Guest Blogger: Joyce Christman, Rhein Center Artist

Rhein Center 1Ten folks sit at a long rectangular table at the Rhein Center. In front of them is an odd looking cardboard contraption with soft fabric. There are tools of various shapes, colors and sizes. The students are quiet, looking a bit apprehensive and thinking, “OMG! Did I really sign up for this?” Welcome to my jewelry class!

After introductions, I try to determine the experience level. As in most classes, there is a range of learners, about half of them with some experience.

Then I drop the bomb! The learners soon discover that I did not make a special kit for each of them to produce an exact replica of my sample.  Eyes get a little larger, and there’s shifting in the seats.

The learners hear my expectation for them, “You will be creative and design your own variation with the supplies I provide.” I encourage them to all take a deep breath and relax. They WILL be successful.

For the next hour and a half, the learners take one step, they make another step, one after the other. They begin to offer encouragement to each other and advice about color and composition.

As I rotate around, I hear pleasant conversation, “Where are you from?” “How long have you been coming to Lakeside?” “What is your favorite ice cream flavor?” “Did you like the show last night?”

Occasionally, I must interrupt this conversation to offer instructions for the next step. The learners are politely quiet but resume their chatting as soon as I finish.

The magic is happening! Each individual is gaining confidence, creating a unique necklace and relaxing into the creative process. The tension, stress and uncertainty lift from their faces.

One by one, they finish their creations. They offer genuine appreciation of the each other’s jewelry. The learners are proud of their product and amazed by how different they are, even though they had access to the same materials.

The apprehensive faces are filled with smiles.  The learners leave with their unique design, a new necklace and 10 new friends.

Teaching at the Rhein Center is about exploring art. It is also about community, encouragement and friendship—a true Chautauqua experience.