Thursday 4 January 2018

A small rant... What is more important... ?

A small rant... What is more important... ? I hope this post goes a little way in answering a recurring gripe that some of our community have.

Please note that this post contains my individual thoughts and opinions and has nothing to do with any of the organisations or institutions I am a member of or am affiliated with.

I used to teach in institutions where the minimum class numbers were, for example, 12. As I am sure you can imagine or perhaps have experience of .. it is impossible for any tutor to teach a hand, craft-art course to that number of students and expect the students to be able to achieve any degree of success or to realise their full potential. The class has to be geared to the slowest student and the lowest common denominator. This can be both frustrating and embarrassing for all concerned. There is then the wait to use equipment. Board choppers and other capital studio / class room equipment for example. Board choppers take up space and are expensive and in the main have only one use.. so much of the time they are standing idle. But, when the need arises in a workshop or a class room then they are in big demand. It is very rare for there to be one working, 100% board chopper between 4 students, usually there is, at best 2 board choppers in the class room.... One being a little suspect.
A while ago I was delivering a 2 day workshop in book binding that required the students to round and back a text block. There were 14 students and one backing or laying press. It took nearly 3 hours for everyone to back their books. I realise now that I should have checked what equipment was available but when one is told that the work shop had all the equipment necessary for 14 students.... Well, hind sight is a perfect science, lesson noted.

What is more important... ?

I have often heard that my fees are expensive. All is relative. As a tutor my fees are derisory when compared to many institution tutors wages. This is not a moan it is fact. I try to offer a balanced practice and endeavour to ensure that all my students get value for money.... not to ensure that have bought my latest book or have purchased the latest 5 minute wonder gizmo when all that is needed is a kids geometry kit and a length of board. No offence to those who do have a book published or sell wonder gizmos but you know what I mean.

One of the problems is that many courses run by institutions and organisations are subsidised, giving a false idea of the costs to those who are attending. But if people think that sitting around chit chatting for half the day is good value for money while they wait for a piece of equipment to become available....then they can go a head.... Perhaps those students find the idea of working and studying for the whole day a little bit difficult or it is not so important as they are learning for pleasure not learning for a career... the teaching sort of getting in the way of the social side...

What is more important... ?

Now, before I start to be the hate figure in book binding it is important to realise that, in the UK at least, the number of Book binding and Book Arts courses are on the decline.. to the point that there are non except a very small hand full. Nearly all of those courses are attended by people who have been going for years (They remember the previous 2 tutors) and are there for the social side of things... Those wishing to learn for a career find it increasingly difficult to find space on any course. If they do it is more often than not a couple of hours a week without any form of progressive education that is constructive or offers a learning pathway.

What is more important... ?

As I said to small group (5) who attended my last UK Master Class... "If you think this is going to be a social event, the door is just there. We are here to learn, experience and work. This Master Class is about you getting as much as possible from the 2 days.. It is about you and not me". .... Do you know something? everyone who attended completed the work. Produced some amazing work that really stretched them to new levels.

What is more important... ?

So, what is good value for money? Non of the students in Studio 5 are wasting time waiting 3 hours to use a piece of equipment and then being shown the next step...... It is not rocket science to understand value for money. I understand the fee situation, I do try to be as fair as I possibly can.

What is more important...