Very few people come right out of college saying, “I’m going to be a quilt designer!” and begin earning a living in the quilt industry right away. Most people who call quilting their profession started out doing something else – they worked in graphic design, or accounting, or marketing – and somewhere along the way quilting crept in until, overtime, it took over completely. Still, lessons from those early jobs stick with us through all the twists and turns.
Jacquie got into quilting after seeing an exhibit of the Gee’s Bend quilts. She describes her work as modern and edgy and says her two sons, both of whom are in a heavy metal band, appreciate her quilts because of that.
Jacquie is a teacher by training and there are lessons she learned from her first teaching job that she still thinks about and uses today.
Here’s Jacquie with the story of her first job:
My first real job was as an elementary school teacher. I’m currently making my living as a quilt designer, author, and quilting instructor.
As a first year teacher I was assigned to an open concept school (a school with no walls) and into a team of four teachers who were expected to collaborate. My colleagues and students taught me more lessons than I can count during my first year and the many years to follow.
Quilt by Jacquie Gering inspired by the work of Josef Albers.
I think the best lesson that my colleagues and students taught a brash, confident young woman was that I didn’t know much. I found out the first step to learning how to be competent is admitting how much you don’t know and learning to ask the right questions, listen and learn from those who have the experience, the skills and the perspectives that you don’t have.
With no walls, my successes and failures in the classroom were on display for everyone to see. Being in that environment motivated me to work harder and to learn how to take feedback and not to be afraid to show my work. My colleagues and my students showed me how much I didn’t know and they helped me become a learner and develop myself. I adopted the same philosophy I taught my students: Think you can, work hard, get smarter.
Detail of Supernova II by Jacquie Gering.
I also learned about results and accountability. It really doesn’t matter how great a teacher I was, how good I was at implementing some new curriculum or whether the students liked me. It wasn’t about me; it was about my students. If they didn’t achieve and succeed, I hadn’t done my job.
My first job shaped me into the person I am today and that philosophy has carried me far. I believe in it as deeply today as I did then. Teaching is still my career; so all those lessons learned apply. I have had to and always will keep learning. I’m pretty good at what I do, but there is always more to learn and improvements to make.
Jacquie’s new book, Walk, will be published by Lucky Spool next month.
Teaching adults is very different than teaching kids and I’ve learned a whole new content area. I didn’t have the skills needed to run a small business, but I’ve worked hard to learn to establish and run a successful small business. Still learning there too!
I still see myself as an amateur in the quilting world. I’m learning from my colleagues and my students again as I develop as a designer and quilter and learn to operate a business in a new community. I am accountable to my students and those who buy my books and classes. I strive to create products and teach classes that help folks learn new skills and so they, like me can “get smarter.”
As you read these stories of first jobs I wonder what strikes you? What’s been surprising and are there any common threads?