So, this last week, just before the 7 day lockdown for Victoria I headed to Port Fairy to conduct some one-on-one tuition with artist Oriel Glennen, thanks to a grant from Regional Arts Victoria. Being surrounded by the sea and what the sea throws onto her shores, Oriel creates the most beautiful sculptural and wearable objects by incorporating her finds with unique textile elements as well as gold and silver components.
The first day we looked at how working with the lost wax casting technique could be used in her designs and Oriel carved a large link that will be cast in sterling silver. We discussed the limitations with the casting process and also the ability to make multiples and how you can add or subtract components to create new pieces.
The second and third day were focused around soldering and how to fabricate casings for the organic found objects that Oriel works with. Oriel's eyesight has changed over the last few months which has impacted her depth of perception and she was needing some help with how she could still solder with some adjustments. We were slowly getting there, but I still couldn't explain to her where the torch should be without gently guiding her hand. Then, Oriel suggested that perhaps I could wear a patch on one eye to get an idea of what she sees. What a brilliant idea!
Once I started to set up the piece to solder, adding the flux and placing the solder on the join I realised how difficult it was to gauge the depth of field and that I couldn't look at the work straight on, I needed to look from the side and once I lit the torch it got a whole lot harder. What I worked out is that I needed to look at the colour of the flame either side of the piece to be soldered, not how I would normally look directly on the piece. Needless to say, it was certainly not easy to do. What a teachable moment for me that was, reminding me that I can't instruct the same way with each person I teach, I need to accommodate and understand their needs in any way I can.
Not only was it a teachable moment, but a very emotional one for the both of us, Oriel said that "finally having someone truly understand made a huge difference" and her confidence has shifted.
In the next couple of weeks we will have a Zoom session to review what we looked at as I had to rush home on the last night prior to lockdown and we didn't have the time to reflect on the 3 days.
Teaching can be both exhilarating and taxing, I have found over the years that it is more of a dialogue between the student and instructor and that we learn from one another. If one person can't see another's point of view, then it's time to try something new.
I have missed teaching over this past year, I moved from Adelaide to Ballarat and COVID made it that much harder to get started. But now, I am on the hunt for a studio space that is large enough for me to teach from. I am determined to work around this pandemic the best way I can, whether it's face to face classes or online classes when lockdowns occur, life should go on.