Embarking on your first workshop
I recently hosted my first workshop. It was an introduction to portrait drawing for children. Not the easiest thing to pull off, but it did go really well and there were some great things l learned that I would love to share if you are considering hosting a workshop.
Firstly, believe in yourself. If you can do something well, then you almost have an obligation to share that gift, skill and talent to pass it on to others and future generations. Workshops are a public service as well as good business. I was really nervous, but I promise it’s super fun. There are always going to be things you can improve on after your first one but you just have to take the leap and go for it!
Build some hype: send a fun, tantalising message on your Facebook page or social media account to gauge interest. Your friends will already know your skill and have likely said “aw you’re so clever I wish I could do that” now they can! Getting your friends or friends kids on your first workshop is the best way to have some fun, make some mistakes and learn what your need to do for next time. It protects you from having ugly feedback and grumpy ‘customers’ if something goes terribly wrong. It’s a great way to get honest feedback from people who love you too. And you can bet they will go overboard with the positive praise on your Facebook page! Or if you’re confident you can just go straight to hosting a public event with strangers and go in boots and all. I was glad I got a mix of friends kids and some children I didn’t know. It was a great dynamic.
Getting out there
Find a venue: do you need comfy chairs for crochet or trestle tables for painting? There are numerous cafes that are ideal for sitting down type activities and wonderful community centres that are happy to accomodate you. Consider ambience and your craft and having some continuity around those things. Ring around and visit. If you need to take a lot of equipment think about getting it to and from your car and how easy this will be. Also ask about heating if you are using a hall, you don’t want your students freezing their digits off. Ask about power source and water availability etc if needed.
Are you providing refreshments? Make sure at the very least you have water and glasses available. And it goes without saying, toilets need to be available and unlocked if using a hall or school.
How many people attend your event to is very important. Larger, loud, vibrant groups could be wonderful for things like dancing lessons or cooking demonstrations because they keep the vibes at joyful levels, but if you are taking a children’s drawing class for example, smaller numbers are easier to manage. Only you will be able to decide this. How many people can you engage with and how much attention will each person need from you? I had 8 children on my drawing class, I think 6 would have been easier to give each of them my full attention. Adults would be fine to have more.
How much to charge:
Work out your materials for each person, venue hire, refreshment cost etc divide it by how many students you will have and add something for yourself. Again, only you can work this one out. Some workshops are great business and some people want to share their love of their craft and making money from it is far from the thought process. Figure out what is your motivation, investigate similar workshops and adjust costs accordingly per person.
How long will you need? Six hours over three weeks? One hour? What do you want to teach and how long will it take to teach it? And hour and a half was too long for my workshop because, well, kids. One hour would have been perfect. Adults and all the talking and connection we are good at, would easily fill in 2 hours. It really depends on your group. Think about having a back up, have an extra activity planned in case your work shop flies by and you get through everything really fast. I had some printed animal faces and one of the kids were more excited about doing that than the workshop I had planned, c’est la vie. Roll with it.
Make an event
On Facebook, and ask your venue to ‘co-host’ it if they can. This means it will appear on their events page as well as yours for a lot more exposure. If you are using somewhere like Exchange Christchurch this is very useful as they are already a creative hub and they have a large creative following in the city. Use a catchy professional photo or digital invite image that says at a glance what you are about. Include as much as you can in the details section and add some personality. People get excited about what you’re excited about. Passion is key.
Organise your lesson:
Don’t go in blind. If it’s a drawing class, get kids to bring their favourite picture to draw, and their drawing books so they can tell you what they love. This is a good way to fill in awkward time too (I learned that one from experience)
If it’s ceramic pot making have some pots already made so your guests can see the finished product etc
be early, set up, turn heaters on etc. Prepare tables and materials. Be bright and welcoming when your guests arrive. It’s super fun to pass on your passion so stay passionate and excited because this is what people catch. Name tags would have been so helpful! Next time.
How you go about your workshop will depend entirely on you, stay authentic and be yourself! You don’t have to perform or be something you’re not. Sit on the floor, or move around if you’re comfortable. With my kids workshop I started with sitting on a stool but quickly realised sitting on the floor made me feel more relaxed and I was able to be more accessible to the kids and the intimacy increased and my personality and passion came out more. Next time I’ll can the chairs altogether and we will start on the floor with some rugs etc. Kids are better on the floor but it would depend entirely on what you’re teaching.
Remember to take photos!
Send a personal message to each attendee, thanking them and asking for any feedback. If they are your friends then they will be honest, take it and ask them to place positive feed back on your page or to send you a testimonial you can use for your next event. Ask if they mind having their photo used for promotion.
Short list of things that went well:
I loved being able to share my passion and when the kids saw something for the first time like the way eyelashes really sprout from the eye or helping them to retrain their thinking about drawings they don’t like I felt like I was doing what I was born to do. It was so rewarding seeing the excitement of discovery on their faces.
The venue was perfect. I used Exchange Christchurch as it’s where I have my studio and I was able to take the kids on a tour of my studio and they loved seeing where a ‘real’ artist worked. I let them look at all my messy stuff and paintings and hang out for a bit asking questions. At the xchc there is a cafe and some of the parents stayed and chatted while the workshop was on which was lovely. It’s a great place to have an adults workshop to have food and coffee available. All these little things add to the overall experience.
My kids were able to take home a brand new drawing book and artist pencil to start their ‘new’ approach to drawing. Leaving behind any negativity and learning how to write notes on their work. This makes the workshop something that will live on for them.
Buffer activities better thought out
Cushions and rugs for the floor
Hope my little how-to-first-time-workshop is helpful. I will be hosting more drawing and painting workshops in the future so please check out Sparrow’s Song on Facebook and Exchange Christchurch for event details.
All the best,