Happy July, everyone! This is one of my favorite months. I’m not too fond of summer because it gets freaking hot here (100+ F) and I sunburn very easily. But it is my birthday month, so it feels like I have an obligation to love it anyways.
Before I jump into the main topic of this blog, I wanted to share some of my students’ projects. In May I ran a class in the Learn How to make French Beaded Flowers Facebook group for my succulent designs. This is a group that I run with Fen Li from the Bead Flora Studio. We devote our time and energy to create a happy, supportive community where we learn the art together. We have frequent bead-alongs. Usually Fen or I teach, but we do have guest designers from time to time as well. My Succulent class had a lot of participants. I asked people to submit images of their finished projects so I could make a slideshow to feature their work. You can view that slideshow below. These are just the projects where I was given specific permission to use the images. Many more were made.
I am so very proud of everyone for how hard they worked! Some of the techniques were a little weird, but everyone took it in stride and had a blast. I loved seeing everyone’s individual creativity in their succulents and arrangements. Some chose their own colors, some added little baby succulents in the pot, some made larger arrangements, or smaller. But there are very few things I enjoy more than seeing others use my designs. I know there are some beading designers that get annoyed when you substitute your own colors, or make additions to a design, or use it a little differently than the original, but I love it! This is art and everyone should be able to express it in their own way. Always feel free to switch up my patterns to suit your own preferences. One of my goals is to inspire other people’s creativity, not just expect everyone to make things my way. There are choices I make while designing that others won’t like, and that’s okay. Neither one of us is wrong. We’re just different artists with different preferences.
In June I added all 6 of the videos from the class to my YouTube channel, so if you missed those, please go watch them! Or you can view them on my new Video Classes page (more on that in a bit).
What is a Bead-along?
Okay, now that I’ve had the chance to show off the projects from the class I’ll start getting to the point. The main purpose of this blog post is to introduce you guys to a new section of my website, but we gotta talk about a few things first. Sorry, lots of words but I just want to be clear. I’ve been running classes/bead-alongs in a couple Facebook groups, but I’ve been getting emails and messages from people who don’t do Facebook who want to be able to participate. I appreciate those who have spoken to me about this issue kindly and respectfully. It is because of you that I am making some changes in the way I do these bead-alongs. Unfortunately there were some who felt the need to be rude or accusatory about it, and that was not appreciated.
From the emails I’ve gotten about this, there seems to be a little bit of a misunderstanding of what bead-alongs are, so I am going to be very frank and open about this so we can hopefully clear things up. A bead-along is a class or pattern offered to a group where members work on the pattern together. The first purpose of bead-alongs is to build community. They build excitement around French Beading, or beading in general. The community is the sugar on top that makes all the work I do feel fun. The best part of a bead-along is seeing everyone’s progress and then their finished projects. Especially when a student struggles, then (maybe with a little extra help) grasps the concept and succeeds. As an instructor in a group you get to watch that happen and it’s wonderful. Seeing your students encourage each other and share tips that helped them through a tricky part is wonderful. I don’t think anyone should learn from just one teacher. Everyone seems to come up with their own ways to handle techniques, different ways of moving their hands and holding wires. There’s no one way that works for everyone because our hands work differently. So for me, having that community to share those ideas gives you a more rounded education. Facebook makes it very easy to create that community aspect. There is no other platform that is quite the same.
Those who aren’t on Facebook may not realize this, but running classes in groups is also a method of advertising that is used by many beading designers. This is the second purpose of a bead-along. It’s not something we do for kicks and giggles because we have so much free time on our hands. There are pay-offs for running bead-alongs. Usually it results in more sales for the month due to extra advertising and exposure. Many participants will purchase from the designer’s shop during the month, either because they’ve found a new designer they like and want to try more designs, or as a way to say thank you for the class. There isn’t a direct payment like classes you teach at a bead shop, but an indirect one from possible sales, and the hope of future sales from new customers. Not everyone makes a purchase, but hopefully there are enough to make it worth the time you’ve spent.
The fact is that I have very little time. I get to work for maybe 2-4 hours a day, and it’s never uninterrupted. Sometimes I can squeeze in a little more, but it doesn’t add up to much when I have to share that time between beading, designing, researching, answering messages, editing photos and videos, and other aspects of running a business. I have a family with three young children (and one fluffy child), and for now we do use my income to pay some bills. The time I spend on my business takes me away from my family, and thus must benefit them in some other way. And classes take a lot of time to put together. I have provided so many free resources for the French Beading community. I do this because I want the art to grow, and I want to make learning resources easier to find and more accessible. I want to be able to teach, and I love it, but I just can’t do everything free.
Changes to how I do bead-alongs
But I do also understand wanting to participate and not being able to. It was never my intention to exclude anyone, and I’m sorry that some felt that I was being mean and unfair. After much consideration, here are the changes I will be making:
- I will no longer be teaching new designs free anywhere to anyone. All of the bead-alongs I run will be previously published designs.
- I will no longer be adding the videos from my classes to YouTube. Instead, I will use that channel for teaching techniques, short projects that are exclusive to that channel (which won’t have PDFs), book previews, and other things like the pine tree project progress series I started a few months ago. I don’t do ads on my YouTube channel because I know how annoying they are, so I only get paid from those videos if someone kindly purchases the accompanying PDF that I advertise with the videos. Many do, and I am grateful for that. But if those PDFs are free for a large portion of my customer base due to bead-alongs… that’s not much income from the work I’ve done.
- Instead of going up on YouTube, I will sell the videos along with the PDF before or after the bead-along instead of putting them on YouTube.
- I have built a new section on my website to be able to host free and paid video classes straight from my site. We will use this system to do “bead-alongs” for newsletter members. I will expound on this point below.
