Almost in every workshop I give I get this question. Why do you do it or don’t you feel sorry you are giving your techniques to the world for anyone to use and get more rivals? No, I don’t. No, I don’t – for the creative and growing spirits who are just getting a stimulus, an inspiration for their own work and who are going to develop their own signature with time. And the others – I don’t think about them, because if they only follow and not create themselves, thus I will always be at least one step ahead, so why bother? No, I don’t, because I just have 2 arms and a small place for felting – no studio, no staff, no felting machines, and no plans to conquer the world just by myself.
But what I really care about is that the students who come to my workshops would be open minded and have the right motivation to work more and concentrate on the concept of the workshop and not the techniques, it is the process that is important, I am not just teaching how to do it, I am talking how to think about it, I am encouraging the students to feel it. If someone comes and asks just to look at the way I apply some techniques in felting, I am saying – no, I don’t teach like that. If you are not interested to actually live it through, feel it, experience and listen to what I have to say, don’t come to my workshop.
Of course I don’t like it when people you teach later on try to hide that they were taught by me and present the techniques as an invention of their own. I don’t like when people don’t give credits. I don’t like when people become dependant and don’t want to continue on their own – when they take the same principles, inspirations, goals, approach, even ideas they heard me discussing with someone else and don’t think of anything on their own.
For a long time I was just a self taught felter, but that’s how I developed my signature in felting, later my first and only teacher was Claudy Jongstra who literally set me free from my own brakes. And since then I happily and always give credit to her teaching and recommend her workshops. And I think that’s the way it should be.
There are hundreds of feltmakers with really excellent felting skills, but there are so little who reveal their uniqueness in their felting. My workshops focus more on the latter. I believe a key to uniqueness can be discovered in encouraging creativity, in adding a feeling to the process, in developing a communication with the materials and a piece. I often call my fiber work – poetry of fibers. That’s what I expect from my students. It might be blank verses – a stream of subconsciousness, very intuitive poetry of fibers, a haiku or a poetry with complicated rhyme scheme, it doesn’t matter, it’s just a different approach to the felting process, not just a demonstration of perfect felting skills.
New techniques that I am teaching during the workshop is just the language that we are going to use for the particular subject of the workshop, it’s not the focus. I believe that creativity training and ability to connect with yourself (thus developing your own unique signature) is the most essential of all.
I have just returned from my workshop in UK with which I was really happy and enjoyed a really creative company of English feltmakers (as well as some who came from the Netherlands and Canada, and of Russian origin too). And I also had such well known students as Sheila Smith, Liz Clay, Lizzie Houghton, Chrissie Day, who have long ago developed their own signatures and taught others and I am sure they just came to try to speak “in my language” and will tell their own in felt if they do like it. It’s that other approach that I was talking about – when people don’t really need the techniques “step 1, step 2, step 3- bye bye”, they just learn your language to speak their own stories.