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New Skills Acquired

Life long learning:

I take a great deal of satisfaction in learning new skills, and acquiring a new knowledge. Life-long learning is important to me. Not only as a working artist, but just as a regular human being existing on the planet. New skill and knowledge acquisition requires that there be some shifting around of older skill sets, knowledge, etc. All the experiences garnered through the learning process add new dimensions to my more seasoned knowledge and skills.

It took way too long for me to take a course at the Taitokeskus here in Jyväskylä. Way, way too long. Pinpointing exactly what was making me hesitate is difficult. Courses aren’t that expensive. The teaching space isn’t too far away. Maybe it was my lack of spoken Finnish that was holding me back? Perhaps. There might have also been the reticence to make art in front of other adults. Again, perhaps.

Well, all of these fears were unfounded. I took a three day course called Japanese Boxes. And I it was wonderful. Even with my severely limited Finnish language skills.

Learning something new and brushing-up on skill sets:

Many years ago, I took a course book binding while I was a student at the Herron School of Art. I loved it. The course dovetailed nicely into my graphic design major. We used one of Keith Smith’s books as a text and had a lot of fun playing with the concept of what really was a book. It got my creative mind working in all kinds of different directions. This was just the first step for me regarding story-telling through visual art.

From some of the books I read about book binding, I also learned how to create clamshell book boxes. These types of boxes are great for all kinds of things besides books. They’re great places to store photos, drawings, prints, etc. Really, anything fragile. The types of clamshell boxes I learned to make were archival as well.

So in taking this particular course at Taitokeskus, I wasn’t a total newbie. But I was in no way any kind of expert on the subject either. A lot of time had passed since I had done any type of artwork this. And my exact memories of how to do the work were quite faded.

Getting me outside of my own head:

There are very few people that I have enjoyed creating art with. I tend to work on my own most of the time. Creating the artwork that I do is a very therapeutic activity for me. Going inward and entering a flow state is an integral part of my personal creative process. So, taking an arts course in which I would be required to stay present for the instruction and interactions with fellow students was going to be different for me.

The studio that we worked in was neat, tidy and well kept. Tools and materials were abundant. All students had their own areas in which to work. There were tables set up for different stages of the box creating process as well. The instructor was clear in her directions, as well as being very attentive to each of her students.

This physical environment made it so much more comfortable for me to get out of my own head and have fun in the course. There was a pleasant hum of work among the students in this course, as well as from the adjoining art studios. Children could be heard laughing. Metal workers plinking-away with tools. People in another studio working on ceramics. The building was old, but felt safe and nurturing to me. A perfect place to create artwork!

Meeting new people and using my limited FInnish language:

The entire three days of instruction was done in Finnish. There were several students in the course that spoke English as well. The instructor too I believe speaks better English than she thinks she does. I’m glad that I wasn’t catered-to by the instructor language-wise. My spoken Finnish isn’t great at all. But during the class I discovered that I was understanding a great deal more of the instructions than I thought was currently possible for me right now.

There were times in which I did speak English to the students in the course. And there were chats in English while working or eating lunch as well. Anyone who thinks of Finns as being stereotypically quiet and reserved has never really spent any time with them. There were jokes and laughter just like any workshop/creative space I’ve ever been in!

Why did I take this course?

Part of the reason that I decided to sign-up for the Japanese box course at Taitokeskus is because of the art show I have coming up in January 2021. My artwork will be hanging on the wall. I thought that learning some new techniques around the creation of boxes would be useful.

Many of the pieces that I’m designing have a shadow-box or diorama kind of feel to them. I didn’t want to simply create the same sort of box over and over again for several different pieces of art. Creating a variety of different types of boxes for my artwork is a way in which I can make each separate piece distinct and unique. If I made the same sort of shadow-box/diorama seven times over, the artwork would look rather boring I think.

And, like I said, I like learning new things. Adding to my personal repertoire of art tools, materials and techniques.

Now what?

Well, I think I need to remember that I need to get out more. Covid has kind of monkey-wrenched many types of activities. I need to remember that being away from my own artwork, learning something new, meeting new people, all while getting to practice my Finnish language skills are all incredibly important for me to take full advantage of when I can.

Thank you for reading, and I will see you again next Monday.

Links: Taitokeskus Jyväskylä

Tuula Moilanen, she wrote the book Kirjansidonnan Opas (1997) that was used by the instructor of the course I took. It’s in Finnish, but even if you don’t speak the language, there are great illustrations to reference.

Keith Smith has written a lot of great books about book binding if the Finnish language is a bit daunting for you. Every one of them is excellent! Volume 1, Non-Adhesive Binding: Books without Paste or Glue is a great place to start.