Sunday, August 09, 2015

Back to School

   August is here, and the entire world seems to be going back to school, or buying back-to-school stuff, or advertising back-to-school stuff. I spent a lot of time in classrooms--1961 to 2013--and I'm like an old war horse: I hear the siren call of fresh books, new crayons, and pristine notebooks, and I start thinking about school. If I was still in the classroom, I'd be finishing up my own back-to-school shopping, and getting ready for professional development and staff meetings before the controlled insanity that is the traditional school year starts on August 19.
   One of the really nice things about having control of my how I spend my time is that I can finally focus on my own educational goals. I started thinking about who I am, and what I want "to be when I grow up," and I've discovered that some goals have changed in the last twenty-five years.
   I no longer feel the need to go out and get yet another piece of paper from yet another institution of higher learning--I've got a Master of Arts and that's enough. I don't even have my degrees hanging in the studio--I think they're in a box in the attic--because a B.A. in History and a M.A. in Educational Technology simply don't mean that much to me as an artist. I don't feel the need to finish up the units (about 30, or a year of study) to receive a B.A. in Art History or B.F.A. in Printmaking. After this many years, I don't need the discipline of class schedules and deadlines to pursue topics I'm interested in, and there are very few programs that will accept all that I've already done (both as a student and as a professional) and simply let me continue to grow as an artist.
   I toyed with the idea of signing up for one of the weaving classes offered by the City College of San Francisco (CCSF). For those unfamiliar with CCSF, it's the largest community college in California, and one of the very few public institutions that still have Textiles programs. The weaving classes were taught for many years by Peggy Osterkamp, and when I started weaving again, one of my dreams was to study weaving with her. Unfortunately, the classes were always during the day, and during the school year, so I was not able to fulfill that dream before she retired. Janice Sullivan has taken over as the instructor, and she's good, but she's not Peggy. There is also the little matter of cost. CCSF isn't horridly expensive (about $50/unit), but the weekly commute from Vallejo to downtown San Francisco is. I ran the numbers, and it would cost me about $100 to sign up for the two-unit "Weaving I" class, and about $400 to travel back and forth. Personally, I think I'd rather spend the money on more books and/or more stash.
   That leaves "distance learning," either through a formal course of study or on my own. Olds College in Canada offers marvelous certificate programs in weaving and spinning, but they are, to me, horridly expensive: $8,000 (about the cost of the entire program including the residency each year) is a lot of money to someone whose undergraduate college education cost less than that. There's also the issue of traveling to Olds College every June for Fibreweek to complete the residency portion of the coursework--it falls right at a time when I have a number of other commitments.
   So that leaves study on my own. I'm familiar with a lot of the guild-offered certificate programs (Handweavers Guild of America's Certificate of Excellence; Weavers Guild of Boston and Ontario Handweavers Guild's Master Weaver certificates), and, thanks to the miracle of modern computing, have downloaded all the information each has on their programs. I've also ordered the handbooks for the Certificates in Excellence for handspinning and handweaving from HGA.
   Looking at these, I can see how much I know, and where there are gaps: for example, I know how to dress a loom; throw a shuttle; weave a nice piece of cloth; and explain the intricacies of color theory; but I don't understand the "why" behind overshot design, or have some practical experience with rep weaving. These are things I've wanted to learn, or to try, for years, but I haven't had the time to really focus on them. Now I have the time, and I have the equipment, so it's time to head back to "school."