Right now I run bead-alongs / classes in two different Facebook groups – I am one of the two primary instructors in the Learn how to Make French Beaded Flowers group (a group I started last year and co-admin with Fen Li). I teach there 3-4 times a year. Occasionally I sign up to be a guest designer in the Seed Beads and More Facebook group – maybe once a year if I can fit it into my schedule. The groups have different rules, so I have to handle them differently on my website.
The classes that I run in the “Learn how to make French Beaded Flowers” Facebook group will also be hosted free on my website for my newsletter subscribers. My group, my rules, so I can do whatever I want with those bead-alongs. You will need to be on my newsletter list or in the group to get notifications of when these classes are happening as I will no longer be announcing them anywhere else. If you want to participate you will need to enroll in the class, which will require you to make a user profile on my website.
But we will play by the exact same rules that we have in the Facebook group.
So here’s how this will work:
- I will send out an emailed newsletter 3-4 weeks before the start of the class to announce it. This should give you enough time to enroll, download the class schedule and supply list, and gather supplies.
- The class will be free for that month only. To be clear that’s a calendar month (like April or November), not 30 days from whenever you start participating in the class.
- Any included PDFs must be downloaded during the month it is available and the videos must be watched during that month, but you can watch them multiple times during the month if you wish. Videos cannot be downloaded. After the month, free access will be gone. There will be no exceptions for any reason. That keeps it absolutely fair.
- In the group, participants have to check the group and watch for my posts with the next section of the pattern. For the website bead-alongs you will have to remember to check for emails. When you enroll in a class you will need to provide your email and I will add you to a temporary email list so you will receive updates about the class when new portions of the design are added. The email list will be scrapped at the end of the class. In addition to class updates, those emails will contain other advertisements for my business, just like I am able to advertise during my classes in the groups. Purchases are not required, but very much appreciated.
- After the month, if you wish to have continued access to the videos you will have to pay for the Video Class. If you missed downloading the pattern, or if you lost your free copy you will have to pay for a new copy of the PDF.
But we will be missing out on the community, that sugar on top that makes it fun. Sadly, that isn’t something I can replicate easily on my website without making the website run as slow as a turtle, at least not at present. But, I will ask that you send me pictures of your progress or finished projects so I can see them, and please do ask questions if you have them. There is a Q & A section in the video classes, and you can email me. If you give me permission to do so, I will include pictures of finished projects in the end-of-class slideshows that I’ll be making to show off the participants’ projects.
This is what I have chosen to do. I do not want to set the expectation for other designers who teach on Facebook to follow suit. Other designers may not be willing to risk more direct income for possible income and their decisions should be respected. I’m putting out all this info now because I’ve gotten emails about this, but I’m actually not teaching another class in that group until February (because I need as much time as possible to finish my next book).
Classes / Bead-alongs in the Seed Beads and More group will be handled differently than I’ve described above. To teach in that group you can’t use a design that has been taught free to anyone else, and can’t run the same bead-along concurrently somewhere else. That’s the benefit of being a member of the group – classes, patterns, and bead-alongs you wouldn’t be able to access if you aren’t a member. In exchange for doing bead-alongs we get extra exposure to their very large group. Many different types of beading are taught in this group (mostly it’s a variety of bead-weaving techniques), but this allows me to reach people who are beaders and introduce them to a new way to use beads (French Beading). Seed Beads and More is by far the best Facebook group I’ve found (other than the one I started). But it’s their group, and their rules and I have to abide by them if I want to teach there. So, I will not host classes that I do for that group free on my website, but they will be available as paid classes. I am teaching in that group in November this year, but I can’t reveal the project just yet. I will let newsletter members know when classes in this group happen, but you will need to be members of the Facebook group to participate for free.
More info on the Video Classes Page
Okay, so now that I’ve laid out the basics of what’s happening with the bead-alongs let me talk a little bit more about the Video Classes page in general, as it will be used for more than bead-alongs. This is something I’ve been trying to figure out how to run on my website for a long time. I’ve been wanting to offer video classes, but hosting video files directly on my website slows it down. Using YouTube’s embedding feature makes it hard to do paid classes because those videos can be easily accessed without paying. YouTube sometimes inserts their own ads even if I haven’t turned on ads. So someone could pay for my videos and still have to watch ads (that I don’t even get a commission from). And then they advertise other people’s videos after my video. So it’s not really ideal for you or me. After months of searching and testing different solutions, I’ve finally found a way to do those video classes with just about everything I need. I’ve already added all of the free video classes that I’ve done so far. Those ones do not require enrollment or a user account on my site, but eventually there will be paid classes as well as the future bead-alongs that will require enrollment.
Paid video classes will be a little different from the bead-alongs. There won’t be email updates or a schedule to follow, deadlines, or extra advertising in the class. All portions of the class will be accessible immediately after payment so you can work at your own pace. You will need to have a user profile on my website to do the paid classes. But, you will not lose access to the paid classes and you can retake them and watch videos as often as you like. Just like all my other patterns, the video classes and accompanying PDFs may not be shared, or used for teaching classes. One buyer, one user. Videos for all my classes and bead-alongs are pre-recorded, not live. Live video and I just do not get along.
You can take a look around on the new Video Classes page, but I’ve also made a little video tour below to highlight the different parts.
In addition to the new page, I’ve also altered my “Learn” page that I’ve been using to host all of my free tutorials. I had my entire Beginner Course structed on this page, but because my Beginner Course is now a free class on the Video Classes page, I didn’t want to be redundant. So, the Learn page now only contains technique tutorials. I think that will make the page easier to browse and find what you’re looking for as well.
If you have any questions about any of these changes, please message me. And as always, Happy Beading!
– Lauren Harpster