Workshop Etiquette

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While ‘surfing the internet’ the other day, I stumbled upon this great blog post by Amber George, who lives in California.  I found it filled with great advice for workshop participants, from the organizers point-of-view.  Although her post is focused on art, I believe her advice can be applied to almost any ‘camp’ or ‘workshop’ experience.  I contacted Amber to ask if she would mind sharing her information as a guest blogger… and she happily agreed.  Please enjoy Amber’s post and feel free to leave comments for her here, or visit her website and thank her for sharing.

Enjoy Amber’s post:

… “I am getting ready to teach a two-day monotype workshop this weekend.  I have five students so it will be a nice small group, leaving me plenty of time to really help each person and maybe even pull a few prints myself.  I’ve taken dozens of workshops over the years along with leading workshops in a variety of subjects, and it occurred to me that there is an unspoken set of rules that apply to workshops that is seldom talked about.  So here’s what I think is important to keep in mind if you are taking a workshop, chime in if you think of one I miss.

1. Be on time, even 10 minutes early, but don’t be late.  Nothing is worse for me than feeling like that last student or two will walk in the door any minute, so I’ll hold off on starting. At some point I have to weigh starting without someone and wasting the time of the students who were on time.  Plus, once I am in the groove it’s hard to go back and catch someone up.

2. Don’t show up too early and expect to have the instructors undivided attention. This happens fairly often for me. I have students that show up 45 minutes before the start of the workshop, excited to start the workshop, filled with enthusiasm and I really appreciate the positivity. But honestly, I am trying to get everything in it’s place so that I can effectively teach and students have everything that they need to have a successful first day.  As much as I’d love to sit and chat, I can’t.

3. Be prepared to share.  In a workshop situation, I supply a generous quantity of what I think students will need and want but I don’t always have enough on hand for everyone to have one of everything.  Usually people end up sharing and while it’s not always a problem, if you are used to having something all to yourself, bring it. And if you have something that you’d like to share with others, you’ll earn the appreciation of your fellow students.

4. Be tolerant of other personalities. Every once in a while, someone comes to class and they don’t want to play nice. Whether they are pushy, bossy, politically incorrect or a slob, sometimes you have to look the other way. As an instructor, I try to deal with the offenders quietly and privately to see if I can moderate their behavior, for instance pointing out that their stuff is crowding someone else’s workspace. Grin and bear it if you can.

5. Label your personal things. I hate at the end of the workshop trying to figure out which brayer is mine and which is yours, and it happens more than you think. So mark your tools like scissors, brushes, x-actos and anything else that you bring so that we can tell them apart at the end of the workshop.

6. Avoid controversial topics. Try not to bring up issues that are controversial like politics and religion. While I find that most people that take workshops are open minded and well informed, you never know when someone in the room really believes that they were abducted by aliens, and they have the marks to prove it.  I am not saying be fake, just bear in mind that it can make it awkward to have these conversations go awry. And for the record, I neither believe nor disbelieve in alien abduction, just in case someone who took a ride on a space ship wants to take my workshops. wink.

7. Clean up after yourself. I know, this seems really silly to have to mention this to adults but it’s true.  Enough said.

Those are the things that I think a workshop participant should keep in mind when they take a workshop. I really love teaching workshops. I have developed friendships with many people who have taken my classes over the years. Teaching helps me be a better artist too, watching people create and solve problems, and as the Chinese proverb so wisely states, “When one teaches, two learn.” …”

Please visit Amber’s blog at

Amber’s Biography:

Amber George is a painter and printmaker. Her work is informed by her observations of nature.  Whether in her garden or on a sailboat, her eye is keen to search out shapes and patterns in nature. Growing up in California, she studied art from an early age.  She spent her summers around her family in the Midwest, where family vacations were spent camping, gardening, horseback riding in the Rockies and being outside.   She attributes these experiences to her profound love of nature and plants.

Amber George received her BA in Fine Art from UCLA in 1994 where she studied with some of the most notable contemporary artists in Los Angeles. Her work has received attention from writers and gallery owners alike. In 2008 she had a solo show, Roots and Branches, at the Museum of the Southwest in Midland Texas. Her painting Parasol Landscape was featured in the 2008 book Embracing Encaustic written by Linda Womack. She currently shows her work in galleries across the US.

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