Five Reasons to Take an In-Person Class

A class from 2015 ArtFusion shows the interaction that occurs among students and instructor.

Technology has been a great educational tool for the faux-finishing community. Thanks to DVDs, on-line videos and industry forums, artists have been able to learn and share from the comfort of their homes.

But the best education doesn’t come from a computer or TV screen. It comes from face-to-face interaction and hands-on instruction—it comes from taking an in-person class.

Fortunately, our industry provides many opportunities to take classes. In addition to faux-finishing studios and manufacturers offering their own ongoing classes, there are also several industry events, such as IDAL’s upcoming convention and the second annual ArtFusion, each of which makes hands-on classes a cornerstone of their schedules.

Why should you take advantage of these classes? Here are five key reasons.

1. It’s an investment in your business.

Some finishers cite the expense of fees and travel as a reason for not taking an in-person class. However, if you take a class that puts you on a path to earn more clients, whatever money you expend can potentially come back to you many times over.

John Catalanotto and Greg Frohnapfel, owners of ProFaux, confirmed this point—and they should know. They’ve conducted more than a thousand workshops and seminars throughout the United States and the world.

“As instructors, John and I will be biased, but from our perspective there is no great substitute for hands-on instruction,” Greg says. “Early on we realized that our students’ time was valuable. Most could not afford lengthy programs or apprenticeships so we worked diligently to develop several affordable two-day, intensive traveling workshops. We would offer a few of our programs back-to-back so that those that could afford the time typically stayed longer.”

Greg concedes that it’s easy to think that a workshop and travel are too expensive. “But what about the alternative? A painter could spend months or years trying to figure out what ProFaux students are picking up in less than a week," he states. "From a time perspective, I think the payoff for workshop students is exponentially greater than suffering alone with books, videos and trial and error. Granted, some techniques will still require practice after the workshop, but practicing the right stuff is the goal."

Ellie Ellis teaches classes in bas relief.

2. Live, interactive instruction is much more impactful.

“Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing,” according to the American R&B classic. And certainly that’s a key advantage of an in-person class. The instruction is right there in front of you, happening in real time, with real products and real interaction.

Ellie Ellis, CMS, owner of Elite Artistry, teaches classes on relief, and she stresses that the live instruction is vital. “When it comes to taking a class on relief, especially if you have never done relief before, it is important to actually get to see, touch and feel the relief,” she says. “Also, in working/mixing the plasters and concrete you get to actually know the right consistencies of how it is supposed to feel and move.”

Taking a class in person gives you extra information that you would not get from an online course, Ellie adds. “When you are in a classroom and it is time to work on your piece, that is often the time when the nuances of the craft are shared rather than just the facts you would get from an online course.”

Additionally, many times a bond often forms between teacher and students. “Working with an instructor, (such as myself), you get to build a relationship, which is priceless,” Ellie says, “especially if you need help with a future project, because now you have the privilege of that personal relationship to call your instructor and ask for help.”

3. You get the opportunity to interact with other students.

Interacting with teachers is only one important connection. Students also are able to interact with one another. “For years we've enjoyed the interaction with students, watching them get excited to learn new techniques in much less time than they imagined possible,” Greg says. “They played off the energy of fellow artisans, stimulating more ideas, conversation and creativity.”

Ellie likewise sees the interaction between students as a valuable component and as a way to enhance the learning. “You get to see how other artists interpret what is being taught by the instructor, which is educational and inspiring in and of itself. Otherwise you would never get to see their work and how they did it. Being with other artists who have the passion for the craft is very inspirational and motivating.”

IDAL President Glenda Mosley, Faux Your World, agrees. “You can have new techniques and ideas spurred on through the creativity of others that you may not have thought of on your own. The tips and tricks you learn from instructors and tablemates are invaluable alone, and worth every penny of the class.”

4. You get to see—and make—live samples.

One of the most valuable aspects of a live class is being able to make and take samples. “You come home with finished boards ready to show to clients and without having to buy all the products and take extra time to create a board,” says Glenda.

Ellie likewise sees this as one of the primary benefits of an in-person class. “Unless you are highly motivated, you may never make the sample boards outside of the classroom,” shes says. “Being in a classroom affords you the time and opportunity to create and complete your samples. Plus you get constructive criticisms on your finished work. It also ends up being much less expensive, because to buy all the products to begin a sample board is very expensive, and you may overbuy.”

Henri Menendez of DeHuelbes Designs affirms the importance of having live samples in his cabinetry classes, stressing the benefit of having attendees touch and feel specific samples in conjunction with him covering the techniques required to create them.

“My favorite quote and marketing phrase is this: ‘If your cabinets don't look and feel like fine furniture, then you need the cabinet master.’ So I begin every class by passing out several samples of finished cabinet doors,” Henri explains. “It immediately makes a profound impression that can't be conveyed over the phone or through video because the attendees see exactly what is produced. It’s a level of finish that has to be touched and seen to understand the quality. They quickly see that whatever they’ve used in the past is inferior in comparison.”

5. You have socializing and networking opportunities as well.

Attending classes gives you the opportunity to meet your peers, share your life stories and experiences, and possibly even build lasting friendships and partnerships.

Greg has seen this happen time and time again in conjunction with ProFaux workshops. “Often, lunchtime or after-hours drinks and meals provided the perfect atmosphere for camaraderie and business brainstorming,” he says. “Over the years, many students kept in touch and even collaborated on projects.”

When you return home from a class, you can cement the connections you made at class by participating in Facebook groups, forums and other social media venues. That’s one long-lasting aspect of participating in live classes: the connections. The value you receive from making the effort will stay with you for the rest of your career.