Learning is a skill, but it’s also an attitude.  Memorising facts and figures, for some, is where it’s at – but that can be risky – where’s the solid footing?  And it’s from that substantial knowledge base, that understanding comes.  Now, for me, that’s where it’s really at.  Let me explain.

Education, in the textile and fibre-arts, must be one of the biggest selling hot-cakes on the market today – especially with the Covid pandemic.  Now while learning a new skill is fantastic and should be encouraged in anything we do, it’s what happens after that class or workshop where the magic actually happens – and that’s when the understanding and being able to apply that concept your way, kicks in.

It usually happens on our own in our own environment where we have the luxury of time.  We don’t learn until we understand.

Understanding is the golden key – the one that unlocks our individuality and identity as an artist, able to rely on our ability to go to that next level.  And understanding takes a focused mindset and plenty of mistake-making through self-directed learning.

I think I must be one of the worst students to have in a class.  I’m always slow, I’m easily frustrated if things don’t work out and there’s little support. I rarely finish anything and will ask questions until I understand exactly what’s being offered.  And I don’t mean to be like this – it’s up to the tutor to iron out these problems – it’s just that if I’m paying for education, I want to be educated.  But I know that’s not where the actual learning takes place.

I know that if I want to really get the most from a class or workshop, it’s up to me to make it mine – and that takes time and patience.  It means I have to work at home on my own to fully comprehend, appreciate and process that information into a skill with my identity on it.

The skill to learn is an attitude – the attitude of interpreting information to your wants and needs, not someone else’s.  It’s the measure of being able to improve, expand and refine techniques and ideas into your own artistic voice.

Now that’s what education should really be about, and we learn to understand through doing.

cathy jack coupland