Monday, April 20, 2015

Ink and Fibers Conference Fun

Last week, I wrote about a conference I was going to for my academic work. The theme of the conference was "Metaphors We Teach By." I don't talk much about my "job" here on this blog, but for those who haven't read my biography, I am an English Professor at a local community college, and my primary focus is teaching "Writing Apprehensives," or those people who fear writing and come to the college unprepared, for myriad reasons, to do it. 

As I was thinking about what kinds of metaphors I could use to think about how I teach, it's no surprise that my first thought went to stamping. To give you an idea of how I was thinking through this metaphor, here is a little bit of my proposal:

The creative process that yields the best results with paper is the same process that yields the best results with text (that other paper). When I am inventing with paper and stamps, I scan my materials, pull out different colors of cardstock, various stamps, multiple colors of ink and then start. 

Starting is the hardest part. 

That first cut. The scrape of the blade against the fibers of the vanilla cardstock. It's so permanent. The first time the ink touches the paper is alarming. But the ink and blade are my tickets to play. I punch, I score, I cut. I fold, I stamp, I trim. I throw out the crummy bits, the mistakes, the scraps.

My students are far less willing to "play," They hesitate to stamp the unblemished paper. They are reluctant to split the fibers lest their measurements be off. They second guess. I have been teaching writing for nearly 20 years. I have been crafting with paper for 10. How is it that I only just realized my inexperienced stampers and my inexperienced writers share a similar anxiety about that first alarming strike of ink on the page?

I would like to illustrate the apprehension students feel committing words to the page by providing all participants an ink pad, a piece of cardstock and a stamp. This metaphor is meant to remind participants of the anxiety our novice writers may feel before their ink strikes the page.

Mostly I was excited about the idea of getting a roomful of academics to stamp for the first time.

I mentioned last week how I created the PowerPoint using MDS. I was extra excited that the participants noticed my presentation and asked me about the design. 

The link to that post is HERE.

The conference was AMAZING! It was held in Monticello, Illinois, at Allerton House, which is a mansion built by an eccentric farmer in 1900. Here is a picture of the "farmhouse":

I know!

The rooms inside the mansion were labeled according to the wood each was paneled with. There was a Butternut room, a Pine room, an Oak room, etc. I got the joy of being in the Oak room. I say joy because it was perfect for us. It was small, sweet with a round table perfect for collaboration. Here are some pictures:

See my PowerPoint up there?

Everyone walked in and then sat down at a station. None had ever stamped before, so we talked a bit about the task. I put out a sample and then told them to start. They had to share stamps, ink and then talk about the process as they did it. Here they are:

I love how stamping always brings out smiles.

Because I had to let the presenter of the next session into the room, I didn't get a chance to snap pictures of each person's project immediately after the session, but I caught up with a few at lunch. Check out the diversity of the projects:

This is Ellen's take on a forsythia wreath. She said the first yellow stamp didn't turn out how she wanted, so she went with the "mistake" and turned it into a wreath. She isn't sure what the pink flowers are inside, but we all admired her creativity and risk-taking.

Claire also made a "mistake" on her first piece of cardstock. Unlike Ellen, though, she didn't want to work with it even though many of us insisted she could. She had a vision for her card and she was determined to make her vision match her reality. I suspect that also reflects her writing process. I respect that determination! This is her finished project, which she is sending to her daughter. Look at her joy!

Jean and Tim couldn't hold still long enough to let me get a good photo, but Jean "drafted" a lot on her grid paper before committing to her design, which she said reflected her writing process. Tim drafted a bit, but was determined to follow the model I presented. I do think he added an extra green leaf, but that was the extent of his "interpretation." I love that!

The presentation went off even better than I imagined. People had fun, the metaphor worked, and participants were proud of what they made. Their process for stamping really did reflect their writing process, which exposed how they construct texts--something important to remember as we ask others to construct their own texts. I also love how everyone's project ended up a little different. 

And that exactly how it's supposed to be. 

Thank you for sharing in this metaphor with me.

Until next time, stay crafty!