Saturday, 23 January 2010

Thoughts on studying embroidery

Over the past couple of weeks, I've been doing a lot of on-line research into formal embroidery studies, mostly with City & Guilds, but also with the RSN and even higher education level things. It seems that there are ample opportunities for City & Guilds study with plenty of in person classes running all over the UK and also a few decent distance learning opportunities. Sadly, WS-Touchbase is finishing City & Guilds at the end of this year and there are fears that that would see the end of the stumpwork programmes.=( However, as DH is wanting to move somewhere where I've found a recently opened studio offering Levels 2 and 3 Embroidery Certificates and also the Level 3 Diploma, I could also go to classes later on as well - when we get back home.

I was disappointed to find out just how much the RSN's courses were though. I knew they were expensive, but found out that they were 2 or 3 times as much as I'd thought! Each technique is £960, with 4 needed for the Certificate alone! On the good side, they don't charge more for paying in instalments and you can pay for one technique at a time without ending up, as with some on-line schools, paying almost twice as much as someone who can pay the full figure up front. I was rather shocked at how much the School of Stitched Textiles wanted for buying one module at a time for their Level 3 C&Gs. It was something over 210% of the up-front price! Anyway, maybe I can do the RSN Cert later on, fairly slowly, but I daresay the Diploma at nearly £8000 is going to be beyond me. We'll see.

Now I know what to expect of a C&G course, I feel in a better position to plan and prepare for taking one - hopefully more than one. I also know what sort of workload and time frame is expected and have a much clearer idea of where I fit into that pattern. A very important aspect I've got from it is that Level 3 courses, despite claims to the contrary by several course providers, are NOT suitable for beginners in embroidery, (unless one is very experienced in art/design and sewing). I wasn't a beginner when I started, but I would have been paralysed by the level of work expected if I had been. Basically, C&G, esp Level 3 C&G, will not really teach one embroidery as a skill. Ideally, it teaches someone who already has a decent grounding in embroidery, design skills and practice, along with introducing some of the more contemporary textile techniques. In order to succeed without a large amount of stress, I wouldn't recommend anyone, other than someone of extraordinary confidence and huge amounts of time, to start that level of course without having a good bit of experience of working others' designs and also of a bit of basic sewing and machine usage. Working the assessment pieces requires that you have to make those embroidered pieces up into things like bags, hangings and so on which you're to have designed and prototyped yourself, and, if you've next to no experience of construction techniques, then this part is only going to add to the stress.

So, my plan is to consolidate my own stitching skills by working as many of the kits and designs that I've brought with me as I can, to have a go at making up some little bags etc (I've brought a book with me and the stuff needed for my camera case), and to work on my drawing and painting skills as well as collecting plenty of design source photos etc. In addition, were I to do the Level 3 Diploma, there's a lot of more academic work to be done in creating the History of English Embroidery project as well as the embroidery traditions of 3 countries, so I can also make a start on collecting info etc for that. There's a fair amount of 'folder work' to do in terms of design, ie colour theory stuff, line and mark making and all manner of things too that I can begin to get done working from the syllabuses. Having said that, I plan to start with a Level 1 or, max, Level 2 anyway!

Higher education level courses, by and large, don't really appeal to me as they're very much contemporary styling and there's only the RSN's FDA (foundation degree) in Hand Embroidery that looks up my street. The location is in London at Hampton Court Palace, it would be horribly pricey and I'll have to shelve that sort of idea until they've got the course well established (it started new this year) and offer it in more formats and locations. Again, we'll see, but no holding breath on this one, which is a real shame as they specialise in what I like best! I did read Tanja Berlin's account of her time at the RSN on their former apprentice programme and it was fearfully intense, so that's another downside. 9-5 daily with up to 5 hours expected per evening. Basically, you'd sleep and stitch. No time for anything else! Still, there are plenty of good books around, even though I was only able to bring what you can see above with me. Oh, how I miss my books and the rest of my stash! Sigh! Still, looks like we may well be home by the end of this year, so I reckon I can make do until then and I can get 'Inspirations', 'Classic Stitches', 'Stitch with the Embroiderer's Guild', the Italian mag 'Rakam' and several cross stitch mags out here, so that's a big comfort.

The photo at the top of this post is the back of the needlecase, which I got completed yesterday. I hope to have the full thing stitched before the end of the month and then hope I brought the doctor's flannel needed to put the 'pages' in. Last night I also added in a side bar feature of my 2008 stitched pieces, so more eye candy on permanent display, but you need to visit the blog 'for real' to see them as, of course, reader software won't show them up, even Bloglines. Does anyone know why Bloglines displays your header photos in reverse order??


Rachel Cotterill said...

Goodness, those are some very expensive courses. I hope you find the right one for you :)

Jules said...

Yes, I absolutely agree about costs, they are prohibitive. Your plan sopunds very sensible, and hopefully things will improve by the time you return, and the "right" strategy will appear!

Ruth O'Leary said...

I hope you find a course that suits you - they're a big investment in time as well as money, so it needs to be one you're going to enjoy.

As for Bloglines, count yourself lucky! It's stopped showing new posts from my blog at all, and I have no idea why.

Sheilasembroidery said...

I wish you well in your studies. As you know I'm coming to the end of my course so if you have any questions then get in touch. The main thing is to go into it well prepaired, which I know you are.

Kelly Fletcher said...

I was also horrified to find out the cost of gaining an embroidery qualification. But you seem to have put a lot of thought into a path that works for you - good luck!

Jules said...

Thanks for your comments on my OCA stuff. Yes blogger is being a complete nuisance at the mo, took me 6 attempts to post the photos as I wanted again today! I gave up in the end!