Self Taught

posted: Friday, 24 April 2009

If the last few days posts haven't put you off reading what I write, then I don't know what will!

Today I just wanted to address everyone who feels embarrased or less of a beader/ artist by going to classes, buying kits and generally following other people's instructions. 

In short you feel you've failed because you can't called yourself "self-taught"

Fistly let me say I have sat in classes enough times, next to someone insisting they're entirely self-taught to know that most times someone says that they're just not telling the truth.

And that's before we get onto the subject of what is and isn't being self-taught!

Seriously, when most people say they're self-taught what they mean is "I'm above you and I'm such a wonderful artist I don't need to be shown anything" They do not mean it in a modest way.

I have never understood why holding up your potential ignorance is a badge of honour? Would you want your surgeon to say they were self-taught? Your bus-driver? Your accountant? Why would you want to hear that from an artist? 

That's not to say I want someone to be influenced by someone else- just that every artist needs to learn something about their tools and techniques before they can use them.

Any beader who has never seen beadwork or learnt anything would maybe just instinctively string some beads together. Learn any more than that in any way and I think you're no longer self-taught.

When someone tells me they're self-taught I have to fight an almost irresistible urge to say "it shows"

I don't think you can be a good teacher until you have taken enough classes with good and bad teachers to know the difference, and what does and doesn't work. 

I don't think you can be a good instructions writer until you have read enough of other people's to know where they're lacking or what works well.

I don't think you can put together a good kit until you have thought about it long and hard or bought and used enough to know why it's a bad thing to have poorly photocopied instructions and a good thing to include everything someone needs.

So, I don't want to do a class from someone who has never taken one; I don't want to read instructions from someone who has never read any themselves; and I don't want to buy a kit from someone who has never done the research they need to or bought some themselves.

So to follow on the logic, I don't think you can be a good beader until you have looked and learn about all different types of beading and techniques to know each of them inside out- and how are you meant to do that all by yourself?

When someone tells you they're self-taught what do they mean?

I've had people define it as never having done a class (seriously, some have told me this whilst sitting next to me in a class) some define it as having never read someone else's instructions etc- well why do you have that beading magzine in your hand? Is that like buying Playboy for the articles? Reading through instructions is good- you learn lots about how to make something, the writer's thought process and also how to write good instructions.

I may be wrong, and please let me know if I am, but I don't believe any beader or jewellery maker is truly self-taught.

How can you just know how to bead using peyote stitch without having been shown or reading about it? Were you born with the instinct to do the figure-of-8 turn in odd-count peyote? How did you know to use Nymo for your work? If someone told you anything, at any time along the way about beading, then show them the respect they deserve and acknowledge it. 

It's like the saying about it taking a village to raise a child. All those beaders we meet on the way contribute to us and our work 

Being self-taught isn't possible and proclaiming yourself self-taught buys into the artist stereotype and makes others feel inferior.

I have yet to meet anyone who calls themselves it for any other reason than to belittle others and make themselves seem better in some way.

I have taken classes, beaded other people's projects, even horror of horrors- bought kits. Does that make my work any less fabulous (big grin!) or make the awards I've won any less valid?

Does the fact I'm here spending a week on a beading class means I don't deserve the email I got today telling me my new piece of work is in the Bead Dreams final?

I'd much rather spend time with someone interested in beading and learning than someone who thinks they know it all and that ignorance is something to boast about.

So, if you're not self-taught, be loud and proud and come and join my gang.

On a much lighter note!
I got to visit Southwold today and absolutely loved it!

I was a beautiful town with more galleries, food shops, sand and beach huts than a girl could ask for.

But the highlight of the trip was visiting the Under The Pier arcade.

Imagine a regular arcade put in a blender with a whole lot of fun, humour and genius and this is the end result.

It is the work of Tim Hunkin- my new hero.

And what perfect timing was my discovery of the 'Is it art' machine?