a skillsharing experience

A good teacher doesn’t need to know any more than yourself. A good teacher just needs to encourage and support you in your own way.

skillsharing sessions at “the teahouse”

When we came back to Germany, we had he evaluation of the tour in our minds. We are doing a brochure, a film, and photo exhibitions. We are telling people: “Hey, look, this is what we did”.
But what is even more important, I think: we need to just keep doing what we did on tour: doing skillsharing meetings, and inspiring people by showing them their own abilities. By showing them how much they know, and that others are interested in it.
Empower people! And use the experience from the tour to build up learning groups and infrastructure.

I was hanging out a lot at „the teahouse“. An artist collectives space in Berlin, with an atelier, exhibitions and workshops happening. People are trying to finance their association and rent by selling best tea of town in the front room of their space. This is why it is called “teahouse”. I knew this place from before the tour, and I enjoyed being there again.

One day Jeremie asked me if we could do a skillsharing event there. “Sure”, I said, “no problem”.

For me, personally I did not expect too much from that meeting. I was a bit tired of doing those skillsharing events…

While travelling I had made the experience that there were always a lot of interesting people to exchange with, and a lot of skills to learn from – but we just never found a lot of time to actually do workshops, as we were always moving on, moving on, moving on, and as we were so busy with organising other stuff (like food, place to stay, etc. )

Somehow I didn’t really understand yet, that it would be totally different, when I was staying in one place, and would have the chance to meet people again and again.

We did a skillsharing session there one night, and it was the most beautiful skillsharing event I had ever experienced: about 20 people drawing skill-hands in beautiful colours and with artistic paterns, some in calligraphic writing…. then talking about their skills, getting to talk with people they would not have talked to otherwise, and about topics they probably wouldn’t have come up with.

Somebody did a massage workshop, people exchanged numbers, and Jeremie got a message, “I saw your hands in the teahouse, want to learn guitar in exchange for German lessons”.

I met Spencer who wanted to teach me web design. I had a skillsharing meeting with Jox about web usability. And Jacki, a graphic designer from Australia offered me to do a design workshop with me.

I want to tell a bit about this experience, because it deeply inspired, and changed my views about learning and teaching once again.

Design workshop

I met Jacki at the teahouse a few days later. And didn’t really know what to expect. She’d been studying graphic design for three years, was done with her studies and travelling now. What would she teach me?

She brought pens and papers, nothing else. We had decided before that we wouldn’t do any computer work, but that she would guide me through the creative process of designing something, as I often got stuck when trying to develop an idea and needed some practical tips from someone more experience.

She asked me, what we should do to practice the design process. A self-portrait maybe?

I had another idea: I had a concrete project which we needed a logo for. Well, there were already had some drafts for a logo, but nothing really met my expectations. The project is called fairvenience, an agency for solidary economy and fair trade, which we want to found. But that is another story.
She was happy about the concrete proposal and so we did the logo-thing.

She started to tell me some very basic things about design, about elements of design, about theory…
I really didn’t understand how that would help me. It was nothing new, just a lot of things, that I kind of knew already, written down on a piece of paper.

But quickly it got more concrete.
„Do a brainstorming“ she said, and made me write down all words I connected with fairvenience. She was getting excited about it, asked a lot of questions, told that she had pretty similar ideas. She asked about concepts and target groups. She made me associate colours and themes, drops and trees and green spots and old recycled brown paper.

I told her about food coops, centralized buying, the target group “LOHAS” (“Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability”), my idea of fair trade, different strategies we could use and different elements of design that we’d need for those…

What she taught me?
Nothing new, really. Except the most important thing of all: Trust yourself! Keep going! This is a good start! Build on it! Just keep going!

She led me through all the process of my creative work. First a free brainstorming of small drafts and drawings. „Scribble anything that comes to your mind and don’t care if it looks good or bad“.

Then when I was at the point where I would normally have taken the papers and thrown them in the trash, thinking to myself „this is all nothing, this is ugly!“, she just told me: „good, good! This is very good! Now take some pens, colour it a bit, and see how it looks then!“

She found ways of keeping me inspired, of keeping me in the creative process, keeping my going…
and gong… and going…
for hours and hours.

I realised I had made some drawings which were quite interesting indeed. Well, at least parts of them were interesting. I started to combine elements.

She was sitting just next to me, doing her own things, talking with some other people, drawing a bit herself. Every once in a while she had a glance at what I was doing, asking me how I was progressing, asking me how I was.

I was getting caught in my ideas, and even going home I just couldn’t stop drawing. I was so in the process that I changed my plans and did not work on this brochure, but stayed up half of the night to continue my work on the logo. It turned out to be the best logo I ever made.

Well: I did not make a lot of logos in my life before, but the ones I had made were really bad. So let us say: it is the only thing I ever made, that deserves to be called a “logo”. My first real “logo”.

Jacki made me think about what a good teacher is, and what for you need it. She also made me think about another great art teacher which I learned a lot from before: She maybe my best teacher at school, and I think the only one whom I ever really respected. She was a true artist in all the way she lived, the way she organised our class, and the way she taught us.

She was just authentic. Honest. A true human being that was alife and not like other teachers who were bored and annoyed by what they had to do. She wasn’t really a teacher in the sence of someone that is supposed to teach you about a certain topic. She was a friend, and we were happy to be with her and learn about many aspects of life. She was just doing things that were important to her and sharing them with us. She was so enthusiatic about arts that she really managed to inspire us, even in within all those bureaucratic frames school put onto her and our class.
She was the one who managed to get me interested in history, and maths even.

The best about her was all the time that we spent with her outside of school: We had nice parties with a lot of eat-art at her crazy creative house in the evenings, and we went to Venice to the Biennale (an arts festival) together: of course we were very sad when the trains in Italy went on strike and there was no way to get back to school on Monday ;-)
Thinking back I really missed the art lessons with her. She had given me a lot of focus and inspiration.

In the very moment when I looked at my logo, I suddenly knew that I had kept “studying” arts and design in the past 4 years after school, without any teachers, without clear goals and tasks, and often without any feedback at all. Without being understood by the world outside of my own mind: I had been painting on walls, I had been drawing in my diaries… I had been called crazy, maybe cause I did not study at the arts academy. I had made flyers and I had layouted texts, I had edited photos and played around with open source graphics software… I DID study design, just as Jacki! I just had not believed that I did, as I had no exams which would proove I was studying it! I just had “nothing” to show, no papers, no certificates.

It needed her, Jacki, to make me aware of all this. To realise that I was actually getting better and better in those past years! That I was a pretty good designer already, and the only thing I was actually missing was inspiration, focus and someone to give me a feeling of success!

Even though she had no teaching experience, she was one of the best teachers I ever had. Just telling me: “This is very good, go ahead!”.

What we need to learn is not necessarily a “teacher”, often it is more something like a coach.

A good teacher is somebody who values what you are doing, and who can make you keep going your way. A good teacher is someone who can inspire you.

Next time I saw Jacki, she told me that she was really excited about the idea of fairvenience. She had even told her mom about it on the phone, and told me she had learned a lot from our meeting too.

There is no teachers, no students.
There is only communication, inspiration and mutual support.


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