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.
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!!)