My husband would be the first to say that I would be a terrible teacher. His 16 years in Elementary and Middle School education probably gives him some insight in this particular matter, but his experience on this subject comes from some difficult hours spent trying to teach him to turn on the computer and use email. I did get him through his online traffic school experience, but he has stated on more than one occasion that "You [meaning me] can't teach anyone anything!"
So it was with more than a little trepidation that I agreed to give a workshop to my fellow members of the Santa Monica Quilt Guild. I have enjoyed using machine stitching and thread painting on a lot of art quilts over the last few years and have been fairly successful at local shows, so last summer I was asked to be part of a summer "Quilters College" that took the place of our normal speaker at a guild meeting. It was a 15 minute gig - just explain a few of your thread painting techniques. Of course I had to do it four times - once for each group that circled the room among four other teachers and of course in the middle of it my machine refused to participate and I could no longer do an actual demo, but basically all went well and members were very enthusiastic. So enthusiastic that I was asked to do a full day workshop sometime during the upcoming year.
Well, my time came last Saturday with a room full of 16 eager quilters. My initial panic subsided while I was setting up and knowing that I was prepared with handouts, samples, some easy designs for simple projects was a great help. I was pleased to be able to inspire some very talented students to go way beyond my class projects and take the initiative to move off on their own. I was also able to solve some machine problems for those who had done much free motion quilting, including one lady who had a brand new machine and had never lowered the feed dogs! It took a while, but with lots of time spent with the manual she was eventually up and running with the best. I was initially caught unawares by two visiting Japanese quilters who spoke almost no English, but they seemed to enjoy the day and actually gave me a lovely little gift at the end!
To sum up, I had dreaded failure and embarrassment, but by the end of the day I was not only tired and happy that it was all over, but pleased that I had exposed some very traditional quilters to some aspects of art quilting and thread painting techniques in particular that I think will be useful. I was also very pleased with the reception and the comments afterward. In fact some of my friends have suggested that I should be open to teach this workshop at other guilds.
I hasten to add that many of the techniques I demonstrated to the group were not necessarily my own. Some I had learned through workshops from nationally known professional teachers - especially Ann Fahl whose floral work I greatly admire. I was able to show these techniques using my own quilts as examples. I have a new respect for all those teachers who travel the country earning a living from teaching workshops week after week. Believe me, though satisfying, it's not easy!