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Monday, November 23, 2009

Teaching Flamework To An Artist Of A Different Medium


Yesterday's blog post introduced you to a little of Austin artist Aly Winningham's wonderful mosaics.

Today, I'd like to chat a bit about teaching an artist of a different medium about flameworking.

I met Aly at Blue Moon when she was in to pick up more glass for her mosaics and mobiles. I enjoyed her immediately. She has a lot of passion and energy for what she does and it appeared for everything else she tackles as well.

She was telling me how a group fusing class didn't fit her personality. She knew too much to sit patiently through relearning it and what other students wanted to learn, wasn't necessarily what she did.

This is exactly the kind of student who intrigues me. I immediately suggested private lessons and that I'd be available, if she'd like, during my stay in Austin. A creative challenge is just what I enjoy.

So I thought I'd go through a few of my steps to prepare for our first class and please feel free to fill in more ideas for other teachers who come upon this situation.

1. Listen to the artist when you're booking the class and ask some good solid questions that will help you teach them better. I asked about pertinent skills. Aly understands glass in general, COE, knows how to weld, (which means she'll grasp tool and tech. info as well as flame discussion and safety info as well). I also asked her how she felt flameworked glass would suit her art work.

2. Go to their website and look at their work, read their bio, so you can speak intelligently to them about their work.

So when Aly arrived, instead of the first safety talk that goes through every instructor's lips, we went to the large whiteboard and wrote down some goals for the days lessons. I figured I'd fit the other stuff in as we go, in priority order.

We mapped out three goals for a 3 hour class. She wanted to be able to add flat backed pieces for her mosaics, she wanted to make large organic pieces for her mobiles (with holes for hanging) and she wanted to understand melting glass more and the theories behind it.

So after understanding that she knew COE, we visited section to section in the store, (Blue Moon Glassworks) and discussed some of the supplies, tools and glass options that would pertain to her three goals. I wanted her to understand for the future, some of the options.

Next it was safety time and then light the torch. Usually I make a small donut with the student, but with Aly, we took a rod of white and melted it into her water bowl. I wanted enough time to talk about watching the colors of the hot glass for future control. She is a tactile artist, and I thought she'd relate to this well. She did. We melted then a little of a dark transparent, and practiced adjusting the torch, we discussed frit that she was making and how it could be used, torches, set ups, kilns, gas sources, and other topics that were pertinent and that she was capable of understanding- like when we pulled stringers, and we took time to stretch, bend and fold the glass before making that first bead.

But of course we made those too. And we did the dots- raised, flat and raked, and then we got into flattening the glass and adding extra glass that we twisted, pulled and practiced heat control on. In the end, we mirrored some of her vision for her mobiles, had a few examples for her mosaics and mapped out her next private lesson with the wonderful in store teacher, Lisa.

Aly left her private lesson excited and ready to try it some more. I lve to see that kind of enthusiasm, which warms my heart and is one of the many reasons why I love to teach.

If you've got ideas, pointers, tips and tricks for teaching the non traditional student, how about posting them? We'd all love to hear. See you tomorrow.