When I first took up lacemaking, I quickly learned a mantra among my fellow lacemakers: teach at least three people to do this to help keep the craft alive.
In a world that often ignores the hand made and sometimes even scoffs heartily at doing things by hand that can be done by machine, this idea struck me as a good one for any crafts practitioner. If people don’t understand what goes into the work, they don’t appreciate it, and it starts dying.
But we who do these amazing things hold the key to keeping our crafts alive. If we seek out those interested in the knowledge, we can share our skills and the craft goes on.
Yes, you can do it. If you know how to do the craft, you can tell someone else how it works and help them get started. Offer to help a friend who seems interested or volunteer to talk to a youth group… heck, put up a flyer at a local coffee house for a class. And then remember the tips I’m about to give you.
Work out how you’re going to run your lesson in advance. If you’ve considered your methods and projects beforehand, it’s a lot easier to teach your craft in an organized way that will allow your student(s) to move forward more easily.
Keep it simple. After all, you need to crawl before you can walk and walk before you can run. That goes for both you and your students. Start with something very basic. You can always move on to advanced techniques later on.
Either provide everything needed or give your students a complete list of what they will need, and where they can get it. It’s probably easier to simply provide what’s needed, especially if the supplies are hard to find or easy to get confused over. A friend of mine used to ask for a fee up front for teaching bobbin lace, but then every student would find her – or his – own pillow, bobbins, pins, thread, and basic book waiting for them. On the other hand, when a woman taught my Girl Scout troop to spin and dye, she provided us with rovings and gave us lists of everything we needed to do the rest. When we finished spinning our yarn, we all went to her house and dyed them in one vat of oak gall dye.
Regular breaks are good for everyone. If the lesson is going to last more than an hour and a half, give everyone a brief break. If students start getting frustrated, give them a break. Calm is good. It makes us more receptive to new information and allows us to rethink what isn’t working… and that goes for teachers as well as students.
Praise where possible. No, I don’t mean you need to give everyone a gold star just for showing up and not actually setting fire to the room. But when someone starts getting the hang of something – particularly if it’s been a struggle to understand – let them know you’re pleased before you explain what could be done better. Even a quick ‘good, now here’s a tip to make it better’ goes over a lot more effectively than ‘if you do this, it will be better.’
Give your students resources to go further. So you’ve given them the basic equipment, and shown them a simple, basic project. Now what? Write up and print off a list of books, sources of tools and materials that you can recommend, websites with inspiration… whatever you think might help your students move on, if they decide they want more.
We all got here because somewhere along the line someone gave us a hand at learning our various crafts. We owe it to the people who taught us to teach someone else. Besides, there are few more gratifying feelings than watching someone start to understand something you showed them how to do.