On the first of March I began writing a series I have always meant to write: my own guidelines for beginners.
This morning I just posted my fifth post.
I knew it would be difficult to do, in a large part because I haven't taught beginners for at least 30 years.
Whenever we are in a field for a long time, we use too much jargon, so one of the jobs of writing for beginners becomes the definition of terms we avid stitchers take for granted. It isn't difficult to define the terms; it is just surprisingly difficult to recognize that they are indeed the jargon of needlework.
I have had a good time thinking about beginners and how I would advise them to start. I am hoping, as I continue writing posts, that I am able to incorporate the elements of design and color right from the start. Even though people always say 'learn the rules' then you can break the rules. I am not certain that I agree with this; in a creative field I am not certain that 'the rules' are a good thing.
Recently friends came to visit and we spent a considerable amount of time stitching. My own personal style of stitching is very idiosyncratic, and for the umpteenth time in my long needlework tenure, my friends called my attention to several of my idiosyncrasies. I look on my idiosyncrasies as a part of my style, a part that evolves hand in hand with my sense of what to stitch and how to stitch. Take away those idiosyncrasies and I will not be the same stitcher at all.
This week I feel the issue even more strongly, as I learned about the death of Judy Harper. I never met Judy in person, but I 'met' her online and we had some wonderful conversations. When I wrote a post about 'Goop' on painted canvases, Judy wrote to me and cheered me on. When I first started exchanging emails with her I didn't realize she was an iconic canvas painter from my youth: she did a painting line called 'Creative Needle' and I remember in particular her beautiful Imari plates.
As I have been writing posts for beginners, I have been thinking about Judy and all that she wrote to me about design in needlepoint. I am trying to find a way to incorporate the ideas we discussed into my series, so that fledgling needlepointers learn there is more to needlepoint than the sum of a stitch library.
It isn't how many stitches you know how to do; it is all about what you do with the stitches that really matters. So the most important challenge in a series for beginners becomes, how do I incorporate the importance of personal choices right from the start? How do I explain the basics to beginners, yet reserve and preserve the importance of developing a personal style? How do I hit a balance between technical skill and artistic judgments?
So far I am five posts into the series; it remains to be seen if I can indeed do the job.