Sorry to disappoint, but...

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2007-10-22 05:28:54
Last week one of our people passed along an angry email she’d gotten from the head of a teaching program. We’d had to decline his request for free glass. “I understand that you are strictly ‘business’, we will have to reconsider our alliance,” he wrote. In spite of his teachers having requested Bullseye for their classes, he made it clear that his program “… will be going with another company.” Devil Sam Strictly business. The sinister, money-driven devil percolating at the heart of Bullseye. Bullseye receives hundreds of requests for donations each month, most soliciting glass for classes. The donation requests far exceed anything that a small business can afford. We do offer preferential pricing to schools (as we did to this one) and provide educational materials at no charge. But we can’t always give to the degree that is requested. Besides not having limitless resources, we also want to be confident that if and when we donate, the teacher using Bullseye really knows the material. Minimally, we expect that someone teaching with Bullseye regularly uses it in his/her own work. Klaus at Pilchuck Why is this guy teaching with Bullseye? Strange but true, Klaus Moje - when he teaches - teaches with the glass he knows and uses in his own work. No glass is magic by itself. We are proud that ours is used brilliantly by countless numbers of world-caliber artists in their work. We run a gallery that represents only the tip of this iceberg. We donate regularly to a lot of programs, that include many of the best in the world, from North Lands to UrbanGlass to Pilchuck and beyond. Nevertheless, at times we have to decline donation requests from even the best. Sometimes it is simply the sheer volume of material being requested (“Does every student really need $200 worth of glass for your workshop?”) But more and more it’s because we haven’t seen evidence that the teacher is familiar enough with our glass to provide the level of instruction that we believe students deserve. Tom teaching Home grown. One way to be sure of the caliber and content of teaching is to grow our own. Bullseye trains a specialized staff in the technical aspects of working and teaching with our glass. Any glass is only as good as the teacher. That is not to say that all glass is equal. Good glass used in workshops taught by an unqualified instructor looks as bad or worse than a lesser glass in the hands of a teacher who is experienced with its idiosyncrasies. The best artists and teachers know that no glass is magic by itself. It is the combination of the material and their experience with it that forms the basis of good teaching. We are not looking for programs to use Bullseye instead of glass from “another company” just so students will be exposed to Bullseye. The exposure that we are looking for – and that the student deserves – is a good education in which our glass is one element. Steve & Jane Two of the best in the field. Don't misunderstand. We don't think that teachers can only be grown at Bullseye. Remarkable teaching artists are out there: Steve Klein and Jane Bruce teach regularly in many international programs and at some of the best US teaching studios like Vitrum in Maryland and Helios in Texas. Unfortunately, we cannot take someone else’s word that “our teachers are perfectly qualified – they came out of XYZ school program.” We need to see evidence either in their work or – better still – by their having attended one of our regularly scheduled teacher training programs. Teachers’ Forum Getting the dirt at BE. Erik takes a forum of visiting educators from around the world through some basic coldworking methods. Sadly, this news sometimes irritates – as it did the writer of last week’s email who felt our suggestion that his instructors attend a teachers' forum at Bullseye was unreasonable. To get an angry letter from the head of a program we have previously supported (when the workshops were led by artists we know), saddens me. The last thing we want to do is to burn bridges. But if we are concerned about the foundations of that bridge, better that it burns than a student gets burned by it. BTW, in over two decades of watching glass programs, I have only twice contacted a school to personally question the qualifications of its kiln-glass teachers. One of those times was to alert a school program that they’d hired an instructor whose history of giving incompetent technical advice (in addition to using false identities on Internet bulletin boards) was well-known in kiln-glass circles. Ironically, last week’s angry email, assuring us of the high qualifications of his program’s instructors, came from the head of that same program. Ted over the edge BE Director of R&E ambushing teachers at 58th parallel. No, we don't know everyone who is teaching, who is doing it well or not. But our people go to extreme lengths to find the best - existing and potential - and to make available to them more than just free glass. Finally, we are not omniscient. I know that there are exceptional artists and teachers that have not yet come onto our radar. In the meantime, we have to work from our own experience. If YOU know of an artist who uses Bullseye and whose teaching is also exceptional (the two do not always go together), please let us know.