Being enough

When the letter came home from the kids’ school, I automatically handed it over to my husband. “Career Day is coming up, if you wanted to volunteer.”

“Sure,” he said. “Are you going to?”

The question caught me off guard. Me? Uh…did I really qualify as enough of a designer to talk to someone about it as a career?

I dithered overnight, and then decided I darn well was designer enough. I might just be starting out, but there are careers in knitting and design – and as my audience would be grade school students, just giving them an idea that there are jobs in creative fields would be enough.

I was assigned to speak to 3 1st grade classes, including my daughter’s, and she brought home a letter with information for me. We were expected to give a 30 minute presentation, including time for questions, and were provided a suggested list of talking points. Reading through them, I decided several (the education required, my college experience, and the hours I work a week) really weren’t going to be of any interest to 6 and 7-year-olds. Instead, I decided to focus on the question “What is the favorite thing about your job?” and talk about the importance of imagination in getting from inspiration to a design.

And I had the perfect set of in-progress designs to use: a set based on the Power Rangers Samurai, and another on Tinkerbell and friends. I put together a quick presentation that had pictures of each of the Rangers and fairies, and packed up all the swatches, several design samples, one of my Barbara Walker stitch dictionaries, colored pencils, and a stack of croquis, half boys and half girls. I found myself assigned to the library since it had the most dependable projector, and quickly got set up.

Career Day (2)

Career Day (1)

The first class I presented to was my daughter’s class, and there was a bit of excited whispering when her classmates came in and saw the screen.

0 designs

“Is that Lexie?” several voices called out. I told them that yes, all the pictures of girls were of Lexie, and asked if they knew their classmate was a model. They all gave her wide-eyed stares while she tried to look embarrassed.

I started my presentation by having everyone stand up. “Ok, if you don’t like to be creative, sit down.” The kids giggled, but no one sat. “If you don’t like art and coloring, then sit down.” A few kids began moving reluctantly to their chairs. “Wait a second!” I said. “I didn’t say you had to be good at it – I’m not! – you just have to like it.” With smiles, everyone stayed standing. “Ok, then – if you don’t like making things with your hands, then sit down.” I did lose a couple with this one. “Alright, last one – if you don’t like math, then sit down.” I didn’t lose as many as I expected. “That’s ok,” I told them. “I know several designers who don’t like math either. So if you were with me to this point, my job could be for you!”

The first half of my presentation involved showing pictures of each of the Rangers, and comparing each to the swatches I’d worked up, playing around with some ideas.

Career Day Power Rangers Sweater Vest Set swatches

For each, I asked the students if they could see where I’d gotten the inspiration for the swatch. The color inspiration was easy to see, but some of the students picked up on the subtler details. One student, for example, recognized that the colorwork in one swatch matched the shape on the corresponding Ranger’s helmet.

Next, we went through my swatches for the fairy set.

Career Day Tinker Bell and Friends set swatches

I’m further along with these designs, so this time I showed the kids pictures of each fairy next to the sketch I’d worked up for each clothing article I’m planning to design. This time, in addition to talking about the swatches, I pointed out why I made each item look like it did, whether it was a texture, or a yarn/color choice, or a line or shape. The last of the fairies didn’t have a matching sketch yet, so I used that one to show the kids how I sketch up designs. I pulled out one of the croqui and did a quick rough sketch of the top I wanted to make, explaining as I went where each detail came from.

Finally, it was the kids’ turn: I handed out croquis to all the students and asked them to do their own designing.

Career Day (3)

Career Day (4)

Career Day (5)

The students loved it, and their teachers were equally delighted. “It’s so nice that they’re getting to do something creative!” one of the teachers told me as we watched the students pick out just the right color. I really enjoyed walking around and talking to the kids about what they were designing and why. They got to take their designs with them when they left, although one young girl told me I could use her design idea if I liked.

The three presentations flew by, and I forgot that I wasn’t “enough” of a designer to talk about it. When I came in the next day for a volunteer stint, I passed two of the teachers whose classes I’d spoken to, and both stopped me to tell me how great the presentation was. Several other staff members mentioned that they’d heard how much the kids had enjoyed my talk. The best, of course, was one of Lexie’s classmates telling me at lunch all about how he’d taken his design home and told his parents all about it. I’d say I was definitely “enough.”

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One Response to Being enough

  1. Barb Johnson says:

    Perfect Jen! You used a variety of colors, textures shapes etc. Asking questions is always good…even with adults. :-) And to have them then design was awesome. Interactive is another Good Thing. You’re on your way to being a great teacher!