Hello friends! I’ve been quiet here lately, but trust me there is plenty to talk about – just not enough time to get everything out there! Yikes! So, today I want to share with you what I learned from teaching my first in-person lettering workshop a few weeks ago at Tombow USA headquarters.
I’ve been teaching/demonstrating Tombow products every almost every week so far this year through our weekly #TombowTuesday Periscopes, but this was my first foray into teaching a full class to a live, in-person audience. Before I get into the workshop too much, I want to talk about how I prepared for it and the purpose of the workshop. I’ll be teaching a Beginner Brush Lettering workshop at the Pinners Conferences in Dallas, Phoenix and Salt Lake City this year, so this workshop served as a practice run for me and for my coworkers who will be helping out during those workshops (that way they have a general idea of what I’ll be talking in case someone has a question or needs some assistance while I’m teaching). [PS – If you want to attend one of those classes, you can get 10% off your Pinners ticket by using promo code TOMBOW at checkout at www.pinnersconference.com and you can register for the workshop for FREE!)
A couple months ago I spent several hours drawing out the alphabet and dissecting each letter to really get a handle on how each letter is formed. Then, I started to sort the letters so that the strokes build off one another so that a beginner could start with easier letters and then move on to the harder letters. As an instructor, this is also helpful because it allows me to say things like “you form a lowercase g by basically combining an a and j together” and since I’ve already explained how to create each of those other letters by that point, I can really show how that particular letter is formed by combining the same concepts from the previous letters.
After I decided on the order of the class, I had to actually put together the practice sheets. Since we’re expecting 140 students per class, I had to take that into account when creating the worksheets and try to minimize the number of pages required for printing. I’m no math whiz, but even I know that 140 people x 3 shows x 26 pages (which would be 1 per letter) is a ridiculous amount of paper. The end result was that I combined several letters per page leaving very little free space to practice, however the worksheets are both functional and manageable to produce. If you’re in the beginning stages of planning a workshop, make sure you’re thinking through details like this – you don’t want to realize at the last minute that your well thought-out lesson plan won’t actually work for the amount of people you’re planning to teach.
Another factor that I had to consider while coming up with my lesson plan and worksheets was the amount of time allotted. Since this class was being created specifically for the Pinners Conferences, I was limited to the timeframes they allow for their classes. What I’ve got to work with is 1-hour, which isn’t actually a ton of time to learn even the basics of brush lettering. Being the over-achiever that I am, I decided that I wanted to make sure everyone left the class knowing how to letter the full alphabet – in both uppercase and lowercase. So that’s how I structured the class. And I knew it was going to be really tight to squeeze in all of that info into such a short period of time, but I was hopeful that it would work. I finished my lesson plan and worksheets, then we scheduled a time for the run-through and invited 10 of our lucky Instagram followers to join us at Tombow for what I ended up dubbing Tombow Lettering Camp.
I’ve got to give a ton of credit to my coworkers who swooped in and handled all of the decorations to transform the Tombow conference room into an adorable workshop space. We all worked together the day before the workshop to get the decorations ready – I even brought in my sewing machine from home to create the crepe paper garlands (which turned out SO STINKING CUTE). My office-mate Alex painted succulent pottery and created the most adorable floral sign. It all came together so nicely and really looked wonderful.
The workshop itself went really smoothly. I was super nervous at first and felt my voice crack at the beginning, but once I got going it went really well. But boy oh boy did it go fast. I had to zoom through those letters, and I hated feeling like I wasn’t able to give each the time that it really needed. Afterward I sent out a survey to the attendees, and it turns out they felt the same way. All of the responses were so positive except for the pace/timing. So now I’m about a month away from my first Pinners class and I’m restructuring the class to focus on the lowercase alphabet and give each letter a little more time so that I can slow down the pace. I’m bummed that I won’t be able to teach the uppercase letters as well, but I really want everyone who takes the class to leave feeling encouraged and not discouraged.
So what can you take away from my experience? I’ve pulled together my top 6 tips based on what I’ve learned from teaching my first lettering workshop:
- Planning a workshop takes a lot of time, effort and energy – don’t be afraid to ask for help!
- When thinking about your lesson plan, take into account how many people will be in the class and how much time you have to teach
- Don’t try to cram too much information into a limited timeframe – less content and more instruction is better than too much content to provide adequate instruction
- Ask for feedback and listen to it, even if it might not be what you really want to hear
- Adjust your lesson plan for the next go-round and learn from your experiences to refine the class
- Have fun! You’re the expert in the room, so if you make a little mistake, your audience is going to forgive you – and may not even notice! Don’t put undue pressure on yourself – we’re not performing brain surgery, this isn’t life or death, and it’s supposed to be fun.