Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Why Certification?

So far this summer I've had the privilege to teach 3 certification classes, and am looking forward to two more before the end of the year. Certification was an idea conceived by Mitsubishi Materials (the manufacturers of PMC) in the 90's to make sure that this new material was understood and used properly. PMC Connection created it's own Certification Program with projects tailored to American artisans. Over the years the program has grown and changed as new products have been introduced and the possibilities with metal clay designs have become more sophisticated. The time has come, again, to start thinking about re-designing the program to take advantage of new developments.

With all of the education available online, at large bead shows, at unique retreats, and at local venues, some of you may wonder if metal clay certification is still relevant. Originally, certification came with a substantial discount and membership in the PMC Guild. With the loss of the Guild (and the fabulous publications it put out), and the skyrocketing price of silver (and the shrinking discount), what are the benefits of learning new techniques in this format rather than the thousands of other opportunities?

In my experience, beginning skills are only taught locally with some techniques being shared via YouTube by a variety of makers. Sometimes local classes aren't available in a given community, and new users are forced to self teach, basically reinventing the metal clay wheel. Certification offers an opportunity to learn a variety of basic techniques in two to three days from an expert who is committed to your growth.

PMC Connection has designed three levels that guide the student as their confidence, design aesthetic, and technical proficiency progresses. Certification doesn't qualify one to teach, doesn't make one a great artist - only time, practice, and dedication can do that. What you get (in addition to a small discount) is an intense, one on one, standardized learning experience. Projects are evaluated, and advice offered when appropriate. I know that in my classes, I try to encourage students to put their own twist on each project - to push past their comfort zone to create work that looks professional, is well constructed and finished, and that demonstrates a level of forethought and consideration in design. Although the project designs have been pre-established, students are allowed to add details to make each piece their own. I've never seen two projects that looked alike. In a class, you're able to look at the teachers fingers as they work, noticing little tricks that they might not be consciously aware of. Every instructor has their own way of doing things, and the intimate setting of a certification class is the perfect environment to absorb all sorts of valuable techniques.

Although certification instructors may not be able to travel to your location, most are willing to schedule one on one classes at your convenience. To find a teacher near you, visit the PMCC website and click on the Education links.

What are your thoughts on the certification program? Why do you think it is or isn't valuable in this day and age?  We'd love to hear your feedback!

Posted by Lora Hart 
Artistic Advisor

2 comments:

Caroline said...

Thank you Lora for this statement about the certification programs. I totally agree with you: in the end, they really save you lots of time of trial and mistakes...
And they give you some solid information, mixed with the personal experience of the teacher.

I love to teach certification classes!

Shannon Santanocito said...

I enjoyed taking my certification 1 and 2 class with Lora and am so glad I did. I learned some valuable foundations that I would not have learned on my own. Not to mention the energized creative energy felt when working with fellow learners and clayers!