Monday, September 28, 2009

Getting the Most from a Lampwork Class

In so many ways, I'm a professional student. I'm always taking some kind of class from computer graphics to metal working and always - a glass class. And while I do take a more basic class now and then - I love supporting our local studios and teachers, mostly I take classes from the "big names" in glass.

Someone asked me once when I knew I was a glass artist. It was in my first glass class at Bead & Button '08. I was in a Doug Remschnieder class on making ornaments and it was my first ever class in Boro (hard glass). I watched his demo and then it was "student time" and I sat down at my torch. I happened to be sitting next to Frank Scott, another talented glass teacher (and I was already teaching beginning lampwork). We both fired up and got to work, wanting to make the most of our torch time.

I was pretty well into my piece when I realized that Frank and I were the only ones torching...everyone else was watching us. I was getting a little self conscious when a lady next to me said, "You just jump right in there, don't you?"

I told her, "That's the only way to make have to start."

It was right then that I realized whatever fears, doubts and reservations I ever had where completely gone.

And I still take classes. But in the beginning, I would take copious notes of every little detail. I would return home or to my hotel and type them up. (My ability to read "Holly-hand" decreases within days of my writing it down!) And I would sit at the torch and try to capture every freaking detail. And more often than not, I would HATE, HATE, HATE the beads I made. I found them embarrassing and dreadful. Nothing I would show to anyone!

But in the past year, there has been a shift in my thinking. I still take those copious notes and frequently type them up. But now, in class, I return to my torch and actually take a moment to gather my thoughts and think. I analyze what it is I want to learn from the demo I just saw. What's different? What would incorporate nicely into my own work?

I'm certain many take classes from famous beadmakers to learn to make beads just like that particular artist. But I think, if you do that, in the end, you are selling yourself short (not to mention copying).

So when I do light up, I'm not struggling to keep up, or forgetting a step because there is something I really want to master. I don't stress over surface decoration unless that is the whole point of that particular bead. And the funny thing is, I suddenly like my class beads a whole lot more!

Take for example, my most recent class with Sarah Hornik. She was teaching us her "Barbie Bling Bead." (Follow that link for a photo and a link to the tutorial she sells.)

And I decided I really wanted to focus on getting the glass to twist. Once I got that to happen, I was happy with my bead and stopped futzing with it. And I love it.

I named my bead "Barbie," but not for the reason you may think. I often name my beads after women and that's the BFF's name. She makes me giggle with glee and so does this bead!

So, the next time you find yourself in a class with dozens of details flying at you, stop. Think about what you most want to learn and don't aim to make the same bead everyone else is making.

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