Sometimes, we build up goals and long-term objectives in our minds or even on paper, but we fail to review and reconsider the items on these lists as the years go by. For me, attaining an official “master spinner” status was one such intention, and one I’d put off.
I told myself this was because of my indecision over which program to attempt—the Handweavers Guild of America’s (HGA) Certificate of Excellence (COE) in Handspinning or the Olds College Master Spinner Program. I recently spent hours comparing both programs and my reasons for wanting to commit to one, only to realize just how much I’ve changed—and dare I say accomplished—in the past number of years. To my surprise, I discovered my goals had changed, too.
I fully support such continuing and/or specialized education in the fibre arts industry. We need to uphold consistent and high standards across the craft, so I want these programs to stay in business. They bring education to many. However, I now finally understand the stern advice I was given years ago while interviewing an HGA Level I COE holder for an article I was working on. She warned me to do a great deal of soul-searching before committing to such an enormous effort, as my reward would likely be far more personal than professional. In other words, there’s more than one way to attain advanced learning and an ongoing career in the fibre arts, and I was already on a strong path toward my goal. Did I need to put in four to six years of all-encompassing work just to prove this to myself?
At the time, I was unfazed. Today, however, I can say, “Actually… not at this moment.” I am perfectly content with who I already am professionally: author and writer of spinning-themed content, fibre arts educator, and ever-evolving handspinner. My background in long-form journalism, combined with on-the-job learning while writing technical spinning-themed articles and web posts for industry publications and websites, has afforded me a rare opportunity to study topics such as the woollen to worsted spectrum, supported and suspended spindling, blending of fibres, and much more. I continue to delve into the topics that interest me even now.
If you’re considering going for your own advanced certification in handspinning, here are some questions to ask yourself:
- How will you support yourself financially during the expected four to six years of deep study (and can you afford to pay for the testing materials, tuition, travel, and miscellaneous costs associated with the classes)? Besides the tuition of approximately $300–$500 (USD) per level of study (there are two levels in the HGA program and six in the Olds program), there are other costs you may not have thought about. These include purchase or rental of materials, tools, and equipment you don’t own and may not be able to borrow, postage for mailing your many samples back and forth for grading, travel costs (which can be extensive, depending on the program you choose), and the likelihood of lost income as you focus on your education.
- Do you have ample support within your household? You may have children, a partner, aging parents, pets (or all!) who depend on you. You and yours will need extra support while you take on your master spinner studies.
- Are you self-motivated? Preparing your qualifying samples and accompanying written work and doing so in time for the exam dates is paramount to successful completion in as little time as possible.
- What if you don’t pass the test the first time? These courses are challenging. The HGA has awarded fewer than 50 Level I COEs since the program’s inception in the 1980s (according to the HGA’s current website). Failing grades are not uncommon. Would you be able to accept that you’ve still learned a great deal through the pursuit of certification itself, or would you feel the need to re-take the course level? If the latter, factor this into your time and cost analysis.
- Why do you want this designation? Be honest with yourself about this one. If the title of “master spinner” lures you, that’s okay. If you want to learn the technical ins and outs of handspinning from an industry-standardized point of view, that’s perfect. If you’re seeking certification to enter the industry in some professional capacity, this is respectable, though not always necessary.
Other means of studying the craft of handspinning could include joining a spinning guild, working with an experienced mentor, and taking in-person and/or online classes from trusted instructors. Don’t forget about the myriad of books and publications on spinning topics, which are another valuable resource for those wishing to improve their knowledge and grow their skills. (The HGA has a vast bibliography of recommended resources to review.)
So, how about you? How do you learn best and have you looked at your own spinning goals lately? Let us know in the comments below, or in the School of SweetGeorgia forums!