06 November 2013

Trade School Singapore: I (heart) you!

"Trade School celebrates practical wisdom, mutual respect, and the social nature of exchange."

One week ago today, I had the most-fun-ever teaching! (EVER, EVER, EVER, EVER!!!) I taught a class with Trade School Singapore. Have you ever heard of Trade School

A couple of years ago, I heard about Trade School through some friends in NYC. From the about section on the original New York site, Trade School describes itself as: "an alternative learning space that runs on barter. Anyone can teach a class, and students can sign up for classes by agreeing to bring barter items that the teacher requests. Trade School has hosted classes on everything from squatting the condos (in exchange for a kombucha mother and research help) to making butter (in exchange for herbs and music tips)."

Trade School Singapore was starting up their second season, and I wanted on board. So I proposed my Parade Arts workshop to jumpstart the season. I was so excited when they accepted my course and set me up to teach this two-hour workshop at Ecosystem where I had previously helped Handmade Movement host a craft party.

Secretly? I was most excited about making up my list of barter items. I mean, I totally think that teachers should be paid in real money. Money that can pay for clothing, shelter, and food. But there's something really creative and fun about putting together a barter list. It's like making a wish list at Christmastime. So I thought about all of the things in Singapore that I like to do: drink wine, eat Indian food, and check out new places. I also like to share things that I know and I love to make things out of fabric--A LOT! So my barter list looked something like this: "a gift certificate for Indian Food, a bottle of wine (red or white), a tour of your favorite place in Singapore, a bag of scrap fabric, something made by hand, enthusiasm for posting pictures from this class (#cakecrushtss), and a willingness to share with others what you learned."

Trade School Singapore only posts classes on their website 48 hours in advance to the class starting. So I was sitting on pins and needles, wondering if my class would fill up. And sure enough: by about 4pm on Wednesday afternoon, my class was filled to the top with 12 bright-eyed and bushy-tailed students. 

12 students checking off and promising to bring a variety of items on my wish list! Woo hoo!

My first student showed up to Ecosystem right on time and rambled up the 3 flights of tiny, skinny shophouse stairs with three huge bags stuffed full with gorgeous Malaysian fabric scraps . . . For me!! I was so excited, I started tearing up. What an incredible gesture! Then she turned around and pulled 2 bottles of wine out of her backpack. I was beyond amazed! How gracious!

Then the other students started arriving . . . And they were all just as thoughtful! Some of them were taking pictures to post later on, some of them promised to share ideas from the class with friends, and one couple promised Indian food. Eeegads! This was WAY better than being paid real monies!

I started the class off with an introduction to my work and some brief statements about why I think it is important to activate public space through parades and performance-based works. I showed several slides of the Parade Arts camp that I taught at the University School of Nashville in 2012. And I gave out a PDF of my lesson plan with links to visit and a supply list, as well as my business card in case they needed to contact me later on. I usually try and show 4 links of parades that I find inspiring. However the internet wasn't cooperating with my Mac, so I thought I would embed my two favorites here . . . 

In thinking about Second Line Parades combined with the massive rains that happen in Singapore, I thought it would be fun to have everyone build onto and reconstruct umbrellas. Prior to class, I had set up two tables with an assortment of materials. So after my brief presentation, I told everyone it was time to play . . . Get started!

Sewing and drawing and googly eyes.

A cat umbrella designed by--um--Kat . . . She even posted the following on Instagram. It just might be the most complimentary thing anyone has ever said about me: "I didn't get a chance to tell you this, but I did a four month school exchange in Austin, Texas and you reminded me so much of the people there. Keep Austin Weird!" Yeah! Finally somebody gets me!

Patterns and shapes and graphic lines.

This couple was hilarious . . . They flipped their umbrella upside down and created a little stormy ocean scene: featuring clouds with eyeballs, lightening, and origami birds and boats.

Above: an umbrella where the rain falls down from inside of the umbrella, rather than on the outside of the umbrella. Below: a lovely little hat, created by Dawn.

Shapes and patterns, similar to that featured on the merry maker's shirt!

Our class photo . . . 

Closed up tight, for travel home: good things inside!

Classes like this one are really important to me. I enjoy teaching them, but they also help me remember how important creativity and play are. I think I've grown to expect it when I teach kids. It's easier for them to naturally play and get excited about color and experimentation. But I forget that most adults might not come into contact with any sort of creative problem solving or artistic play for days at a time, sometimes even weeks. I think it's just as important for adults to play and think creatively as it is for young people. And classes like this help to make that possible.

After teaching ended (around 10pm), the Trade School team took me out to dinner at Zam Zam's. I was completely floored by Murtabak. So, so good! It was a fabulous way to end an incredible night of teaching and meeting new friends! FURTHER CRAFT! GO MAKE FUN! 

Side Note: The couple mentioned above--the upside down umbrella makers--bartered Indian food. And instead of giving me a gift certificate, they took me out to dinner on Monday night. It was an amazing experience! Incredible food in a festive and colorful restaurant!! And we ate so, so much! It was a really fun dinner: lots of laughing and learning about one another . . . See you again soon, Joel and Pam! Loved that you could join us, Weiyan! Super fun!


  1. weiyan / trade school singaporeNovember 7, 2013 at 2:02 AM

    trade school singapore hearts you toooo!!!!!!

  2. thank you for sharing your passion with us! :-)