Ranger U. Review
October 13, 2008
Well, what can I say? It was great! I don't think I'll be able to provide as thorough a breakdown as Lisa Kettell, but I will try.
classroom was lovely. Two very long tables perpendicular to a raised
dais. The instructors sat on the dais behind a kitchen height counter
with a video camera pointed at their hands. Two large monitors (one on
each side of the room) showed the techniques up close and personal.
And the walls of the classroom were decorated with black display boards that
showed the Ranger products in use.
On the first day, we all came in and sat down wherever. We were given a tour of the factory (so cool, but no photos allowed) and our boxes of product were assigned. Ranger U. is taught in a way that means you are linked with your tablemates. Everybody gets the same product, but the four of you are each given a different set of colors. Together, you have the entire palette. So, there's lots of sharing. These were my amazing tablemates:
L to R: Bianca, me, Colleen Schaan, and Colleen MacDonald. I really got lucky with an incredibly nice and super talented group of gals. We had a lovely time together!
Besides supplies, we were given binders with instructions for all the amazing techniques we were learning! So useful! And truly necessary! Because less than a week later, I'm already trying to remember what we did! I'm sure that I'll be in and out of that binder like crazy.
Our first instructor was Suze Weinberg of Melting Pot fame. She was fabulous! I really like her vibe: very New York-y and she is so genuinely interested in everyone in the room. She had great energy too. I know that I shared this photo collage last week, but I thought I'd share it again. You can see Suze on the left, second photo down.
In the bottom left photo, you can see Colleen holding the melt art project we made. I think it's totally brilliant. Suze coached us through nine "Melt Art" techniques and then we adhered each of them into the black frames. Tim Holtz, who is Ranger's Education Director, suggested that we could hang the frame in our stores so that people could get a sense of what can be done with the Melting Pot. Here's the entire group (Suze in the middle) with their Melt Art frames...
I'm the bottom left croucher. You can see that I insisted on wearing my own apron, even though Ranger kindly provided us with the denim ones. I'm not difficult, but the apron I made (and am wearing) offers serious full coverage and I'm a very messy gal.
I've owned a Melting Pot for a few months now and Suze blew me away with how incorrectly I've been using it! The thing I loved most about her presentation (and in fact about the whole weekend) was the explanation of how she came to Ranger and how the Melting Pot came about. She explained much of the science of the product and that really made what could be done with it so much easier to grasp.
Next up was Claudine Hellmuth. She is the newest addition to the Ranger family. She gave us the rundown on her line of paints and brushes and why Ranger decided to create them. Claudine comes from a fine art background and she discussed how she has melded her background with her personal habits (leaving paintbrushes in water too long, etc.) to create this line.
For Claudine's class we were taught several paint techniques and put them on tags, with labels on the back that explain how to do the technique (for future reference). Then we were given these plastic CD binders (Claudine is holding hers) and told to decorate them using our favorite techniques from the class. The tags all fit neatly inside the binder.
Personally, paint is something that I feel supremely comfortable with. I enjoyed Claudine's class and had fun playing with the Ranger paints. It's a nice set of colors.
At the end of day one, we had a barbeque in the Ranger factory. But, I was exhausted (I had only slept two hours the night before - nerves?) and headed back to my hotel room fairly quickly.
Day two was all about Tim...
I have long admired Tim Holtz. I read his blog, love his product line from Ranger, and have wanted to take a class from him for a very long time. His teaching style is very professional. He shows you the technique, discusses the science behind the project, and then lets you go while he walks around the room. He is clearly the face of Ranger these days and many of the students in the room were very vocal fans and he reciprocated the love with them.
Tim's detailed explanations of the differences between embossing powders and inks was fascinating. I loved all of the science and really feel like I got a strong education in the chemistry of the products and why we need to use different products for different projects. Of course the negative part of all this education is my now overwhelming need to own a million different products. First on my list, this:
This is absolutely the first thing that I am going to buy from the Ranger catalog. This is Tim's carousel for his "Inkssentials" foam applicator thing-ys. He has one for each color range (browns, reds, blues, etc.). Even though the foam things are removable and washable, it is much much more convenient to be able to just grab the one you want. I just finished working on my Label Tulip layouts and I used my one foam applicator thing-y on almost every single layout. I'm in love with the soft way it applies color to everything!
I'll admit that day two and three blend a little in my mind because Tim was the instructor on both days. However, day two ended with a fabulous dinner (the company, not the food) with Colleen Schaan. We're both in somewhat transitional artistic spaces and it was so lovely to explore those issues with someone else who is in the midst of that journey.
Onto day three...
Lots more Tim and lots more techniques - all together about 51 Tim techniques, all on shipping tags with instructional stickers on the back. I took pages and pages of notes in addition to all the printed materials they gave us. Besides all the techniques, day three was marked by graduation (dig our newspaper graduation caps) and a wonderful chat with (left to right) Claudine, Suze, and Tim about teaching, Ranger, and our roles going forward.
Suze gave the best advice I think I've ever heard...
"I don't know the secret to success. But I do know the secret to failure: to try to please everyone all the time."
I might be paraphrasing, but that's the gist of it.
So, my final thoughts:
1. I'm so glad that I applied! And I would encourage anyone who is interested in learning more about the Ranger line of products (and particularly those who teach with them) to apply. At this time, Ranger accepts about 25% of those who apply.
2. I'm sad that I didn't get to spend more time with more of the students. I wish that we had switched groups each of the three days. It would have been a bit more logistically difficult, but part of the benefit of a weekend like this is meeting all the artists involved. Plus, watching how my tablemates used the products was educational and I would have liked to have been exposed to more people for that reason alone!
3. I now want need to buy Ranger's entire catalog. I went to Ranger U. a fan of the products and I'm now a groupie. What did it? Well, as much as I enjoyed playing with everything and learning the various techniques, it was the chemical breakdown of why the products work and how they are intended to work that really wowed me.
4. I was thrilled to discover that many of Ranger's products are permanent on fabric! And I don't think a lot of fabric artists know this! I am ready to experiment and can't wait to share my results.
5. I learned a very important lesson at Ranger U. The Ranger team experiments with each product over and over again trying to figure out what they can do with it; how many techniques are possible. This is something that I need to do. Let me clarify. Yes, I love playing with my supplies and coming up with new techniques and new ideas, but I don't keep track of it. It's not a scientific experimentation process. I just play around and then I can't necessarily recreate it exactly. Both teachers and students in the workshop wrote down the steps, the products used (including colors), and just really made it possible to get the same results.
A very good weekend and you can expect to see lots of Ranger goodness on this blog from now on!
Thanks for stopping by!