Monday, I visited a friend in her studio and was pressed into describing how I got myself started on this journey of printmaking. I talked my way through the timeline – beginning with sewing, moving to surface design where I was using stamps, trying the same techniques on gourds and paper. After I had wound my way through this time and technical path, I realized that the truth was that my work in printmaking has to be blamed on my first printmaking teacher.
In January of 2008 I flew out to Santa Fe to take a week long printmaking class with Ron Pokrasso. The class was the result of a fellowship that I got through the school where I work. Ron is an inspired teacher and wonderful human being. If you are interested I would recommend him as a teacher any day. I wrote the following paragraphs about the talk he gave us on the first day of our week with him.
“He said that if we were to be successful in the class, we would be exposing ourselves to him and each other while we worked. He talked about how that could make us vulnerable to criticism and how our biggest critic was often ourselves. He talked about passion and the nature of making art and that making ourselves vulnerable was an essential part of the process and because of that, we needed a safe place to work. He asked us to be kind and supportive of one another and to be teachers as well as students. He demanded that we be present while we were in the studio. He told us to step outside of our comfort zone. And he told us to take care of ourselves.
And then he did something surprising and unexpected. He said that what he expected of us was that we show our vulnerability. And that to be fair and to make a safe place for us to work, he was willing to do the same. He would work along with us in class, he would show us his work in progress and at the end of the week, he would take us to his home, and to his studio where we would see his ideas like he had seen ours all week. And then he started his first demonstration.”
Ron gave me permission to play in the studio. He set up a safe place where students and teacher could talk about each other’s work in a way that was helpful and honest without the destructive criticism that is so often a part of art education. Finding good teachers and mentors is a great joy. I look forward to the time when I feel the confidence to play that role to someone else and give away what was once given to me.