Tom teaching crochet.

Croshare at Site Festival 2016 – What did Tom think?

I love putting a hook and some yarn in the hands of a complete beginner. You can see this perfect balance of excitement and fear in their eyes as they wonder if they’ll ever be able to make something that resembles what they see in books or on the Internet. Picking up my own hook and yarn again for the second Croshare event since the project was conceived in 2013 made me feel as though I were learning how to be an artist again for the first time; I was excited and nervous in equal measure as each participant came through the door, and wondered what I would learn as I taught them how to crochet.

I must admit to being more than a little surprised with one of the recurring outcomes of each session in which I teach someone how to crochet, whether this has been part of Croshare or not. Every person I teach has commented on how patient I am with them as they get to grips with the hook and yarn, learning how to make increasingly complicated series of loops and pass these through one another in increasingly complicated patterns, and managing balance, friction and tension as I chirp instructions and advice in one ear as the room’s conversation pummels its way into the other. A significant number of those I teach are accustomed to irritation, frustration and, on occasion, anger from their teachers if they don’t ‘get’ something straight away, or if something has to be repeated for their benefit.

They’re genuinely surprised at my patience and, each and every time, I’m genuinely surprised at their surprise. I want to ask if they came to Croshare thinking that I would huff and puff if they made one chain too many on a foundation row, or accidentally split their yarn with their hook as they wrap the yarn around it ready to make a treble crochet stitch. Were they expecting to be told that, if they didn’t get it straight away, they should put down the hook and yarn and take up staring out a window as a hobby instead?

Croshare is, principally, about learning and teaching – about knowledge exchange and transfer. From what I’ve seen, and what I’ve experienced, we’re being pressured to acquire a great deal of information and skill in a very short amount of time, often in ways that ignore the unique abilities, aptitudes and attitudes of each individual learner, and in ways that fail to recognise and exploit the contribution to the teaching process that each learner makes, whether they’re conscious of this or not. I’m conscious of the need to adapt how I teach to each person I teach in order to guarantee the same result. This might mean that that an atypical method is used, or that a ‘traditional’ or ‘authentic’ technique has to be adapted to suit someone because of any given set of circumstances.

This has meant a unique teaching approach for each learner – and then watching them share the results of this process with one another, where each person’s unique experience of learning – and being taught – crochet becomes something else, changing with each discussion related to this, each minute spent watching someone else’s hands with a hook and some yarn, listening to the way(s) they were told how to do something. Eventually, through practice, each person will find a way that works best for them. I’d love somehow to catch up with these people at this time and see how different their practice is from how I taught them – and what they could teach me.

I guess that leaves me wondering what I’ll learn from the next Croshare event!

As an aside, and as I recently wrote on my personal blog: From a personal creative perspective, it was nice to experience the results of my creative efforts in person. Typically, what I do is confined to a physical or digital page, or a small object; it was nice to be immersed in the act of creativity. It made me think about the way I interact with and experience my creativity – perhaps if I focused more on the process rather than on the product of that, I will in fact be more productive when it comes to my other creative endeavours.

And, as you can clearly see from this delightful photograph taken most unexpectedly, it was also nice to put down my hook and yarn and stuff my face at the end of the day with delicious, delicious cupcakes.

Tom eating a cupcake.

All photography © Dan McDermott

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