Glassmaker Rebecca Holden recently completed her AET qualification with us after teaching workshops for over ten years. She runs courses from her own hot-glass workshop in East Hoathly as well as classes in lampwork glass beadmaking at Surrey Jewellery School and London Jewellery School. We loved teaching Rebecca and we were thrilled when she shared her teaching journey with us…

What do you teach?
I teach the captivating craft of lampwork glass bead making. In my business I create artisan glass beads at the torch flame which I sell to jewellery designers to use in their own projects, and I also teach people how to make them. In the ‘Let Fire Inspire’ workshop I melt rods of glass at the torch flame, winding the resulting liquid glass around a steel mandrel and shaping it in the flame to make unique glass beads, one at a time.

The fact that they will be manipulating hot glass using a torch flame can initially sound intimidating to students, but it’s a craft which is very direct and ‘in the moment’, and my students are very successful in creating their own collection of beautiful beads from scratch.

Who do you teach?
I teach a diverse range of students – from jewellery-makers who are interested in making their own component parts for their pieces to people who are interested in a very ‘different’ kind of crafting experience to those they have experienced before. I teach adults and teenagers. Most of my teaching is on a one-to-one basis, but I do also take groups – so for instance if a group of up to four friends would like to come together, that works very well. In my teaching so far I have not often run courses where I group together people who don’t know each other, but I am working very hard towards making the next step in my teaching.

Where and when do I teach?
I teach in my own hot-glass workshop in East Hoathly, East Sussex, where I have all the necessary tools and equipment (of which there is a good deal!) installed. I have also taught classes in lampwork glass beadmaking at Surrey Jewellery School and London Jewellery School – and I have even taught the very course on which I learned the craft myself fifteen years ago! Courses are scheduled according to student demand – it is simply a case of synchronising diaries. I am working towards running courses of four weekly sessions, which will be scheduled and marketed in advance.

How did you get started?
I’ve been teaching this craft since 2006, and it’s been a fabulous journey. At a sales event where I was selling my beads I was asked by a customer, ‘Do you teach people how to make these?’. Before I could draw breath to say ‘No, I’m sorry’, my glamorous assistant said ‘Yes she does – when would you like to come?’, so that was it, really! I started by working out the steps that I use to do what I do, and took it from there. I’ve changed and evolved what and how I make beads and teach beads many times over the years, and am always looking for ways to improve my students’ – and my own! – experience. In fact I learn a huge amount from my students, which is a real privilege!

What was your experience of the AET course?
I  found it incredibly rewarding and I have already been putting into practice the skills and techniques I have learned. I’ve now got the confidence to work on devising and scheduling longer courses on an ongoing basis, and I’ve had reassurance that I haven’t been doing too badly in my (amateur) teaching career so far! I have many years of experience and expertise in the subject I am teaching, and take every opportunity I can to add to my own skills in the craft. Being taught is excellent experience for teaching!

I had looked into doing the PTLLS course back in 2006, but I just couldn’t see myself as a teacher. I found that finding my own way in teaching my craft has been very useful, but when I had the opportunity to do the AET course this year I seized it with both hands. I wasn’t doing it for the qualification per se, but for reassurance and confidence in what I hoped I was already doing in my own working and teaching practice.

What have been the highlights of your teaching journey so far?
I was thrilled to be invited back to Creative Glass in Rochester, Kent, to teach the course that I’d initially learned on eleven years previously! Due to the organisers having overbooked the course I had more students than the maximum that had been agreed, but I was delighted that I was able to handle nine students working simultaneously at their torch flames, and the outcomes for all of my students were absolutely terrific! Prior to that my maximum number of beadmaking students at any one time had been four, which is the maximum number I can accommodate in my own workshop.

And the challenges?
Feeling that I don’t have the confidence to just do it! I feel a huge responsibility to my students, and I work very hard to ensure that absolutely everyone achieves to the best of their ability. Confidence goes a long way, but has been a long time coming. I’m still very much working on that bit.

What are your top tips for other teachers in your field, or people starting out?
Practise your skill to push your own work further, so that you can be the best role model you can when teaching it. Be an active learner yourself – go on courses, watch training videos, read books about your skill – and be aware of the methods of teaching that the trainers are using to get the point across to you. Voila – a teaching skills harvest! Have the confidence to just do it! And… do a course with Danielle Lloyd (TEA founder) because she’s a genius.

What advice do you wish you’d been given when you started?
‘You can do this’. Because you can. If you have a skill or passion in something that others want to learn, and you have experience and expertise that you feel you can share, TEACH it. Not only is it incredibly rewarding, but it will embed your own skills and expertise more deeply.

You can find out more about Rebecca’s courses on her website or email her at [email protected]