Teaching Philosophy

Here is a brief essay I wrote when I first started teaching nuno felting – it still applies today! I have gained experience with a wide array of textile and fiber techniques and continue to share many of them in a workshop setting. You may also search the Blog Categories and Tag lists for Workshop-related posts which include slide shows and/or image galleries.

I’m taking some time to reflect after hosting a weekend of workshops at my studio.

“Nuno felting” is being disseminated at a rapid pace these days and there is an abundance of technical information in the “ether.”  The technique itself is simple in essence, and these days one may gather enough information and materials on-line to create a satisfying finished product without having to venture far from home. This ease of access to the nuno felting technique and it’s continued popularity has everything to do with the almost-evangelical drive of its creators dating to the early 1990’s.  All of us owe a great debt to Polly Stirling, Sachiko Kotaka, as well as the first wave of intrepid fiber and textile artists who found a home in this technique.   As with any medium, one’s level of accomplishment over time reflects a commitment to evolving a body of fully-realized works.  There is, however, something to be said for having the opportunity to “taste” different techniques.  It was through just this sort of sampling that I discovered textiles and fiber, media which now form the foundation of my own creative practice.  This initial exposure to a given technique is a doorway, an invitation for further exploration which we can accept or reject depending on our orientation.  Of course, the deeper practice demands patience, perseverance and fearlessness, for as our practice deepens, we transcend technique and become more intimate with our medium…and through that intimacy become simultaneously more naked and more enfolded.  But I truly digress (more about all of that some other time)….  

Given the accessibility of the nuno felting technique and the great number of teachers world-wide today, why do I offer workshops at all?  The answer comes easily:  for me, the workshop is less about the technique itself (or, for that matter, the end-product) as it is about a deeper experience – one of sharing the creative inspiration and wisdom we all possess.  To that end, I consider myself more a facilitator rather than a “teacher”.  My job is to make “space” at the individual and the group level; i.e., to offer surface and materials for an individual to explore; and to facilitate unfolding at the group level through co-operation during the production process.  While we are not generally conscious of it, we are all influencing each other.  The more we “let go,” opening our hearts to each other and the process, the greater the likelihood of cross-fertilization at every level.  When the workshop is approached this way, one leaves with more than a finished piece to admire: there are new connections made, fresh creative experiences shared, information exchanged.  (And happily, this can happen for both the participants and the facilitator.) 

I have worked with the nuno felt technique for many years;  I enjoy working with this technique and have reached a certain level of mastery of it.  Although I may not keep up with every new development in this art form, my experience gives me the confidence to know that what I am offering will give everyone a good foundation for going forward if they wish, and at least appreciating some of its subtleties if they don’t.  As with all branches of human endeavor, there are a lot of minds working on this particular piece of the puzzle and when a plurality of minds is fully engaged at the level of personal process, innovation is never-ending.  One person cannot possibly contain all of that potential or information!   But…Viva la difference!  We each have something to offer in terms of creative sensibility and past experience which can potentially change the nature of a technique and the end-product of its use.  Ultimately, what I consider of greatest value, and my goal in offering workshops in this or any other technique, is the process.  I am imparting a technique; but I am also offering the space and time for an experience to unfold.  At the best of times, each workshop becomes a convergence – an in-the-moment, wholly unique composite of our combined individual richness.  It amazes me every time and I am truly grateful to witness and be a part of it!