the heron and the hummingbird

I was prompted to write this post as a reply to a recent comment on a previous post about my online indigo workshop “Let’s Dye with Indigo“. comments here.

The commenter was suggesting that I apply to teach my online indigo class at Craftsy. This is not the first time someone has suggested this to me.  Now I know that “everyone is doing it”, and before I get more emails asking  why I’m not, I thought I’d try to explain my hesitation to do so.

First, it’s not “all about the money”.  But then again, it is about the money too.   About where the money goes. I prefer it to come directly to me for the work I put into my classes.

Craftsy is great for those who don’t want to or can’t set up their own system of teaching online.  They do it for you.  And I hear they do a fine job of it.  They even do your hair and makeup and send a limo for you.  (Somehow, that just doesn’t feel like me being me.) I’ve seen some of the promos and they are pretty slick.  Again, that doesn’t really feel like me either.  I don’t want to turn my indigo dyeing teachings into something that resembles a morning talk program.  I kinda like it the way it is, personal,real, and kinda funky.  Shot here in my own studio on my trusty iphone and edited in imovie.  Not so slick.

Yes, I probably could sell a lot of classes there.  I might even make more money (but like I said before, it’s not all about the money). But then again I might not.  I have spent a considerable amount of time and even travel teaching, learning, practicing, marketing my own  work and “brand” over the past many years and I’m not so quick to turn that over to someone else to take a cut off the top.  I am not so interested in becoming a class in a category on a site offering everything from decorating cupcakes to pizza making and parenting. I guess I’m a little weird that way.

As I look over Craftsy, I see that since their beginning offerings in 2011 they have grown to encompass so many topics- a clearing house of sorts. They make their money by being that clearing house.  Online learning is here to stay.  That much is sure. Coursera is now booming and their offerings are free!

For some of us that have been at this, teaching craft (or whatever you want to call it) online, for longer than that, I believe we paved the way for this sort of thing. The first one I was aware of was Joggles, where I taught a couple of classes in the beginning as a requirement for having my ribbon sold on the site.  It was a fair trade in the beginning.  Later down the road, I wanted to offer more (was told that it was impossible to teach dyeing online!) and I wanted to include video so I went solo and started developing my own methods and means.  Part of my intention was that I knew there were many folks out there like myself who couldn’t afford the trips to take in-person workshops with great teachers.  Whether it was a time or money issue, I thought that teaching dyeing online was a possibility. I also didn’t want to be limited by geography. I wondered. Things were changing. Technology was offering up new possibilities. I just started doing it.  I learned as I went and I learned from and with others.

Susan Sorrell   stands out in my mind as someone who was in on the online teaching very early on. Maybe as early as 2002 from what I could see on her website! I think my own first online classes were somewhere around 2006.  And of course, we include the masterful Jude of Spiritcloth for bringing us classes online that feed our soul, make us wonder, and have helped us in so many ways-stitch by stitch- by just being herself. There are many more I am sure.  We each have created a small niche for ourselves that supports us and our families. We are not rich by conventional terms, but we are independent and we are entrepreneurial. We also want to be ourselves. I  want to own my own materials, my own copyright.  I like being able to add to my class whenever I like-as I learn and grow with the students. Once a Craftsy class is “in the can” it is what it is.

feathered friends by Peg Mathes Yates

feathered friends by Peg Mathes Yates

 

Immature Great Blue Heron looking for dinner ©2010 Peg Mathes Yates

Immature Great Blue Heron looking for dinner ©2010 Peg Mathes Yates

I am reminded of a retelling of a Native American myth that I once read called  “Heron and the Hummingbird” where the two get in a race to see who will own all of the fish in the rivers and lakes. The hummingbird loved to eat small minnows and the heron loved to eat large fish. I think we are the hummingbirds in the story.

I imagine that at some point down the road Craftsy might be bought by some media company larger than itself.  Seems that is how many of these sorts of startups go. Big fish swallowing up smaller fish -the way of the world these days.

I just hope that the future will still hold a place for hummingbirds to flit free and enjoy the nectar. Some days though, it does feel as if the odds are stacked against it. Once, when I was in Mexico, I saw a hummingbird laying dead near a large window. I went over and picked it up and to my surprise it started to move.  It sat there in my hand for a few minutes gathering itself together and then flew right out of my hand- off and away! It had merely been stunned I guess, running into that large window.

I’d never bet against the hummers out there. We’re colorful, we can take a few knocks, and we keep on zip-zipping around tasting nectar from here and there. Plus, as my friend Peg reminds me, hummingbirds can fly backwards! (thanks for the photos Peg!!)

