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Class Act

In every class there is a dynamic. You see, I am usually the loud funny one. This is my natural group role – I am funny, hence people will like me and I will fit in. I am loud so people will pay attention to me and I can dominate the conversation. I am a good student so the teacher will like me, ergo, I win. These are roles we learn during childhood and we play them to some extent during our whole lives. Well this time I decided to leave the stereotypical Jaya at home, shut up, and absorb everything like a sponge…

A garden view of Wax Works West

At the beginning of this year I had the opportunity to take an advanced encaustic course through R&F Paints. This week-long workshop helped me to focus my teaching style and direction. It also gave me something else that I wasn’t expecting: the itch to take another class! I never really thought about it before but I had become used to being the instructor in front of the class, and of course being “ON” for x amount of hours. If I had the desire to learn a new technique or try a new product I would do it on my own (that’s how I got into encaustic in the first place, scanning the pages of Joanne Mattera’s “The Art of Encaustic Painting” in the bookstore changed my life). I’ve got a decent mini-library in my studio and if I was missing the proper book or tools I didn’t have a problem investing in something new. The way I see it is that I am developing my skills which rounds me out as a teacher. The thought of actually TAKING a class hadn’t really crossed my mind. However, this encaustic course flipped on the floodlight.

Art is where you create, create where there’s art

The class was held at Wax Works West, a magical state-of-the-art encaustic facility. I had been wanting to take a class there for months and it was even more inspiring than I had dreamed. Everywhere you turned there was art, art, and more art. I couldn’t take pictures fast enough. Walking into the workspace opened my eyes to what was possible in an encaustic studio, I mean, the bar was SET. I was introduced to my instructor, Laura Moriarty, and I found a workstation where I could set myself up. While organizing my tools I quietly looked around at the other students, some knew each other, some were quietly looking around just like me. We were summoned to “gather round” so I grabbed my notebook and the butterflies in my stomach. Now here’s the interesting part. I walked into the workshop expecting to learn a few new techniques and make some awesome sample boards. Well I got something way more valuable than that. Not only was the class extremely informative but being able to objectively take in the class dynamics was amazing. Watching my instructor, Laura Moriarty, INSTRUCT was helpful beyond measure. You see, I am used to how I teach, how I answer questions, how I troubleshoot, and how I demonstrate. Observing someone else in this role was better than cable.

Downstairs gallery at Wax Works West

I kept my nose down and ears open during the week. I didn’t chat much with the other students which is unusual for me because I am the social butterfly. I ate lunch quickly so I could jump back into the classroom to perfect another sample board. Finding an environment that fuels your creativity to the point of boiling over is an adrenaline rush. Working in the Wax Works West facility solidified my goal to be an awesome teacher as well as a masterful encaustic artist.

After the last day of class I spoke to Laura asking her advise on how I could get my foot in the door. I’m so glad that she took a few minutes to give me some suggestions. The weeks passed, lesson plans were fine tuned, and emails with the ladies of Wax Works West were exchanged. In a meeting with owners Wendy Aikin and Judy Stabile my dream came true: I was officially invited to teach the workshop I had developed called “Wax with Whimsy”. I think the only thing keeping me from floating away into the Corralitos sunset was my giant encaustic notebook I carry around with me. They suggested that I audit one of their encaustic basics classes to get the feel of how their workshops ran. Once again, I was on cloud nine. It took all my strength not to jump into the ring and begin offering encaustic pearls of wisdom – I had to keep silently reminding myself that I was there to observe. Being able to watch Wendy and Judy in action was beneficial because I was able to resonate with their teaching style. I could visualize myself teaching and see the areas where I can improve. I learned so much just by watching their interactions with the students. That’s it, I was hooked: I promised myself that I would sign up for as many classes that I could afford in order to learn how to be a better teacher. So that day I registered for “Making Faces” with Charlie Levin

Tune in for my next post: “Face to Face with my Comfort Zone”!

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