Monday, February 21, 2011

Classes, why take them?

When I began in polymer clay, there were very few opportunities in person and virtually none online available to me. I had Nan’s book The New Clay and a few little pamphlet type books but that was pretty much it. Craft sites were very few and far between and Vernon's Prairie Craft was the first online polymer clay selling resource in existence.

What I learned, came from hours of study in my studio. I don’t even think we had a guild in the Chicago area when I began – they started popping up after. Lindly and Nan had started the National guild but, remember, the only way to find out about this was through word of mouth, phone calls and letters, posted letters. There was no google, no facebook.

The polymer community took to the internet pretty fast. There is a connection between polymer clay and science and math and email caught on like wildfire. With email and the net, suddenly information could be shared and passed on quickly and efficiently.

Today, of course, information shoots around the globe at the speed of light (almost) and sometimes there is too much information – it can get confusing and one needs good internal filters to separate and file away all this new input.

So, with all that is available on the net, why would anyone take a class? Well, from my perspective, workshops take information and make sense of it. Workshops filter and prioritize information which can be most helpful when one is just starting in a medium.

Workshops can also push a student to the next level. We begin by crawling, then we walk, then we run. In my experience, the in person workshops I teach, help my students walk and run. This is what most of them need – they have obtained information by crawling around, you have to stand up to see what’s off the floor.

I’ve done videos and I’ve written books but none of those avenues made it as easy for me to take my students to the next level as CraftEdu. Videos are great – but we don’t use teleprompters and staring into the black hole that is the lens frequently turns the presenter into a mass if insecurity. Think – deer in the headlights. Turn the cameras off and it’s “I wish I had said this or that!”

Books are great – but there are space considerations and most of the time no space for information that will help students not paint themselves into a corner. We offer steps to an end, we try to give all the hints and tips but frequently, there is no physical space for them.

So, that’s why I love CraftEdu and the platform on which our classes are made. My goal is not just to teach you the steps to make the spinner rings or the hearts, it’s to make you think. It’s not only about the “how” but about the “why “ and the “what if”. It’s about the depth of information - not just what’s on the surface but what lies beneath. It’s about helping you solve problems and if I can do that, then I’ve succeeded for that is ultimately what I’m after – total understanding of the medium we work in. With the platform I have the ability to make absolutely certain that what I tell you is what I mean to, I know you’ll hear every word I mean to say. Of all the teaching formats I have used, it is most like my in person workshops.

Here, at CraftEdu, we present comprehensive workshops on your own time, with a pdf handout. Classes are easy to navigate and you can ask questions and get answers of your instructors. It feels like an online video workshop and some instructors will have video segments, but it ultimately isn’t video in the conventional sense.

There are many sites featuring instruction through pdf handouts and video and I wouldn’t say a bad word about any of them. We learn in different ways and some will find one preferable to another. Some, you check in to a specific time and that works for some students. Ultimately, it’s up to you as to whether you even take workshops and if you do, what format makes you the most comfortable.

In any case, workshops will push you further along your creative journey and that’s the goal of all of them.

Donna Kato is an artist, author (The Art of Polymer Clay - 1997, The Art of Polymer Clay - Surface Effects - 2008, The Art of Polymer Clay - Millefiori - 2009) and instructor teaching at Craft Edu and around the world.


  1. I love this- workshops will push further along your creative journey - so true!

  2. I really love the whole article and especially the last sentence. Thanks Donna for wording it so well. These days I often don't know where to go on my polymer journey. But I took your hearts class and totally enjoyed it. I have pages full of sketches of pendants I want to make and none of them heart because I am not very romantic. Thanks for the pushing! Love Kristina

  3. Dear Kristina;

    The best part of all is that it's fun! I should have had that in the post. I'm so glad you enjoyed the hearts class, they were really the product of my wishing that spring would come to the mountains. I'm getting a bit impatient with this long winter! Please post what you make for us, that's a real kick for me and I know others will enjoy seeing your work, too!

    Cheers, Donna