What the Teacher Learned at Convergence

I have attended three Convergences: 2006, 2010, and last month’s 2012 Convergence in Long Beach, CA. Each time I returned home inspired, energized and excited to start a new project based on what I had learned. In previous years, my learning has come as a workshop/seminar student. This year I was honored to be selected as a workshop and seminar leader, and I think I learned even more.


  Karen's yarn stash from Convergence 2012
  Karen's stash of yarns from Convergence
  Karen's stack of Handwovens
  Karen's stack of Handwoven's

Number 1: When the mentor for your HGA Certificate of Excellence in Handweaving is a student in your workshop, and you venture into her area of weaving expertise, be prepared to concede she’s probably right and make a note to follow up with her after the conference. There is more for me to learn on this subject, and I’ll be in touch soon, Lillian.


Number 2: Bring a 3-prong extension cord. Enough said.


Number 3: Listening to me talk is not the only reason participants came to my classes. They also wanted to get to know and learn from each other. I should allow more time in the program for these interactions to happen. Participants will be more at ease and engaged, encouraging discussions that may inspire a new direction for my own research and experimentation. In addition, students are eager to share exciting finds from vendor hall with the whole class––a win-win for students, instructor, and vendor. Thanks to my roommate and fellow instructor Suzanne Halvorson for this tip.


Number 4: Whether teaching a multi-day workshop or hour-and-a-half seminar, instructors can only expect students to absorb so much of what they are saying and/or demonstrating. Student experience levels account for some of this. Blank faces usually indicate I’ve just uttered a term or phrase my audience members haven’t learned yet, or that I was so excited to share this bit of knowledge it came out of my mouth wrong.


However, some of the absorption limits result from the sheer volume of stimuli and information offered by a major conference like Convergence. Exhibits, tours, the fashion show, and aforementioned vendor hall all compete for attention. In addition, participants wanting to maximize their learning time register for classes on a variety of subjects. It’s difficult to focus completely on weaving the last few samples of one workshop when thinking about re-warping the loom that evening for another workshop tomorrow.


Workshop or seminar leaders shouldn’t take that personally. However, they can help participants get the most from the subject material by providing informative handouts with resources students can find and study later. I personally save all the handouts and samples from every workshop I’ve attended in notebooks on the top shelf of my weaving library. Invariably, I will be planning a new project or class and remember hearing something related to the subject from a previous instructor. Being able to review the instructor’s notes, and, even better, look up the resources they provided is a great research shortcut.


What I learned from my own handouts was how many resources came from previous Handwovens. In fact, the stack of magazines I included is still on the floor beside my desk waiting to be re-filed. However, because many of my Convergence students were either new or returning weavers—which delighted me—they probably don’t have easy access to as many Handwoven back issues as I do, which might make checking my resources harder. Fortunately Handwoven has compiled digital versions of back issues into collections available on CD or for download.


Atop another nearby stack of actual Handwovens waiting to be put away, the January/February 2006 cover promised projects for teaching and learning. With that subject on my mind, I flipped through and discovered it should have been on the resource list for my warp rep design seminar. Tom Knisely and Holly Brackmann both authored stories about rep. Most of what Tom wrote I was fortunate to learn directly from him at a Mid-Atlantic Fiber Association conference several years ago, and I’ve referred to those notes several times.


Holly’s article, “Zigzagging with Warp Rep,” takes the technique in a completely different direction, no pun intended. I’ve marked it to read later, after I sift through the various other piles of inspiration I brought home from Convergence. I just spied the muga silk I bought from Treenway in a bag with my extra handouts, and my new Habu and Just Our Yarn treasures are still in a bag on the other side of my desk. Wonder if I have anything that would work for warp rep in there?


Karen Donde

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