21 thoughts on “the heron and the hummingbird

  1. Liz Williams

    So Glad to hear as my seven yr old granddaughter says “I’m My own person”. I too do not go the path of “everybody” else and I do believe you will do better in time going this way. Plus, if YOU decide YOU need to make a change in your teaching, YOU can do that with great ease and JOY.

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    1. shiborigirl Post author

      email me your address liz. i want to send your granddaughter a bit of shibori ribbon… i like to think that in some small way i can be a placeholder for people like your granddaughter. that the opportunity to remain independent might be sustainable somehow for future hummers.

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  2. spiritcloth

    I have been approached as well….I think the new business model has been created. Sites that host the content of others with now personal understanding of the content. . Not unlike certain publications with their own agenda. I notice lately, many folks who have purchased my online classes ( all of them!) , give classes at places like craftsy, etc. I wasn’t born yesterday or either were you. In any case, the type of content will never never be the same. And I, you, “we” will never be rich in a money way. But we still have our hearts in the right place and the richness of the community that gets it. Hopefully when it gets really ugly, I will be retired and living with sheep or goats.

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  3. nemoignorat

    I have taken your wonderful classes and I listen to Jude on a regular basis. You (and some others like India) have taught me the strength to be my own person (again). Which got me back into teaching. And I heartily agree with you. While Craftsy undoubtedly has its place I am sure it will be swallowed by some bigger fish sooner or later. Much like Interweave now belongs to some Venture Capital Group – and I spare myself and you any comment on that.
    To keep the web colourful and to show there are still opportunities to be our own women and men, we should get on. As long as it is possible.
    And I do so much love your hummingbird analogy.

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  4. Marie

    You’re not weird – you have personal integrity. There’s a lot to be said for knowing what you want and how you want it. Keep doing what you love and *always* trust your instincts.

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  5. Janet Wright

    I guess I am tired of classes with no soul and don’t take them anymore. I take classes from you and Jude and read your blogs. I know you personally from the 2011 Silk Study tour and feel that it is wonderful to take classes from people like you and Jude who keep the “soul” in their teaching. Mondy can’t buy everything.

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    1. shiborigirl Post author

      this is one reason i enjoy doing in person workshops, shows and the tours as well. the face to face contact. in addition to the online stuff. and by the way, i got your note and Hirata’s too. packed it. btw- he is a new grandfather again to a baby girl as of 2 days ago! he’s burning up the camera batteries!

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  6. velma

    glennis, you are so right about this. the integrity and that you (and jude) bring to online teaching is what moves me so much. i’ve peeped at other online classes, been suitably horrified by the quality. you two are hummingbirds, indeed.

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    1. shiborigirl Post author

      i just want to be able to continue. without being strong-armed into submission i guess. i am not saying that other amalgamated sites don’t have quality classes-i don’t know, i haven’t taken any. i just think that what some of us bring to an online class isn’t really suitable for packaging like that. a lot gets lost in the translation.

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  7. DogCatMom.

    I found this site b/c of a presentation (in person!) tonight by John Marshall, the indigo-ist (sensei?). He recommended Shibori Girl as “someone to be aware of, to watch, to follow” if one were interested in what was possible in the world of indigo craft.

    It’s interesting that Craftsy is reaching out to people like you. I’m “enrolled” in three Craftsy classes right now, but none of them are for brand-new skills. When I’m learning a brand-new skill, I want to be **in the room** with the teacher/instructor/guide/friend showing me how to do things. I’m learning _additional skills_ in quilting and knitting, and the third class is more a series of lectures on different qualities of wool, depending on prep methods and breed/variety of sheep it comes from. So it’s more a traditional “teacher lectures / student listens” situation, which is just fine for information (vs. skill) transfer.

    Having been a classroom teacher (middle-school and high-school math, English, world history, German, and Spanish), there is just too much back-and-forth, interactive Q&A from student to teacher and back again, and the energy the teacher receives from the students, for me to believe that online learning of brand-new skills is workable, esp. in traditional fields with so much depth behind them.

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    1. shiborigirl Post author

      yes, i understand what you are saying. however, online learning is sometimes the only access someone might have to such classes either due to time, money or geographic limitations. so both are acceptable methods in combination with actual practice of the methods. i myself never took any classes or workshops. i read books, studied online and worked at it every day in my studio. (aside from four days with the indigo dyer n Japan). everyone has their own way it seems.

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