Crafty Manolo » Tips for Teaching Crafts

Tips for Teaching Crafts

By Twistie

(Illustration via 5 Artistic Expressions)

I remember when I took up bobbin lace I was informed by several of the books I got early on that it was important to keep the craft going by teaching at least three other people to do it, too. I took that challenge seriously. I taught one on one, helped run a beginner’s workshop, did demonstrations where I handed out information for getting started and helped people try out a demonstration pillow… yeah, I don’t know how many kept doing it, but I pointed a few folks in the right direction to get going.

Of course along the way I made some spectacular goofs. That first demonstration where we didn’t bring along lists of recommended books and suppliers was a classic. I also picked up a few tips that would work with pretty much any craft you might want to teach someone to do. And today, I pass them on to you.

Keep it very simple. If you want people to decide they can do a craft, you need to keep that first project as simple as possible. A first success is key to keeping a newbie feeling confident.

Wait for the student to approach you. We all get eager to pass on what we know, but not everyone we meet is as eager to learn what we have to teach. I’ve turned a couple people off by jumping the gun. Not good.

Think about how to answer as many questions as possible before you begin. Students have questions. They want to know why, they want to know how things came to be this way, and they expect you to be able to answer clearly and succinctly. After all, if you can’t answer basic questions, your student(s) will have good reason to doubt your instruction.

And there’s a corollary to that last one:

If you don’t know the answer to a question, don’t just make one up. Admit you don’t know. Admit you, too, make mistakes. Nobody knows it all and we all goof up now and then. Trying to appear omniscient and infallible only scares people off. It’s really okay to say you need to look something up or haven’t found an answer.

Keep the atmosphere light. Nothing turns people off like thinking that making crafts is too serious. Most people want to learn because they think it will be fun and relaxing in some way. Humor is your friend, as is patience.

If you’re providing basic materials, balance quality and price carefully. Okay, so you probably don’t want your student to have to shell out hundreds of dollars just to find out whether they enjoy your craft… but if the equipment is too low in quality, they won’t come back for a second lesson. I made the mistake once of having a student get the Kliot beginning bobbin lace kit once… and then never again. Sure, it was the least expensive beginner’s kit on the market, but it consists of a flimsy cardboard stand instead of a proper pillow, and bobbins three times the size of any others available. I’d have done better to have her spend another twenty dollars or so on a kit with a real pillow, bobbins that can be used with other readily available bobbins, and an actual book of instructions rather than a sheet with a couple basic tips and two or three patterns.

If I’d done that, she might still be making lace today.

Recognize that no matter what you do, some of your students won’t stick with your craft. Not everyone loves every craft they try. Not everyone has a talent for every craft they try. It happens. But even if they don’t keep it up, you’ve passed on your skills and someone else now appreciates the work you do. Even just knowing that another person can talk intelligently about what you do is a victory for crafting.

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