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What goes into a Workshop.

Since I’ve been talking about needing guinea pigs, I thought I might give you a little bit of background on the development of my workshops in general.

I love giving workshops, or courses, or lessons, or whatever you want to call it. I really enjoy being able to pass on knowledge – theoretical and practical – and see how people start to become friends with a new technique. No matter whether it’s braiding, knitting, weaving, or any other craft, every single person has his or her own, personal pattern of movements, and preferences on how to do things, or handle elements and tools. It’s always fascinating for me to see this unique, personal finger dance develop, and it makes one part of why I like teaching so much.

Just like with many other things, though, a lesson does not spring from nothing to full perfection – it needs an astounding lot of work and preparation to develop a workshop or course.

This starts with making a basic concept. What do I want to teach? Are the students adults or children? What do they want and expect from the course? How likely is it that they have previous experience with the technique? How long can I make the course, and how deep into the technique can we go?

Usually, I try to put a lot of information into each workshop, to make sure that everyone goes out with a good, solid understanding of the basics and the tools to develop this further. This means structuring the workshop carefully so that I can set a relatively high pace, while still allowing enough time to try out things and get a bit of practice.

Once the basic concept stands, it’s on to test runs and thinking about logistics. I usually do several test runs of the course, working the course programme and babbling to myself. I’m also checking how long each step takes me (and then, obviously, extra time gets factored in for having several people doing this the first time ever), and trying to find the best sequence of tasks. For some workshops, I’ve also done “live test runs” with a few willing people, testing out if things all work like they are supposed to do.

Logistics are another thing that needs consideration. How much space do I need per person? Table space and floor space can both be an issue depending on the venue. How many tools do I need? What are the materials necessary? How much extras need to be available in case of calamities? Will participants want to bring (maybe to test) their own tools as well?

Keeping in mind that there are several persons who need to do something at the same time, tool count can rack up quickly. One of the reasons why it took me so long to develop the tablet-weaving course range was that I had to bite the bullet and buy a freakishly large amount of clamps. To fit up to 8 people into the course, I need four clamps each for the warping method I use – and that means 32 clamps. These have to be bought (and it is worth it to get good quality ones, as they are gently but consistently abused), transported, and stored. Similar things are true for other crafts. I need to have enough netting needles for a course – these, at least, are lightweight and easy to store, though having them made is an investment as well. Sprang courses require having a frame available for each participant, plus some large demonstration frame to show the whole class the movements and what happens with the threads. These, too, need to be designed, made, paid for, and stored.

Once all this is done, I can sit down and write the final workshop script that will keep me on track while I’m teaching, and make sure I don’t forget mentioning a crucial detail when it is necessary to do so (because these crucial details often get so ingrained if you have done the craft for a while that you are not aware of them anymore).

And then, finally, I can work on the course description and set the price. So if you’ve ever wondered what goes behind a workshop I give, and why I charge as much for it as I do – there you are.

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