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Saturday, July 17, 2004

Teaching Techniques 

Yesterday, I got a tiny pencilled note in the mail from the owner of Glass FX suggesting that I consider teaching a class on sand blasting glass. I had a rather tough time in Glass FX's 2 stained-glass construction courses, but etching designs into glass objects has really sparked my imagination. The process has been an exciting way to combine my skills and experience with freehand drawing, stencil cutting, airbrush painting, and graphic design software. But my reaction to Rich's query was, and still is, "No way am I good enough to teach it yet." Nevertheless, since I believe that you don't really know something until you try to teach it to someone else, I have caught myself imagining how I might arrange such a class. So who knows, Renice's Guide to Sandblasting Glass may be coming to a studio near you.

Once upon a time, I loved teaching studio techniques. I loved seeing students get excited about expressing themselves in new ways, or, even better, about seeing themselves – as well as the world – in new ways.

Last night, after I played 4 or 5 poker hands with Brad's money while he was engaged fixing his nicotine habit (don't worry, I came out pretty much even as I usually do), a few of us looked at paint swatches that Iffy is considering for his house. Kendra pointed out Behr's singularly unimaginative paint names ("Green Gold"? puh-leeze!). I was reminded of one of my color theory units, which I used in art classes for grade schoolers all the way through non-art majors in college. After a couple of units on basic color theory, I would have my students mix a set of "custom" colors, create swatches, and name them.

Across every age group, I'd get a similar reaction to the assignment: "You can't just name colors, Ms Wernette!" I would counter, "Oh yeah? Why not?" "Because they wouldn't be the real names!" "Oh, I see! And what are the real names?" It was always entertaining to watch realization spread across faces – realization, perhaps, that they'd unquestioningly accepted some non-existent source of authority. (Some day, I'll tell you about trying ot teach the same lesson on color names to a reputed genius in mathematics. Ahem.) Finally, my students would have some fun with the assignment. One of my favorites was a 2nd grader who created a series of Toxic Waste Greys, with each name in the series referring to a different type of environmental disaster. He had such a wonderful sense of irony, I was wistful that I wouldn't know him when he grew up.


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