I'm writing this before I head off to teach this morning at a new store (Word is Art) and I'm really looking forward to it. New venues always scare me a little bit but I am looking forward to seeing my students open up and unravel upon their pages.
I've always kept a journal in some form or another since I was in fourth grade. I would write in them, stick stickers in them, draw, doodle, etc... This continued throughout high school and into my early 20's. I filled my pages with photos of my favorite musicians, stories I made up, poetry I wrote and film ideas I had. I used whatever blank books I could get my hands on often times even just cheap notebooks.
When I was pregnant with Tristan, I clearly remember going into rubber stamp stores and not being able to afford the stamps but I enjoyed looking at them. After he was born, I bought some stickers (the costs on those quickly added up and I realized that buying rubber stamps that I could use repeatedly was more cost effective than little stickers.) I made a few scrapbooks and cards that I sold at a local store. Folks complimented me on what I was doing and my cards kept me up all hours of the night making them assembly line style.
A local store manager asked if I was interested in teaching classes. I started at some local stores teaching mostly card making classes. While I enjoyed teaching them, my heart wasn't completely into it. I wanted something more.
I remember walking into Stamp Stamp Stamp (a Judikins store in the Glendale Galleria) and seeing Lynne Perrella's very early Acey Deucy stamps. I remember thinking, "THAT is what I want to do."
In late 1997, I taught myself how to make and bind books. I fell head over heels in love (even though the very first book I made I threw across the room as I was frustrated with it!) I experimented with creating a wide variety of different structures and what to put on the pages. I thought that the idea of only making blank books was sad. I needed to fill the pages. I haven't stopped since.
I started branching out to bookbinding, art journaling and mixed media using acrylics and acrylic mediums. My card and rubber stamp classes went from very few sign-ups (as I was teaching what everyone else seemed to be teaching) to full classes. Folks were as hungry as I was for something.
I remember having to fight and struggle to get my classes out there.
There were (and still are) many places that simply don't understand what I'm trying to do.
I knew that I was onto something. I loved seeing the look on people's faces when it clicked. I used to joke that I could see the lightbulb going off over folks' heads. I loved hearing people tell me that they never thought of themselves as artistic or creative and now they get it. I still love hearing that and it's the main reason why I teach. I really believe that everyone is an artist in some way, shape or form and that if I can do it, so can they.
Over the years, I've developed and taught over four hundred classes to thousands of students. I've taught everything from assemblage to bookbinding to collage to jewelry making to mixed media acrylic painting to fabric journals, etc... I had my hands in a few kettles. Several years ago, I got rid of everything that didn't fully hold my heart. I knew what I wanted to concentrate on: paper arts and bookbinding. That's where my true passion was.
I taught thousands of different ways to paint pages (and canvas, etc...) for over twelve years. My students would ask me, "what about a collage class?" I would think, "What is there to collage? You just glue stuff down." Then I started thinking about collage being like acrylic painting. There are endless ways to approach your pages and to collage. Collage was like painting but instead of using a brush and paint, it was using scissors, glue and paper. I haven't looked back since.
Folks still ask me to teach painting again but my heart isn't in it right now. At all. I learned a long time ago that I have to LOVE something in order to teach it. Sure, I always will happily listen to class ideas and requests. I always appreciate feedback. Yet at the same time, if I don't want to teach it, it shows in my teaching.
I have to teach what I am most passionate about. Yes, I teach classes to put a roof over my family's head and food on the table but at the same time, I am teaching for something that's much more than that. I teach because it fills my heart. I teach because making art, self expression and creativity are important to me. Working in my journal is a necessity to me and I know I'm not alone on this one.
I'm sharing all of this so you know my beginnings as a teacher. It's been a roller coaster of a ride since 1997. Stores close. Interests change. Students drift in and out. Like most, I struggle to keep the bills paid (it is always a roller coaster ride) but I continue to follow my heart. I worry about what the future may bring but I know that I am going to do my damndest to keep on doing what I love. It's what I'm best at.