I am such an amazingly fortunate person. I earn my living teaching patchwork and quilting in face-to-face weekly classes and in weekend workshops. I also present talks and workshops to quilt and other groups. In short, I am a bit of a quilting tart – I will go anywhere to share this passion of mine!
The downside is that I live a bit of a hand to mouth existence and constantly worry about paying my mortgage!
I guess I count as a single mum – I have two boys at home, both in their 20s and a daughter (also in her 20s) living up north (Yorkshire). I have two cats too. Not sure which costs more, the cats or the boys!!
I started my business 5 years ago with one class, and just haven’t ever given up. It was a real leap of faith for me. I was basically unemployed, and quite possibly unemployable. I was determined to do something to change my circumstances. I didn’t want to go down the route of craft fairs. I had confidence in my formal teaching skills, qualifications and experience, and also confidence in my patchwork skills so decided that as this was what I really, really wanted to do I should just get on and do it! I am self-employed, and am entirely independent.
So, how have I gone from there to here?
Simple answer – darn hard work!!
Every class or workshop involves far more work than the pure teaching hours. First of all you need to think about a plan – what to cover/create/make. Then you design it. And make it. Advertise it, do the tax return. And write all the instructions for it. Create all the worksheets, bake the cake and make the teas. And it needs testing – because there is ALWAYS at least one mistake or omission!!
The omission in today’s class instructions was not specifying that, for this specific technique, you need to put the same fabric on the bottom of the pair of fabrics – in EACH pair – otherwise it goes horribly wrong! So I need to go back to those instructions now and re-write them. In fact, it is fair to say that each time I teach a class or workshop I am re-writing the instructions to take account of suggestions, thoughts or observations that came out of my previous time of teaching.
I do aim to keep good records of what I have taught and how it went down. There have been some out and out disasters – the class has worked fine, but I wasn’t happy, so I won’t teach it again, but thankfully there have been few courses that I would be unhappy to repeat. And I love it when I get asked for the next time I am teaching a certain workshop.
It is really important that when you design a workshop you don’t copy anybody else’s work. And that is really difficult, because everything we see sinks into our brains, and lodges in there. And we forget where we saw the idea. In fact we forget that we even saw an idea at all sometimes! So we must work really, really hard to personalise everything we create, so that we do not unintentionally plagiarise someone else’s work. They do say that there is nothing new under the sun so it’s an added challenge to ensure that we acknowledge our influences and don’t just pass something off as our own idea.
I do feel absolutely passionate about this, and so within all my classes and workshops there is an element of design – an encouragement for participants to personalise what they do. I tend to teach techniques rather than projects – though a project will come out of it, and one that is unique to each participant.
This can feel dangerous, especially if your comfort zone includes a pattern to copy, exact fabric requirements, and creating the same thing as the person next to you. But it is exciting too!
It also means that in any class or workshop there could be half a dozen different things going on! On Wednesday evening I felt honoured (though that might be spelled S-M-U-G!) when someone commented that they were really amazed that I had 4 different projects going on in a group of 12, and as soon as someone had a query I was on it and knew exactly what they were up to, and what help would be right for them. One section of the group is doing arty landscapes, another is making sampler blocks, another – well you get the idea!
There is absolutely nothing in the word that is better than getting to the end of a workshop or class, and having someone come up to you and say that they had a really great time, that they worked hard and learnt something new. That is what it is about.
My super power is teaching, supporting, encouraging and enabling, so that you can create something unique and wonderful, and have lots and lots of FUN!