I have recently returned from teaching a workshop organized by the Florida Society of Goldsmiths at Wildacres Retreat in North Carolina. It was a week for metalsmiths and besides me, the instructors were John Cogswell, Betty Helen Longhi, Zachary Noble, Juan Carlos Caballero Perez and Jean Stark.
That all being said, I am going to tell you about the five-day class that I taught at the 2010 Wildacres summer workshop for the West Coast Florida Society of Goldsmiths. Preparation for the workshop for me was tough, as usual. I never know where to draw the line. Invariably I leave something behind that I wish I had remembered to bring. This time I forgot a sheet of copper that I wanted. Along with the numerous materials, extra metal supplies and general hand tools, I decided to take my own saw frame, torch, solder and flux.
Check-in at Wildacres was a snap, followed by a wonderful dinner and comfortable accommodations. The views were extraordinary out over the valley and the temperature cool compared to home. Next came the orientation and my meeting with students. I was informed at dinner that two of my students were unable to attend at the last minute, thereby leaving only four students in my class. In the end it turned out to be really great to have a small class, but at that initial moment my thoughts were screaming "Oh, krieke!"
Unlike most workshops where the objective for the week is to learn something about the manipulation of materials, my class was more about helping the artist identify his own sense of expression. The workshop was titled 'Finding your own style'. Once the awareness and goals were identified for each of the students, then we set about identifying the things that could transform expression, that inner voice, into a tangible and solid object so that others might 'see' the artist's voice.
Is this a difficult thing to do? Oh, don't get me started! If this were not such a gratifying experience in the end, it would not be worth the initial effort that is required. I am both thoroughly exhausted and rejuvenated at the end of classes like this one.
Crucial to the success of this sort of venture is trust among those of us in the room. There is usually an outpouring of all kinds of personal data that we use to home in on our own voices that creates an atmosphere of intimacy in my classes that typically is not found nor required in other workshops. It is within this special atmosphere that we become aware that not only is there a language for each of us, but we each can have access to it. All it takes is trust.