional tips that come to you with no extra charge as your teacher talks about many things beyond just the project at hand.  And finally, you will get to try new products that you may not have considered using before.  For me, I got to try out Silamide thread, when I had only ever used Nymo thread before.  Nancy also had us working with an embroidery hoop, which I also don’t usually use.  The Silamide made a hit with me, the hoop didn’t!

The final objection that I’ve had in the past to project classes was that I didn’t like having to make the exact same thing as everyone else, doing it in the exact same way.  Well, as Nancy explained right up front, the uniformity of the pieces we were going to make was for crowd control, and nothing else!  It makes perfect sense.  You are free to go off and use the techniques that you learn in the project in any way you want, stretching your own creativity and adding the new ideas to your growing repertoire.  If the thought of not being able to do your own thing totally turns you off, you would probably be much happier in a techniques-based class.  Just don’t discount all the wonderful things you can learn in a well-run project class!

Nancy Eha’s work and class schedule can be seen at Bead Creative

Copyright 2015 Cyndi Lavin. All rights reserved. Not to be reprinted, resold, or redistributed for profit. May be printed out for personal use or distributed electronically provided that entire file, including this notice, remains intact.


Robbie said…
I never taken a class from Nancy but do have her 'bead creative' book which is great. She did do a lecture I attended about 4 or 5 years ago and her work is wonderful. You've written a great post on pros/cons of classes. Good info for those who have an interest!!
Cyndi L said…
She's a really sweet person, very well suited to both teaching and lecturing, and I'm so glad that I did this! I'm glad you got to experience that :-)
Nancy's class sounds like the perfect mix of project and technique oriented. Start & learn during class. Finish the homework on your own. Who wouldn't enjoy that? I learn by doing - actually making a project - so I generally go for a project class. And I've sometimes been disappointed for the very reasons you give. Great tips for finding a suitable teacher/class, Cyndi!

Did you ever finish the piece you started in class or did you immediately move on to use the techniques elsewhere (as shown)? Just curious.
Cyndi L said…
Oh yes, I finished it. I actually got pretty far in class and just had to complete a few of the rounds at home. The piece shown at the top is the finished piece from class.
Great observations, and I LOVE what you made using the skills you learned!
jean xox