Let me take you back to late August and I'm setting up for a festival lino printing workshop. People are milling around, shading tired eyes from the sun, slowly coming to life. The smell of wood fires and coffee drift on the breeze, thankfully disguising the unmentionable aroma of the Portaloos.
I rearrange the equipment once more and sit down, ready for my group to start arriving when a voice in my ear asks what I'm doing. Happy in my work, upbeat and smiling I start explaining the joys of printmaking but before I can finish, the person goes on to tell me what an expert lino cutter and exceptional artist he is. I smile. Nod. Still smiling, not really knowing what to say, he sighs, looks at me - head slightly tilted - and utters those rather damning words above. I'll be honest, it threw me a bit but I didn't have much time to think about it as people were arriving ready to start printing.
Now I'm the first to admit that there are many people far more talented than myself out there and I "do" quite well *thank you very much* but as I lay in my tent that night I got to thinking about why I teach rather than "do" and it didn't take me long to come up with the answer:
Firstly there's a buzz that I get from teaching that I don't get from creating my own art. That moment when it clicks in someone's head and you take them from knowing nothing about a subject to giving them the confidence to give it a go at home. People leave my workshops on cloud nine and I get a kick out of knowing that I've played a hand in that.
It can also be a humbling experience. There have been times, for example, when a student has rephrased an instruction far better than I did in the first place! I have to hand it to them, my students make me a better teacher.
You learn so much too - about people, about yourself, about your subject - the limitations and potential.
And to top it all off I teach because of the warm and fuzzy feeling I get inside when I receive emails like this one that landed in my inbox from Claire last month:
Subject: Had to share xx
"Hope you’re well, happy and still smiling. So it’s been a year since you showed me the beautiful art of screen printing. I really enjoyed our time just chatting and art-playing. At Xmas last year I got screen print stuff off Santa however I’ve only just got around to using it. I'm so chuffed with the results. Honestly, it has given me a nudge and a the confidence to try more."
And here's a photo of Claire and her prints