Thursday, April 17, 2014

Mentors and Teachers! Pay it Forward!

This week I've been reminded of the importance of mentors and teachers. Sometimes they are the same person, and sometimes they come in separate forms. I try to emulate the best traits of my mentors and teachers. I've had three strong teachers in my professional life, and I want to share what they did for me.

  • Liz H. - I'm leaving last names out to protect the innocent! Ha! This lady was not innocent, but boy did she teach me a lot. Her style was curt and direct, and for much of my younger professional life she rattled around in my head. She taught me about finance, business management, top line and bottom line concerns, and how to sell. She was a hard driving task master and I rose to her challenge. She got the best out of me. That is until I became burned out and disillusioned with never being as good as last month. There was no nurturing, just "meet or exceed the numbers." It was a great dose of reality and I hear her voice in running my business affairs to this day. Thinking of her doesn't bring a smile to my face. But thinking of what I learned from here makes me feel satisfied and confident.  Liz was a teacher, but not a mentor.
I learned a lot about this stuff from Liz

  • Sherry Fotopoulos - My art life, my second chance, my new beginning, all started with Sherry. I learned so much from her about my voice, my strength , and what I'm capable of accomplishing. Sherry taught me a ton of new techniques, but more importantly, she taught me when to follow my instincts and explore. When to make the work my own, and when to stick to the plan. She encouraged me to push myself out of my comfort zone, and even when I was miserably failing at a task, she praised me and showed me a new way. She lit my fire to learn more and to be confident in my ability to master whatever I chose. She gave her knowledge unselfishly with no motivation to advance her wallet or her career. In fact she resisted the limelight, and pushed her students out to the forefront. Sherry has retired from a regular schedule of teaching now, but is constantly offered teaching gigs, which she sweetly declines. I think of her every time I want to learn something new, and often call and ask her opinion on a direction I should take or if she wants to teach me a new skill. I pursue her technical knowledge  and her praise and encouragement. Sherry is a mentor, who is also my teacher. 

Here is some of the work Sherry has done over the years....
It all started for me with this kimono design made metal clay sheet.
Sherry designed this project and the world took notice.
Soon teachers around the world were teaching this design. 

Look at the clasp on this cool locket!

I'm in love! This is a fossil stone set in metal!

Here's the front of this locket.

  • Future Akins-Tillet - From the minute you meet someone, you just know that person is going to make an impact on you, or drift away into the forgotten. Future is not the type be forgotten! Future, who is one of my grad school professors, is technically my teacher, but I'd really call her my guide. She's a mentor who; calls me on my bullshit, pushes me to achieve more, dig deeper, and make my voice heard. she demands my best. Yes, she teaches me stuff, but more importantly she makes me think! She makes me question, and she makes me act. I know it's her role as a professor to do these things, but it's the how she does it that makes a difference. She is helping me find my strength and confidence to let my voice be heard through my art. Her focus is not on technique, but on guts! She encourages me to have the guts to say and do what I want artistically, unapologetic, and with passion and pride. This is a new thing for me, and the MAE program at Texas Tech is a school I have become so proud to a part of.  My Thesis/Show is scheduled for June 13th at Highwire Gallery  I hope you can join me! Future is a mentor first, and sometimes my teacher.
One of Future Akins-Tillet's pieces

An inspiring piece of Future Akins-Tillet's work

So you might ask" "Why is Gail getting so preachy about teachers and mentors?"
 Here's my truth!
I am a teacher and a mentor to my students. I try so hard to excite them to their own potential. I teach them techniques, but also how to be free to experiment. I try to nurture those who seek it, and challenge those who need it. I approach my students as people who want knowledge, encouragement, acceptance, and a sense of accomplishment. In return I hope for more opportunities to help them develop into stronger artists who can feel confident to raise their own voices though art. My teachers and mentors shaped me, and the artist, and teacher I've become. I hope that I pay it forward and am able to make as strong of an impact on others as my mentors and teachers have had upon me.