What is the first thing you think about when you think of fiber arts and spinning? I bet its not mentorship! But perhaps it should be. Mentorship is one of the real driving forces behind the resurgence of fiber arts since the 1970s. Even with the advent of specialty publications and the internet, skills are still passed down from person to person.
Mentorship benefits the mentee.
This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. A mentor provides guidance in areas a mentee may be unfamiliar with, but the relationship is more than giving and receiving information. A mentor can provide a point of stability in the learning process. Have you ever seen someone try something new independently and give up quickly out of frustration? A mentor provides vision, a sense of history, and a shared experience for their mentee. Outside of troubleshooting problems, it is just as important to know someone else has made it through those same problems and come out the other side. Mentors can help boost self-confidence and provide mentees with a broader scope of how their new skills fit into the larger fiber arts world.
Mentorship benefits the mentor!
As a mentor, you benefit from the relationship as well. Not only do you get the sense of satisfaction from helping another individual grow into their new skill set, you also grown your own communication skills and your practical skills. By learning how to communicate fiber arts concepts, you reinforce your own knowledge of the skills. It is also beneficial to have insight into newer artists, as it can expose you to new trends and current issues in the community.
Mentorship benefits the community!
Mentorship strengthens the fiber arts community overall. It shows the outside world that the community members are invested in the community and that the community holds value. Mentorship fosters leadership skills in its members and promotes growth and mastery of skills. It encourages community members to develop a deeper sense of expertise. It also promotes healthy community and cooperation between community members through networking and social investment.
Am I the right person to be a mentor?
You don’t have to be perfect to be a mentor! Let’s be honest, there’s not one among us who can claim to know everything there is to know about spinning (they might claim it, but they’re wrong and probably a pretentious jerk). It is okay to tell your mentee that you don’t know the answer to a question. It may be a great opportunity to look it up together. It is okay to fail at something, just be honest with your mentee that it didn’t turn out the way you expected. Let them learn from your mistakes, too!
You do need to be prepared to admit when you’re wrong. Not only do you want to set a good example for your mentee, but you want to provide them with the most accurate information you can. This goes along with “let them learn from your mistakes.”
Mentorship doesn’t have to happen in a formal setting. Mentorship can happen anywhere. It can happen at knit night. It can happen in an online chat forum. It can happen in your living room. It isn’t about engaging in a formal teaching situation. Its about developing a relationship with another person and helping them develop, whether it is teaching new skills, honing existing ones, or providing encouragement.
Anyone can be a mentor. Here is the trick. Be aware of what you can personally bring to the mentoring relationship. Do you have a particular skill the mentee can benefit from? In many cases, it is the mentee who will come to you and they do so because they see something of value that you can offer them. It could be a person who sees you spinning for the first time and asks you to show them. It could be an experienced spinner who values your knowledge of art yarn. Whatever the case, we can all help those who seek us out.