Over the last year I taught many block printing workshops to tech teams all over Silicon Valley, and what I loved most about teaching the workshops was watching the teams transformation from skeptics - can we as engineers really make this print thing? Will this even be fun? To pure excitement and pride look what we created, this is so awesome, I can’t believe we made this by hand! To get to this excited state the team always had to go through frustration and embracing imperfection. Imperfection is not tolerated very well at work and perfection is the standard - design, code, marketing, sales pitches - all need to be perfect to succeed.
In block printing imperfection is unavoidable, expected and must be embraced. You can’t ‘un-carve’ a block and so for my workshops, everyone that made a mistake had to learn to embrace it and be ok with it.
Every class follows the same process: sketch out designs on paper, transfer the design to rubber blocks, carve the rubber blocks, then with paint print the blocks on cards or clothe. I watched each team go through phases of skepticism, frustration, focus and finally surprise and excitement.
At the beginning of the workshop I would explain the block printing process and I would see confusion, doubt, and a little resistance on everyone’s face. I knew this was a good sign because it meant that the rewards would be even better at the end of the class.
Imperfection and Frustration
The class started with everyone sketching a design they would like to carve and print. I don’t allow the class to spend more than 15-20 min on the design. This is the part when people got precious about drawing the perfect design and started to stress when it was time to move on to carving - designers were the worst ;-). I really encouraged everyone not to worry and pushed them along. It is ok not to feel perfect.
Once everyone started carving their block, frustration and imperfection hit people right in the face as they inevitably would make a ‘wrong’ carve. And those ‘mistakes’ would forces people to either embrace the imperfection or work around it and tweak the design on the fly. There was no starting over.
After the first few carving mistakes and getting the hang of carving the room would suddenly go silent. This was the turning point of the workshop when people started to get into the flow and really focus on carving their block. I could see everyone relax and start to enjoy the process. Carving has a very meditative quality.
Surprise and Excitement
Finally it is time to print! I would always demo the print process, and when I would pick up the first print I would always hear an “ahh” as everyone suddenly understood the magic and beauty of block printing. Printing also brings a second wave of frustration, it takes practice to have the right amount of paint and apply the right amount of pressure to get the perfect print. Block printing does not produce exact prints, and each print is a little different, a little imperfect. I encouraged lots of practice and as everyone started to understand the nuances of printing. Soon everyone started admiring each other's prints, admiring their work, imperfections and all. Smiles and pride was all around, it was an amazing to watch and facilitate the transformation.
Being able to share my love of block printing but more importantly taking a team through this challenging creative process is so rewarding. In a time when we work on the computer all day - every day and need to make sure everything create is perfect it is so healthy to take time away from the screen and make something with your hands.
Does your team need to get away from the computer, and create something unique together? I am booking block printing workshops for 2018. Visit my website to learn more or email me at Courtney@courtneybeyerdesign.com or complete this form.
I would love to help guide your team through a block printing workshop and see what we can create together!