When you teach classes you need to be prepared, obviously. But how prepared is prepared? There are so many situations that I think, ‘what if’! Okay, I do have a tendency to overthink things, hence I received this small bag as a birthday present.
With polymer clay classes, the ovens are provided. But you have never worked with them. You don’t know how well they will hold a temperature. You don’t know how big they will be. How do you accommodate multiple bakings with 10 to 20 students? You don’t know if an independent thermometer will be provided and if it is accurate (or broken). So what do you do?
Well I came up with a few ideas that helped me considerably in my recent Bead and Button classes. The first suggestion is to have an assistant to watch the ovens, run for food, help with set up and basically be an indentured servant for the event. I had one for this last event and she was wonderful. I don’t want to think about running a successful class without her help . . . . . thank you DeeDee! Okay, the other suggestions and fixes are more easily obtained. And no, I won’t share my DeeDee!
An easy fix was bringing extra oven thermometers. I do use the standard round ones that hang in the oven. But I also have external digital thermometers that work great too. It allows you to readily monitor oven temperatures without having to bend over peering into the dark to read a dial sitting in the back of the oven behind a bunch of stuff. Been there, done that!
Baking on a curve – yes, I too use the ol’ aluminum Ikea 8-inch kitchen bowl. It is a beautiful use of an existing item, that is reasonably price and readily available. BUT, in the smaller toaster ovens it doesn’t fit! However, it does comes in a smaller size (4 ¾ -inch), and now I can fit two side by side.
Baking for 12 to 16 people in two small toaster ovens is difficult due to space limitations . . . . . . even if you have two ovens! And a few of my classes, I have students work on 4×4-inch ceramic tiles that not only take up space, but are a heat sync increasing difficulties (time) getting an oven back up to temperature.
So my solution is to work on aluminum tiles that can be baked at an angle in an aluminum channel and easily conduct heat. I made the aluminum tiles from stock sold at Blick for model building, about 18 gauge. Readily available. The aluminum channel that I used is actually an extruded aluminum picket from the fencing department at a home improvement store. We (hubby) used the band saw to cut angled slots for the aluminum tiles. While we were hoping to get a maximum of 12 aluminum tiles in each baking, we could only get 10 in the oven. The last two were hitting the wall of the oven, oops. And we had to make sure to tent foil over the top, but it worked out great!
Then there are some classes that require baking on 3×5-inch cardstock or index cards. The aluminum tiles wouldn’t work, so I used sheets of decorative ventilation grates made out of aluminum, cut to the size of the oven. I could stack them with spacers in between and get two layers of polymer in one baking. The spacers were created from 1-inch sections of a 1.5-inch diameter dowel (okay, an old mop handle).
Besides baking issues to solve, I tried to think ahead regarding the kit and supplies in order to facilitate classes. For example, almost all of my classes use a liquid clay product. Up to now, I passed out little circular tins and everyone got a squirt from the bottle. Time consuming and at the end of class, these were thrown out with all the left over liquid clay. For this round of classes I found small glass vials (Munro Crafts) that allowed me to kit a small amount of liquid clay for each student that could be taken home afterwards. I even encouraged them to top off their vials before they left class. Everyone was a happy camper!
And then there is the issue of shipping your supplies, usually via airline luggage. The agonizing hope and crippling finger cross that all will go well. I even typed up an emergency plan in case a bag got lost. And I always try to strengthen my odds by adding a note to the TSA inspectors. Explaining what the heck is in my bags and asking for their gentle touch when rummaging. I was so tickled when I actually got a response . . . . in writing!!
So I thought I would share these few ideas with you . . . . they have helped me out a lot and I sure hope they help out someone else! Remember . . . . sometimes it is the little things!!