What happens at a Sign Magic Workshop?

Each time I do a post about our workshops I get a flurry of questions about what is covered at one of these events. In this post and the next about the Sculpting workshop I will provide the answers. The workshops are about all this and more, shaped in large part by the attendees themselves.
The workshops are scheduled to start on Firday morning but most of our attendees arrive on Thursday afternoon. They come from near and far, as close as the next town down the road and as far away as Sweden, Germany, Hawaii, and across the USA and Canada. When they arrive they are eager to start with the learning! All are welcome to come by the shop and get the lay of the land and kick off the event.  Thursday is an unofficial time to meet the other attendees and get comfortable in our shop. Attendees are encouraged to take lots of pictures and even begin with the questions. We do a no host supper at the local diner and then come back to the shop. Those who are here begin the process of soaking it all in, asking questions and getting all the information I can possibly share.The shop doors are locked at 11:00 pm for the day.
I unlock the doors Friday and each morning just before 8:00 am...    Classroom time begins at 9:00 Friday and goes until 5:00 each day (with meal and coffee breaks). All meals are home cooked and taken in the shop so we don't waste a minute. After supper it's hands-on time in the shop as late as you can stand it. The doors are open until 11:00 (or so) and then the next morning we do it all over again... for three days in a row.
Our Sign Magic Workshops are held in our studio/shop in Yarrow (Chilliwack), British Columbia.  Its a tiny farming community about 60 miles east of Vancouver, Canada.   The next workshop is scheduled for March 9-11, 2012. Classes are limited to about 14 people.  The upcoming workshop will be the eleventh one we have held here.  We have had folks attend from all across Canada, the USA, Hawaii, Sweden, Germany, and Holland.Information is at www.imaginationcorporation.com/sign-workshops  We also offer a Sculpture Magic Workshop www.imaginationcorporation.com/sculpting-workshop to be held March 16-19, 2012 

The range of abilities and experience of past attendees has been varied, ranging from what I would call masters to those who are just starting.  There are no educational prerequisites to attend.  We work very hard to ensure all who come go away with plenty of new things learned and chock full of inspiration.  We ask all of our attendees to put away what they know (or think they know) and come with an open mind, willing to look at fresh new ways of doing things.  The workshops are planned as a creative journey from my unique perspective in the sign industry.
It starts with brief introductions of attendees and then the journey begins.  First I'll take you down memory lane through my own artistic life, the things that shaped how I think about and create my own work.  The purpose is to show how much we are all the same... how our lives and our work is shaped in a large way by small daily choices we make.  I'll briefly talk of how I discovered CNC routers and learned to make it do the things I wanted.
We spend some classroom time getting into creating files with EnRoute (a 3D routing software).  We start with the basics for the folks just beginning and quickly move to more complex projects in the 3D realm.  I show how everything we do is a series of small steps which eventually form something much more complex.  We generally have a guest instructor from EnRoute to help with the teaching of that portion of the workshop as well. We'll show how we create and use bitmaps to make textures with the router.  I'll also show how combining and subtracting basic shapes can be used to create virtually any form in EnRoute.  We'll cover slicing of objects and the basics of tool pathing for 3D objects.  We generally show how a specific project comes together from first concept through design, on to creating files.  Out in the shop we'll show how we route it, assemble, finish and paint it as the weekend progresses.
I talk of design as it applies to our 3D work, where inspiration comes from and how I put ideas together from the first inkinkling to the finished concept drawing.  I'll show how I use the digital drawing tablet to make our presentations and concept drawings, still drawing by hand but with ultra modern tools. I'll also talk of how we price our work and market ourselves in today's digital world. All of the talks are given from the perspective of what has worked for us in our shop. My talks are not abstract theory or big words - I talk from the heart about real things and real exerience.
In the evenings we start small individual sample projects.  These are to learn hands-on how we finish things once the routing is done.  Faux finishing is first demonstrated  and then our students try it for themselves.  We also do small individual sculpting projects using an epoxy sculpting medium.  It's all about using our imaginations to do things we have never done before.
While all that is going on we also do some demonstrations of how we do our concrete sculpting, from the welded sub-structure, through the mixing of and applying of concrete to the finished caving. Another demonstration project will show how we do our signs, from the sub-structures to assembling , final detailing and finishing.
While the 'official' hours of the workshop are from 9:00 am until 5:00 each day, the workshop really happens from 8:00 am until 11:00 pm (or later) each day and most of the learning happens outside the classroom.  The EnRoute instructor is also available in the non-structured time to go over specific questions each student may have.

We'll take some short field trips too, visiting local projects I've tackled in the last few years. These project visits show how the things we teach are put into effect on real projects.

The workshop is conducted in a setting like no other.  Our studio is located in a rural area and surrounded by breathtaking scenery.  The award winning shop would aptly be described as an artist's theme park with wall to wall eye candy at every turn.  Take all the pictures you want, ask any question you want and we'll do our best to provide the answer.
Through the weekend I give a series of talks, doing my best to challenge each student to push their personal boundaries and limits on a daily basis.  The last formal talk (Sunday morning) is how to 'have fun in the sign business (and life)'. The weekend workshop is designed to build 3D sign making and routing skills and also share how to build a market for this kind of fun work.  It's also my goal to challenge each attendee about how they approach their business and life.  I believe we all have passions and dreams inside us which need to be realized. We all have goals which are achievable through hard work and perseverance. I firmly believe we can do these things while living life to the fullest along the way!
If you have more questions drop me a note.  dan@imaginationcorporation.com
There's still room for a few more...
-grampa dan