by Lisa McGrimmon
Want to be a craft teacher? Here's what you need to plan, organize, and make happen before you start your first class.
What you can teach and where you can teach can be surprisingly intertwined, and with those choices will come all kinds of logistical factors to consider. You'll need to think through the logistics of how your teaching venue impacts the skills you're able to teach. Your decision about what to teach will also have a big impact. The type of project, and craft skills you decide to teach will have some fundamental characteristics that you'll need to think through to ensure your success as a crafts instructor.
Your craft may be quite portable, and you'll be able to teach almost anything you want any place you want. For example, if you're a knitter, and would like to teach knitting classes in your community, you'll be able to take that type of class almost anywhere you like. On the other hand, if you're a woodworker, you may be more limited to working in spaces and on projects that accommodate certain tools, work space, and safety considerations. Some of you will have have plenty of easy options, and some will have a few more logistics to plan out.
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Before you dive into developing a class or figuring out where you'll hold your class, take some time to think through the basic, fundamental requirements to do your craft.
Ask yourself a few questions to think through the basic requirements for teaching your craft:
Tools and Equipment
Space and Time
Consider whether there are any other considerations related to your craft that you'll need to take into account when deciding what and where you will teach.
Once you think through the logistics involved in teaching your craft, you may come up with a few issues that concern you. For example, you may need a large space, or expensive equipment, or you may have some safety concerns. Don't immediately drop the idea and assume it can't be done. Take some time to creatively problem solve and determine if there's a way to get around your concerns.
Depending on the type of craft you want to teach, your choice of project may have a big impact on logistics like tools and equipment, space, skill, and time required, as well as safety considerations.
Perhaps you're a sculptor, and you make pewter beads that you cast in your own handmade molds. Maybe you want to teach a class on how to sculpt beads and create molds for casting those beads, but you're not comfortable with the safety concerns around teaching a class working with molten pewter. Instead, you could teach the same skills using resin instead of pewter to cast your beads. Students would learn the same sculpting and mold making techniques, and they'd get to work with a raw material that doesn't carry such a high degree of risk.
Maybe you're a woodworker, and you realize some of the projects you'd love to teach require more space that you have available. Perhaps you could start teaching smaller projects that don't require as much space. As you establish yourself as a teacher of your craft, you may, in time, find opportunities to work in other venues that do offer the space to teach larger projects.
Maybe you're a potter, and you want to teach pottery classes outside of your studio. Instead of teaching a project that requires wheel throwing, you could teach a project that features hand building, so the tools and supplies required will be quite portable. You could bring students' finished projects back to your studio to fire in your kiln, and then arrange a time for pick up or delivery.
You might make wire wrapped jewelry, and you want to teach a jewelry making course. You know that silver or gold-filled wire will make the most attractive and satisfying final project for your students. However, you also know that your students will make a lot of mistakes in their first attempts at wire wrapping, and making mistakes with silver or gold-filled wire can get expensive. Providing students with some inexpensive craft wire for their first practice attempts at the skills you want to teach will give them the opportunity to practice all they want with an inexpensive material that is close to the more expensive silver or gold-filled wire. They will be able to explore without worrying about costly mistakes, and they can move on to using the higher-end raw materials when they feel ready.
In problem-solving and working out the basic logistics of teaching your craft, look for ways to make your craft safer, more portable, less complex, more affordable, and more accessible to a beginner while still maintaining the fun, skill development, and fulfilment involved in completing a satisfying project.
This series of articles on teaching your craft was inspired by the fabulous course, How to Teach It, by Gwen Bortner on Craftsy. I have years of teaching experience, yet, when I watched Gwen's class, I constantly caught myself saying, "Oh, yes! That's a great idea." or, "Hmm, I never thought of that..." It is a truly excellent resource that will get you ready to start your craft teaching business.
Gwen has in-depth, practical advice from choosing the right class to teach, to finding a venue, to negotiating terms, to marketing yourself and your class. Her course is an excellent business investment for anyone who wants to teach their craft.