What Makes a Great Workshop?

What Makes a Great Workshop?
The opportunity to teach or to take a workshop can be an integral part of your practice as an artist.
Each role is a way to strengthen, develop or gain new skills, network, and meet interesting people.
So what makes a great workshop? 
Participants at my Encaustic Workshop at DCAD

It comes down to the experience and, the take away.

The experience:  Is it a safe and positive experience for both the teacher and the students? 
Is everyone engaged, supported, as well as, challenged? 
Here are 3 steps to ensuring a great workshop- on both ends.
1. Be prepared.  
Teacher: Clear realistic goals and intentions for the time and space allotted. 
If this is a new venue for you have you checked out the space or asked about a sink,               work tables, ventilation, etc?  Do you need a smart board or any other media available? Have you sent a list of materials to your students so they know what they need to bring?
Students: Have you received/reviewed the materials you need to bring?  Are you wearing the right clothing? Do you need gloves, steel tipped shoes, whatever???? Lunch, snacks? (that’s always high on my list)
More shots from Encaustic Workshop at DCAD
2. Be Organized.
Teacher: I keep (at least) two Materials/Supply Lists on my computer:
1. What I need to bring for the various workshops I teach- Monotype, Altered Books, Encaustic, Image Transfer, these can be edited or adapted for any upcoming opportunity that may present itself and 
2. What I’d like my students to bring. 
If the workshop has a materials fee, have you clarified and confirmed with the hosting organization who is responsible for picking these materials up? If it is you, save your receipts so you can get reimbursed!
Do you have your handouts prepared? Students love handouts (me included) to review what was covered, refresh and have a handy list of resources. 
Students: Do you have a way to transport your supplies? Even if it’s not on the list, it’s always a good idea to have on hand pencil, permanent marker, note paper, scissors or utility knife and an apron. 
Linda Merry adding encaustic to her water based oil painting
3. Expectations
This speaks to both the experience and the take away.
Teacher: What are your expectations for the workshop? your students’? This is where having a syllabus to handout is helpful.  You are clear on what you need to cover… history, safety, logistics, and skills. Any or all of the above.
Usually you would not know your students’ expectations ahead of time so that’s why during my introduction I give an overview of what the workshop will cover. Then when I have them introduce themselves I ask them what their experience is with the medium or topic, and what they would like to get out of the class. This is important. If their expectations are unrealistic best to address that in the beginning.   (Many years ago I taught a series of Monotype and Collograph Workshops and halfway through a participant was not happy with what she created. She left the workshop, her work behind, never to be seen again. Turns out that she wanted to create something to match her sofa- and her collograph was a bit too abstract and uncontrollable for her abilities) 
Student: What is it you hope to learn from this class?  Are you willing to experiment and be engaged in the process or are you looking for something to hang over your sofa or put on your coffee table?  If so, please let your instructor know! 

Encaustic, graphite powder, image transfer on birch panel
©Laurel Redefer
The take away: What have you learned and how can you integrate new systems or techniques into your studio or teaching practice? And… something to show that demonstrates the new skill you have learned! 

Colleen McCarthy and her piece
Encaustic, oil pastel, image transfer on cradled board

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