…A Guide For The Aspiring Bead Artist
by Warren S. Feld

Excerpts From This Ever-Evolving Tale.....

I don’t mean to drag a poor Elephant by its tail, kicking and screaming, into our bead world against its wishes. Nor do I perceive the elephant to be a threat, like you might see an Elephant in the boudoir, or the fine china store. And I don’t want you to shut your eyes and pretend not to notice that this Elephant is here, standing shoulder to shoulder with every beader and jewelry maker around.

The Elephant is not a joke. And the fact that it is “Rogue” makes it more important than ever to figure out why it’s here, among size #10 English beading needles, and Czech size 11/0 seed beads, and Austrian crystal beads. It seems so worldly, yet other-worldly, our Elephant. It’s not our muse. It’s not our Cassandra. It has no secret plan or strategy. It does not depend on its size to make its point. It does not hesitate to stomp and chomp and clomp because the beads before it are raku or glass or gemstone or crystal or metal or plastic. But a Rogue Elephant in the middle of our craft room forces upon us a completely different logic, so that we can make sense of it all.|


Center for Beadwork & Jewelry Arts
Starting Again With A New Advisory Groups
Part Three

“Disappointment” is a mild term for what I was feeling. Uncommitted teachers. Few interested students. And the tone of all the bickering and back-biting of our Advisory Group was getting very negative and personal. So I disbanded this group, and reconstituted another. I would see if a new group could carry our ideas to the next stage.

This new “Implementation Committee” worked well for awhile. We were able to define specific classes, find teachers for them, and schedule them. We began scheduling classes, and trying to market these to the broader community. We tried to work with and guide this new group of teachers.

These teachers met once a month as a separate group of about 12 members. Very dysfunctional. Four of the teachers decided to create a list of demands for the board. They wanted a contract. They wanted to get paid immediately after teaching a class. They wanted guarantees of payment for 3 students per class, whether 3 enrolled or less. They wanted our new program to pay for all the supplies they used to develop samples and projects. And a few other things.

I explained that we were too new to be sufficiently organized to deal with contracts, and all the accounting it took to keep up with their demands. I pointed out that we always paid every teacher on the day they taught their classes. If we had to get more formal and add more accounting requirements, this would probably result in delays in cutting checks. No one had never gotten paid on time. Why make an issue of it? We did not have the monetary resources to guarantee minimum payment for classes, or reimbursement for supplies. We did offer a steep teacher discount on supplies, however.

Again, why make issues about anything at all, at this point? Why were so many teachers, who had been teaching awhile, resistant to leaving the Craft Approach, and trying something new?

At one teachers’ meeting, our functioning “implementation advisory board” asked the teachers to think about doing more self-promotion and “marketing” (with a little “m”). Things that didn’t cost any money, but were thoughtful things to do. These included things like,

- putting the program’s name on business cards and resumes
- telling their students about other classes they could take in the program; pointing out where the skills in this class can be applied in other classes or situations.
- telling friends, acquaintances, etc. about the program
- putting their work on display, including class projects or other things they might have done, even pieces for sale
- maintaining snail mail and email lists of students who take their classes, and notifying them when the teacher is offering additional classes, or related workshop events are coming up
- networking with other teachers, and generally being aware of what other teachers are teaching
- assisting at bead shows where CBJA might have a booth
- maintaining an up-to-date profile with photo on the CBJA web-site

Well, we ended up with a small riot on our hands. The majority of the instructors were personally offended that we asked them to do any kind of marketing. They did not see their role as extending beyond providing instructions within a single class. Three of the teachers refused to put their class projects on display. They didn’t want people to copy them. They didn’t want to physically let them out of their sight and possession. And these were the projects they were supposedly going to teach other students to do.

There was a lot of tension. We hadn’t even been going for more than a year. If I had tried to organize a Safari, at this point in time, – (and I would Not have been successful) – to go find Rogue Elephants, these teachers would have gone out and shot the beasts, rather than try to bead them.

There was one final straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back.

The disaffected teachers convinced most of the advisory board members that they were going to take a hike, if their original list of demands were not met – contracts and payment guarantees foremost among them. The board panicked, and wanted to give these teachers everything they asked for.

I called a special retreat of this advisory board. I explained how, at this very beginning of the program, there was not enough money or staff to follow through on these demands. Since we paid people right away, and worked within the terms each teacher wanted, not necessarily what we wanted, these demands were non-issues. All fee schedules and enrollment requirements were those set by the teacher herself. We worked and lived within those parameters.

I very carefully laid out for this group a set of goals and priorities that would have to occur, should this Center For Beadwork & Jewelry Arts continue to develop as a big idea, one eventually self-sufficient in content and business organization. The board members, if we were to continue in this direction, would need to be willing to follow through with several tasks. And because the tasks would require additional expertise, we would have to expand the board over the next several months.

At the meeting, everyone agreed. But two days later, board members and instructors were back to bickering. I had had enough.

As I had previously done with the original planning group, I disbanded this advisory board, as well. I also let all the teachers go, giving them an option to re-apply to teach here, if still interested. I gave up on the big idea of a school with a capital “S”. I decided to create an educational and school-like program with a small “s”, and follow the general educational principles that so many people had spent so much time researching and figuring out for CBJA. And I decided to run the operation myself. No more “advisors”. Any teacher had to follow my rules, with little discussion, and they could work within the rules or teach somewhere else. Simple.

Our educational program idea sure generated a lot of controversy. I didn’t get it. The ideas seemed pure of heart, well thought out and reasonable. But obviously not.

I wanted to continue with these ideas, even by myself. I liked our educational ideas. It was a challenge to try to make them real. People could take all kinds of craft-approach-classes in all kinds of stores and programs in the area. I didn’t need to duplicate those efforts. The craft needs of the local student market were already getting met. I wanted to concentrate on the challenge we had laid out before us – a professional training model for beadwork and jewelry making – an art and design orientation.

For the first few years, it wasn’t totally “Suppose you gave a war and nobody came”, but close. Hardly anybody came. Few people wanted to take a string of classes. Most only wanted to take one class, come out with something they could wear, and have some fun.

As I watched those few students we were able to initially attract, working their way up through our curriculum, it was very obvious and reassuring that our educational ideas and objectives were on the mark. We didn’t have to worry about the elephant in the room getting bored, or distracted, or sitting staring off into the distance. The elephant was most assuredly learning to strut his stuff.


“Genuine Glass”

Macy’s brought in a line of designer jewelry with the label “Genuine Glass”. Whether this was to distinguish this line from their bevy of plastic jewelry necklaces and bracelets, or something to justify the $200+ price tags, we’ll never know.

But I’ve always thought of department stores as having the worst designed and constructed jewelry for sale – and always at outrageous prices. Department store buyers and department store customers want a LOOK. Nothing else matters. They are clueless about quality, finishing or functionality.

And for that reason, there are no Rogue Elephants in department stores, except for that freak occasion, that blue moon, that once-in-a-misstep chance. And should a Rogue Elephant, by these mistakes, find himself there, he’ll quickly run away.



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