Discover, Challenge and Creatively Express Yourself Through Art Classes

Why take classes? Why continue working to master your art/craft?

©2012, Mary Ellen Merrigan, Growth Illustration

I can identify three reasons, three BIG benefits of the beading-related classes I’ve enjoyed:

  1. Discovery 
  2. Challenge 
  3. Creative expression

1. Discovery. Individual courses offer a hands-on experience and thus, one of the fastest ways to advance, learning new methodologies and new information.

Not surprisingly, some skill enhancements come disguised as learning obstacles.

I remember a milagro chain wire working class. Good grief! My crowning achievement was cutting 51 pieces of wire to the same length.

In a nervous-driven attempt to follow instructions, I picked up the wrong pliers, got confused about which way to bend the wire, cut my wrap too closely and destroyed it and otherwise drove myself crazy. In retrospect, I was totally out of my comfort zone and unable to relax enough to learn.

Several months later, I chose to finish the project – on my own, at my pace. I could hear the “voice” of the instructor as I began to wrap. I realized I now understood the task. In other words, I “got it!”

Discovery produces understanding. Once I could ignore my own push back, I discovered a new-found confidence and built a new competency.

2. Challenge. Brendon Burchard, in his best-selling book, “The Charge,” says:

“There is but one word to bring to the center of your mind, which can define the path to an engaged life and mobilize the great energies of potential within you: challenge.”

He describes the effort.

“These were the sweet-spot moments when you surprised even yourself, rising above your own limits and hitting a higher gear of effort, creativity, and consciousness. That’s when real change and growth happened. And I’ll wager that’s when you felt more alive and engaged – more charged – than ever.”

Master beader Cynthia Rutledge illustrated challenge for me in a three day session during which I experimented with size 15 seed beads and structured pattern elements.

Luscious metallic finishes, richly colored gemstones and intricate, structural presentations made the Key of Secrets and Stepping Stone projects even more interesting.

As we worked, Cynthia brought fascinating bits of bead history to our attention. Her stories added to my love affair with beads.

I struggled with counting and resented my own slow pace of learning during this time. Yet, the challenge of this undertaking only increased my overall passion for beading.

Because of this offering, my beadweavings grew more intricate, my stitching more precise. I felt more informed about thread choices and bead combinations.

In addition, I learned the precision of size 15 seed beads is NOT for me. I moved on, noting that challenge contributed immensely to my growth.

3. Creative expression. My classes included master instructors and novice ones. Each person offered a perspective, a technique I could adapt, or a comment that spurred me to think differently about an undertaking.

I found I loved some projects and could leave others. When I loved a project, I quickly repeated it using different colors, materials and sometimes pattern order. This helped me advance my skills more quickly and led to mastery of a particular procedure. This, I believe is the start of creative expression.

A summer macramé class, presented by a first-time instructor, catalyzed my Arm Party. In short order, I made over 100 macramé bracelets. NOTE: I suspect my macramé techniques fed off my needlepoint ones and let me more easily adjust tension, experiment with re-designs and incorporate new ideas into the mix.

These glimmerings rose to a new level when micro-macrame artist Joan Babcock introduced me to “Cavandoli” or tapestry knotting.

Joan Babcock Albuquerque Workshop

Joan coached 12 participants through her Square Knot and Flower Chain Braceletworkshop. Clear illustrations, backed with specific demonstrations, made “getting it” relatively easy.

©2012, Mary Ellen Merrigan, Square Knot & Flower Chain Bracelet in progress on project board

My deduction: the spark of creative expression comes from social interaction. People-watching in a class is invaluable, in part because creativity loves company.

While the process may begin in the classroom, it continues as you take the idea, combine it, break it, begin again, see a new possibility, share it, fix it, do it over…you get the idea.

©2012, Mary Ellen Merrigan, Micro-macrame key fob adaptation of Square Knot and Flower Chain bracelet


Why take classes? Why continue working to master your craft?

The easy answer: you never know when a blog post, an e-book, a class project or instructor will prompt the perfect idea for you.

Given the three big benefits, will you enroll in a class to further your skills?