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July 28, 2011
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-isms of a Teaching Artist

Some time last semester my students began to keep track of various phrases that I say over and over to them. It all began with someone pointing out that I regularly stop class and say “Take time to admire your work.” And not just in a pat-on-the-back sort of way, although that’s often good too, but in a way that acknowledges the areas that need improvement (like craft or content) AND the areas that DO work–areas that are well-crafted and cohesive.

This past week, nearly every day students came to PRESS to work on projects for their Art 335 Painted Papers. Prints. Book Arts. course that I am teaching at MCLA this summer. One night we all stayed past midnight, the class runs officially from 6-9:15 pm, and PRESS was a hub of creative energy. Students from all walks of life chatting and creating–sharing compliments and ideas, and all of them loving what they were doing. This is why I teach–to help foster connections between students and to inspire passion for making art in others.

It was this night that THE LIST of Melanie-isms began.

In no particular order, here are things that come out of my mouth on a very regular basis in the classroom and studio:

1. Take time to admire your work.

2. There’s always a way.

3. You can do it.

4. I don’t know, try it. (This is an interesting one and related to the previous post–I often know what will happen when some combination of materials are used together–but like any experiment, I believe it’s important for the student to try it themselves and come up with their own successes and failures. This leads them to their own replicability of processes.)

5. It’s just as easy to make ten as it is to make one. (Julie Chen once said something like this to me, that if you’re gonna put all that work into making ten books, you might as well make 100. Hopefully one day my students will be ready to hear that line, too!)

6. Remember to breathe.

7. Consider your craft.

8. I can’t answer that for you, only you can answer that.

9. And something about monkey mind and distractions, and finding a way to settle down the avalanche of thoughts that can paralyze concentration and creation. But no one can quite remember the exact words.

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