A stained glass lesson in setting (or not setting) constraints

I was lucky enough to be invited to run another stained glass workshop, this time through the MEM project (http://www.thememproject.org/).  After teaching stained glass for nearly 15 years I wasn’t worried about teaching people to cut glass or build a window, but this workshop was different.  It would only be 7 hours long, divided into 2 sessions.  I remember initial conversations about needing more time, but I’d convinced myself that I could cut the process down and do it more quickly. What I forget (much too often) is that I’m not the one setting the pace once people are working on their projects. I had decided to limit the number of pieces in each person’s design to 15 or 20, but then the designs were so interesting… and the students so excited… and the designs grew.  By the end of the 7 hours only two of the students had soldered, so we’ll have to reconvene at least two more times for everyone to finish.  It’s too bad people weren’t able to leave with a completed piece in the time allotted, but I also know that they’ve created beautiful panels.

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I think back to work I used to do with teens and remember how helpful it was for me to set constraints for projects. If I told them exactly what the constraints were  (we only have $10 to spend, we have to take the bus wherever we want to go, we can only work on this for 2 hours…) but they were able to be creative within the constraints they were happy.  Without constraints their ideas grew and grew.  While it was exciting to witness their creativity, the big ideas they came up with were rarely feasible.  I have to remember that lesson and set more reasonable constraints for the art projects that I lead.

I’ll be running a mosaic workshop at the local council on Aging and I hope to take this lesson to heart. I’ll be cutting the size of the individual projects in half and making the group project a size that we can realistically finish in the two sessions that are scheduled.  Let’s see how it works!