Updated: Aug 21, 2022
In my opinion the year begins in September, not January. We go back to school. New beginnings and so much to anticipate. So let me sharpen my pencil and begin.
I taught college as an adjunct professor for 28 years, and loved it. I always thought at some point I would start teaching, then a theatre acquaintance recommended me to take over her costume (fashion) history class, and so it began. I have a masters degree in theatrical costume. It was completely natural. The next semester I inherited a textile science class. I was in heaven! Teaching became my full time job. For a while I taught at two and sometimes three schools at a time.
I was qualified to teach art, interior (furniture), and costume history, textiles, and a few other technical classes, so there was always a class to teach. I was looking for a tenure track position, but they were, and still are very hard to come by in Boston. Professors teach until they die. So in 1992 I gave up the idea, and started Very Eclectic Clothing. I cut my classes back to only two or three week. That was all I could handle.
But teaching was great! It got me out of my head. After spending a day cutting a couple dozen vests it was fabulous to spend a few hours talking about the splendor of the French Rococo, or how silk is made. I didn't lecture from the same yellowed notes year after year. I researched my topics looking for new insights. We watched videos and considered mementos my students and I brought back from trips. Nothing happens in a vacuum, so to help my students better understand topics we discussed history, culture, and even geography. No matter what you are studying it helps to know where in the world it happened.
Most students said they were going to be “fashion or interior designers”. I wanted to show them that there are so many great professions they never even thought or heard of. Fashion designers couldn't do their work without these people. There are fabric designers, textile engineers, pattern-makers, colorists, trend forecasters, and the list goes on. All good jobs with nice pay-checks. I don't know how many took my advice, but it's wonderful to broaden someone's horizons, and see their minds open up to all the possibilities before them.
And what about the students? There were amazing ones. Mothers of three who were always on time with every assignment done early. Students who failed and failed, but never gave up and eventually blossomed into the best of the class. There were the overachievers who challenged me and made me a better teacher. I don't mind admitting I don't know something, or I'm wrong.
Then there were the other students. The ones who knew more than I did, and were always testing me. Some of my favorite lines were, “I don't need to know math, or how to read a ruler. I'm going to be a famous designer.” “What is the very least I can do to pass this class?” “No one else is doing the homework. Why should I?” “Spelling and punctuation aren't important anymore.” They usually didn't make it through the semester. Who knows where they are today.
Over the years, numerous students worked for me as interns or assistants at Very Eclectic. Some were great, others, not so much. A few of the best workers were terrible students, but I gave them a chance. I think they just needed a job to apply themselves. I'm still friends with many, and a few are very dear to me.
I couldn't see an end to my teaching career. That decision was made for me in 2016. There was a new director who wanted to change things. She had every right to, and I could see the writing on the wall. I was a senior instructor, but she did not like the fact that I traveled for work, and wasn't always available for extra-curricular activities. Shows never interfered with my teaching, but slowly my classes were cut from the curriculum or restructured. Then the number of classes I could teach was limited to the point it didn't make sense financially to continue. That's how it's done. They don't fire you, they just make work so difficult you will leave. At the end of the semester I explained (most of it) to my students, and left. That was it, after 28 years.
A huge part of me was taken away. It hurt for a long time, still does. Since then there have been other teaching opportunities but they didn't work with my show schedule. I'm not ready to give up Very Eclectic and just teach.
Well, now it's all different. There are virtual and in-person classes. Who knows what will happen? That sounds like such a cliché, but true. I'm just going to keep an open mind and see what happens.
Happy September, be well,
September 1, 2020