Learning from teaching adult workshops

Muffy & Students_edited-1

Muffy Clark Gill demonstrating wax painting to her students at the LeMoyne Center for the Visual Arts in Tallahassee, Florida


In the last two months I had the opportunity to teach two very different workshops. One was a technique-oriented batik workshop and the other explored the Seminole Indian patch working style. Both of these experiences renewed my love of my art and also made me realize that I really like helping others create. I enjoyed the process of watching them learn and also seeing their beautiful creations emerge as a result of the tasks that I gave them to do.

In the first workshop I taught seven students at the LeMoyne Center for the Visual Arts in Tallahassee, Florida called “Batique Techniques”.  In this two day class we explored many different tools and processes that can be done with wax resist painting to create art ranging from drawing with Tjantings (Wax drawing tools from Indonesia) to painting in dye with Japanese badger hair brushes.

Muffy Demo

Muffy Clark Gill demonstrating dye painting techniques at the LeMoyne Center for the Visual Arts ” Batique Techniques” Workshop


For this class I was very detail oriented in my planning. There was a lot of ground to cover and we only had two days! To keep myself organized and on track, I wrote an extensive outline of what I wanted to teach. This involved a lot of time involved looking over notes that I had taken from previous workshops and then compiling my own syllabus. This effort became a nine-page document of techniques, resources and information. I spent over a week modifying and putting all of my thoughts and resources together to get the whole document the way I wanted it.

This level of preparation really helped us to stay on track although I found that as the weekend progressed two days was not going to be sufficient. We had a few hiccups with students not bringing the correct materials which was challenging. But as everybody finally got into the swing of creating I saw the students really expressing their inner artists. And even though they stuck close to the formats it was obvious they needed more time to fully express their creations. They needed more time to learn their tools and more time to create so I have decided that in the future the workshop will be three days. At the moment, I am thinking of scheduling another of this type workshop in late 2016.


My second workshop took place with the United Arts Council of Collier County. They invited me to teach Seminole style patchwork to a group of senior citizens at the Naples Senior Center as a program of JFCS of Southwest Florida. I was asked to offer this unique class as I had such an extensive background and knowledge of Seminole clothing and artwork. Together we worked for two and a half hours and could have kept on going as everyone was enjoying themselves so much. I also had the unexpected bonus of Jacki Lyden, the creator of “The Seams” blog from NPR, pay a drop-in visit to talk to the class about present day Seminole patchwork.


Head Seamstress Jacki Lyden of “The Seams” NPR podcast and blog discusses the history of Seminole patchwork with the students at the Naples Senior Center.


The process of planning this class was very different. Unlike the massive planning I did for my weekend workshop, I only spent three hours designing templates and samples that could be shown to the students so that they would know how to create their own versions of my model. These were shown as slides to help the students visually understand their tasks. With the limited timeframe we had to work it was important to relay as much information as possible very quickly so that they would have enough time. As it was I found that even though everyone enjoyed the presentation, I would have to make it even shorter in the future.


Students working on their projects during art class at the Naples Senior Center, a program of JCSF of Southwest Florida.

Women working web

The class was organized by the United Arts Council of Collier County. The UAC provides art classes to the Senior Center members year round.


Maureen Benes displays her colorful creation during art class at the Naples Senior Center, a program of JCSF of Southwest Florida.


One very interesting challenge in this short workshop was the few students who had little or no art experience and were not used to creatively thinking about how they were going to do the artwork style. I had to walk them through some of the steps which is what I do, but the lack of experience made it hard for me to easily help them. I will certainly account for that as I plan the next workshop of this nature, perhaps in February or March of 2016.

As an artist I find that my craft is enriched when I teach. Explaining techniques and watching students learn them and integrate them into their creations only inspires me to create more. I learned things about myself from both of these experiences, but I was also rewarded specifically with a fresh new idea for my Seminole work. Watching these miniature patchwork shirts be made has inspired me to create a new line of imagery that would utilize them as the foundation for new works.

I am very much looking forward to getting started.

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