My studio practices have changed drastically due to the Covid19 pandemic. Like everyone else, finding my path as an artist and instructor has been fraught with uncertainty. My teaching had ground to a halt as the world locked down. I had time to sleep, rest, cycle, chef, garden and think. Think a lot. Really think a lot about how, after 40 years in this industry, and 11 years on the road teaching, am I going to move forward.
I have been teaching private workshops in my personal studio for 25 years. I have taught group workshops all over the US for over 15 years, which I will not be doing in person until the world is a safe place for close human to human contact once again. But....I have begun teaching again both privately and digitally, with new Covid19 protections in place.
To be honest, I’m only teaching 1 student right now in person. In order for us achieve an in person class environment in my studio presently, the student and I had to agree to a Covid19 teaching pod and I felt I had to personally meet some serious requirements in order to keep us both safe.
Negative Air Flow System (NAFS): I have had true negative air flow in my studio for over a decade. I had actually purposely designed the system years ago so I would not be subjected to many of the chemicals jewelers sometimes use in their work. We did recently adjust it for maximum outflow and power. I appreciate that most studios cannot put a NAFS in place without great cost. It was just not negotiable for me to have it in my space for teaching to reconvene.
UV Sterilization Oven (UVSO): This technology has been used in the barber and salon industry for decades. I purchased a large commercial UVSO for use to sterilize ALL typical hand tools and tiny things like burs and drills etc. These are things that are impossible to wipe down daily or after a student has used them. The oven sterilizes them in 10-15 minutes depending on how many tools are in it. Large tools like hammers and stakes, are tracked and sterilized under a separate protocol.
Large Hand Tool Tracking: I set up a separate area and in the studio for large items like hammers and stakes. The “Everything I Touched Table” is set up for hammers or hand tools that will not fit in the UVSO, to be placed after each use. These items get wiped down with 80% alcohol wipes and then a coating of REM oil (tool steel and gun oil).
Equipment Tracing: We use blue painter’s tape to mark each and every piece of large equipment used each day. So then, at the end of the day, they can be sterilized with a 10% bleach and water solution. For example if my student uses my buffing machine, she marks that with blue tape and she knows that she needs to wipe it down with the bleach solution and wipes. Tracing and tracking everything that’s touched in the studio is imperative.
Teaching Pod: This was also non negotiable. My student and I created a true teaching pod. First, we both got tested when it became available in our communities. Then we made an agreement to self-isolate and social distance so that the pod is not breeched. I understand that this is not always possible with students, especially those that care for family members or live in a household. Fortunately, my current student is single and content to stay in the pod in order to have weekly sessions. Masks are also MANDATORY at all times by all parties when in class and 6 ft distance is maintained all over the space.
6 Ft Markers: I marked 6 ft lengths from all the equipment, soldering bench, etc so that we can easily discuss issues safely while socially distanced and with masks on.
Plastic Partitions: I placed clear commercial grade plastic curtains between the benches. If I have to discuss a metalwork issue with the student, then we can safely be in close proximity of each other with plastic between us, masks on and NAFS running.
Hand Sanitizer & Alcohol Spray: Of course I supply plenty of disinfectants all over the studio and hand washing throughout the day is mandatory.
As far as group classes, those I have moved completely online. I am currently teaching digital classes for organizations like Mendocino Art Center, Sawtooth School for Visual Art, and 92nd St Y. I do not foresee returning to in person group classes until next year.
I hope this article helps any that are contemplating returning to teaching in these trying times. This too shall pass.
NC Black Co LLC