Jan is a wonderful spirit who knows all is as it should be and that art is an expression of joy…not an act of egotistical accomplishment. She and her husband Al have been Fiber College’s strongest supporters with both vending, teaching and cheerleading…words can’t express the warmth that the thought of them brings to mind. Jan is an accomplished quilter, embroider, knitter and well balanced fiber artist. This year she’ll be teaching Crazy Patch Embroidery on Sunday afternoon from 1:30-3:30…come with questions and expect a relaxing, educational class.
We asked Jan to respond to our interview questions and this is what she wrote:
1) Teaching takes courage and experience…and so much extra time. When you’re not teaching, what else do you like to do?
• When I am not teaching I am running my yarn shop in Harrison Maine. It sits beside my home deep in the woods. Our motto is ”Your little yarn shop in the woods.” Al and I love nature and we’re set beside a stream that plays sweet music to my ears while I’m knitting away or hand quilting. I love the peaceful moments I can relax with just the sounds of running water and some gentle breezes.
2) Describe the perfect class that you’d like to take.
• I want a friendly instructor filled with excitement for teaching something he/she loves to teach and/or do. I want information that walks me through every step of what I’m here to learn. I want handouts with the patterns that show me what to do, so when I get home, if I forgot something a quick moment of weeding out the folder tells me everything I want to know. I want hands-on time to try it all. I want a way to reach the teacher if I have a question later on.
3) We’d like a sense of your expertise and ability to teach the class you’re offering…so tell us how you came to feel confident about leading a group through your particular class. How long have you been practicing?
• You have to love what you teach, and you have to reach the folks where they live, and how they feel, it needs to reach their soul to create something they fall in love with for a lifetime. I’ve been teaching for 29 years now. I teach classes all the time in my shop, and at guilds or fiber events. I love all-natural fibers. I go out of my way to learn everything I can, and give out all the helpful hints, and a full folder of information, and always leave them wanting more. I want them to feel that at the end of the class, I have reached the need they came to learn, and I want to know deep in my heart that I have started someone on their way to doing something wonderful, and fun, and fulfilling. I want them to get high on every class with the feeling of excitement they came with, as this washes back to me and gives me a boost to make more things myself and learn all I can of my craft. I fell in love with teaching the very first class. It gives me more joy then I can tell you. It’s so gratifying!
4) If you make a knitting error (substitute your art form here) do you jump right in and frog it (rip it out) or do you call it a design feature and keep right on going? Does the mistake cause you anxiety or do you feel like it’s just one more opportunity to make the project your own?
• I usually pull it out and try again. I want to know I tried the best I could, and I feel so good when I get it right!
5) What techniques are in your bag of tricks for motivating a student to struggle through a difficult step…maybe something that’s just a bit out of his/her range…and come out the other side feeling successful?
• I think beginners should be happy with all the stitching they do. This is their first piece and I never ask them to take it out if I see they are stressing over it and they want to learn how to pull it out and begin again. I walk them through it at their own pace; Or at times after class. I make sure they leave feeling that it’s a work of art, and as they grow they always have this piece to look back on. I start my beginners on a piece I call their knitting sampler. Every new stitch is added until they feel it is done right and this is their practice piece for a lifetime. After it’s done, they roll it up in a ribbon. As they learn new things, they pull out the sampler and keep going. In time they also see “Wow! Look how great I’m doing now!”
6) If you could ask your students questions and class time wasn’t an issue, what sort of things would you like to know about the people sitting in front of you?
• I’d like to know something about where they live, and what they love to do on a rainy night. What kinds of things make them happy? What do they collect? What does fiber mean to them?
7) I am an avid collector of:
Old knitting & sewing notions. I just love them so much. I have an awesome sewing collection and I’m working on the knitting one now, but both excite me. I’m still looking for the perfect sewing box. It must be natural maybe a special basket shape. Something different.
8) The best advice I have ever been given:
• Be yourself; like yourself; love yourself, & live your bestest life.
9) What is your favorite color? List three qualities of the color. Consider that these qualities apply to your work.
• Turquoise…it’s soothing; reminds me of the ocean; doesn’t really apply to my work though.
10) What do you do differently from the way you were taught? Why?
• I like to knit slowly and peacefully. My grandmother always knitted so fast. I find I rush through life to fast all day long. Now knitting seems to settle my spirit and bring me to a home-centered feeling of quiet and rest. I used to knit very tightly and my stitches looked awful. Now I have taught myself to relax and breathe, my stitches are relaxed, and my knitted items make me feel so peaceful now.
11) What’s your favorite tool? Why?
• Wooden knitting needles. I learned on wood when I was eight years old. The metal ones seemed so cold and slipped all over the place. Wood feels calm and knits quietly.
12) What do you like best about what you do?
• I work at home now and my shop is in the yard. I can create and work more peacefully here. The colors of the nature call out to me here. I love what I do with all my heart. The best part is that Al, my husband, supports me completely in all I do. He does our web site and all the advertising, even the books. He helps me pick colors and he likes bright and wild colors. I tend to stay more serene. It all balances out just awesome. He is kind and always ready to take me to other yarn shops everywhere. And he even comes in to pick out colors and watch our budget. : ). He is a partner in every way and it works so well for us. That what makes it awesome!
13) What do you mean when you say that a piece has turned out really well?
• I mean it looks great, and it is done well. I see things others don’t always see, like the feeling of disappointment on their faces if they feel it’s not perfectly done, and I like to make folks feel delighted with their projects. I like everyone to walk away with a piece of happiness, and isn’t that all they came for? For some it’s a pattern; for others it’s an original.