For me teaching is a creative process, sculpting and moulding a course that responds to student needs, challenging and guiding them so learning becomes an unfolding process of understanding. My focus is the development of glass making skill – embodied movement and posture.
I have been teaching hot glass workshops for more than 15 years in studios around the world, developing a unique range of exercises that introduce fundamental skills as the foundation for tacit knowledge. Embodied movement is the aim, responding to the intrinsic properties of hot flowing glass. Demonstrations, discussions, drawing and hands-on hot-glass exercises are carefully combined in response to the group to provide a multi faceted educational experience that best challenges the group’s collective skill level.
Establishing a set of ‘praxis rules’ means beginners start with a ‘remembered way of working’. These rules become parameters that facilitate a rapid rate of skill development within a narrow range of movements. Understanding how glass moves is a fundamental philosophy, learning movement and posture so students understand ‘how they should move’ to create form. Students are first taught ‘how to move’ – then subsequently they are guided towards a deeper understanding of the material’s flow, the bubble and ‘why to move’.
Mostly all hand tools are removed from the studio so students learn the 3 most fundamental glassmaking tools – heat, gravity and centrifugal force. Reducing the amount of equipment means these fundamentals must be the focus as there is only you and the fluid material.
Using a fusion of ‘pick up’ techniques, we go as quickly as possible to the hot glass bubble. The bubble is where glassmaking skill learning occurs. Once foundation skills are in place, students go on to challenge these skills.
At the Stipglas Studio in Tilburg, The Netherlands, there is no glass furnace. Working without a furnace is an unfamiliar practice for most contemporary studio hot glass artists. So my workshops are then a unique forum to push boundaries and innovative new ways of working. More importantly, they inspire new approaches within each students’ individual creative practice.
To become a competent glassmaker takes 5-10 year of practice and commitment; nevertheless, within the beginner workshops I am able to provide students with a formidable body of knowledge within just a few intensive days. The knowledge gained is then developed during subsequent practice sessions.
As an artist, individual expression and communication through artmaking is an important undercurrent of my workshops, subtly woven into workshop activities. Ultimately what is it that students want to communicate through their glassmaking practice?
Attending a workshop requires an openness to learn new things, work with new people and be challenged to move and respond to an unfamiliar environment in new ways. Students willing to learn will gain knowledge and progress rapidly during these short courses. Learning how to make a round bubble that is on centre and an even thickness is a fundamental skill to achieve before experimentation and the ability to create ‘what you really want to make’ can begin.
The success of the recent workshops has already prompted confirmation of next year’s workshops. The dates are 19 – 22 February 2015 and 26 February – 3 March 2015.
For more information contact Margriet Schoenmakers email@example.com
By B. Jane Cowie, Artist and Educator