I really enjoy the Royal School of Needlework’s classes. Years ago I started out with some of their one-hour workshops at the Knitting & Stitching Show (blackwork, silk shading, goldwork [twice] and crewelwork). I then did some day classes (goldwork [twice] and Shisha). Then a one-on-one goldwork tutorial. The Opus Anglicanum retreat sort of counts as well, as the tutors were both RSN-trained. And I’m signed up for a three-day goldwork class this summer (the only one of the pictures below that’s not my stitching, as I haven’t actually done it yet). Did I mention I enjoy their classes?
It’s not surprising, therefore, that over the years I’ve considered (in a rather vague, unfocused sort of way) the RSN’s more formal teaching programmes. There have been some changes in the range they offer (the apprenticeship, for example, doesn’t exist any more) but there is still a fairly bewildering variety of options. The ones I looked at are the Certificate & Diploma, the Future Tutor Programme, and the Degree course, and I found it quite difficult to work out which was best for what. I decided to ask them.
They replied: The easiest way to explain the difference between our three distinct programmes is to look at where graduates can go when they’re finished. The Degree is a springboard to a creative career in fashion, interiors or textile art. The Certificate/Diploma enables you to develop solid skills and become part of a long tradition of maintaining the highest standards in hand embroidery. The Future Tutor Programme is your route into teaching for the RSN (on Day Classes, Degree and Certificate/Diploma Programmes) and into the commercial Studio, specialising in bespoke commissions, conservation and restoration of historic embroideries. Freelance business skills are also taught on this course, as we anticipate graduates will branch out in their own professional practice as well as becoming part of the RSN team.
Well, that made things a lot clearer as to what each course was for. But what exactly did I want? I worked out that I definitely did not want a career in fashion, interiors or textile art, so the Degree was out. And although I enjoy teaching, the Future Tutor programme is probably a little over the top for what I am likely to want to do; unless you’re going to make a career out of teaching and possibly studio work, three years of full-time study at a cost of a little under £35,000 is rather too much of an investment in both time and money. When my husband retires I would like to develop Mabel’s Fancies a bit more, but not to that extent. That left the C & D, which would give me a more solid grounding for any teaching I would like to do in the future – and also undoubtedly benefit my designing – without taking over three years of my life and requiring a second mortgage.
The Certificate consists of four modules, the Diploma of six; and in those modules you learn all about the various embroidery techniques. Surely that sounds ideal? Add to that the fact that my one-on-one goldwork tutor had suggested that the C & D might be just the thing for me and you may wonder why I didn’t immediately sign up. Well, two things kept me back. One was cost. When I first looked into this programme, it gave the overall cost as a little over £10,000 in tuition fees. Modest compared to the Future Tutor programme, perhaps, but still far beyond what funds I am willing to allocate to this. The other factor was the techniques taught in the various modules. I greatly admire blackwork and the stunning pieces of embroidery people produce with it – but I have no desire whatsoever to learn it in great detail myself. Likewise canvas work or appliqué. I’d be spending a lot of time on things I was greatly interested in, like goldwork, and things I was quite interested in, like Jacobean embroidery, but I’d also spend a lot of time, and money, on things that don’t really do it for me. And so I relegated the programme to the back of my mind and booked another day class.
I’ve known Jo for years through the Cross Stitch Forum, and she came to a few of my workshops (Hardanger and goldwork, I think). And one day she announced on the Forum that she had signed up for the Certificate, at the RSN satellite location in Rugby. Rugby. Three miles from where I live. And she mentioned that you could do the modules on a pay-as-you-go basis, per tuition day. It was the nudge I needed.
I contacted the RSN and asked whether it would be possible to do certain modules only, preferably the Certificate and Diploma in goldwork and possibly the Certificate in Jacobean embroidery. Hari Sparkes, the Education Manager, explained to me that I was quite at liberty to do only the modules I wanted, with a few provisos. Everyone starts with Jacobean crewelwork. And learns to work on a slate frame (something I would happily have omitted if possible). And although I could then go on to goldwork (which is usually the fourth module), I would not be able to do the Diploma goldwork module unless I completed the entire Certificate first. Also, if I decided to do the two modules only, I would not get a physical certificate to show I had successfully completed them, although I could still have my assignments officially assessed. Well, one module of goldwork is better than none; and a piece of paper is nice but not essential for my future activities – I’m happy to do without that.
So. I’ve done it. I’ve signed up for the Royal School of Needlework Certificate in Technical Hand Embroidery, which is as daunting as it sounds. My first tuition day will be on 22nd May.
I will enjoy it!