How are you? I am back in Cape Town after 2 weeks in London and another week in Edinburgh, Scotland. It was wonderful to see my daughter again and spend time with her – she made sure that we saw many of the sights, having lived in Edinburgh and now in London. Not being used to all the walking (despite my numerous trips up the flight of stairs up to my office) I did suffer with sore feet! During this time I taught a class at the Royal School of Needlework and later two days of classes in Westminster. This week I would like to share with you the Royal School Of Needlework experience and will follow with a post on Westminster later.
As you probably know the RSN is housed in the old “Grace & Favour” apartments at Hampton Court Palace, in Surrey England. It is a fascinating story you can read more about the Grace & Favour apartments here. The RSN run hand embroidery classes from beginner to BA degree and have an embroidery studio where works of restoration and conservation of historical textiles are commissioned. You can read more about the origins and history of the RSN here. and get info on current events on the facebook Page.
Tues 23rd June. The day before I was due to teach at the RSN my daughter, Stacey and I boarded a train from Waterloo station to Hampton Court, a journey of about 45 mins. When we came out of the station and crossed the bridge I was taken aback by the immensity of Hampton Court Palace and it’s beautifully manicured gardens. The sun was shining on the river Thames which runs along its banks and ducks and boats bobbed along on the water, making it picture perfect. I felt a little thrill at the prospect of entering such a grand establishment and not a little nervous!
Stacey and I were warmly welcomed by two members of the RSN, Noleen Wyatt-Jones the Classes Coordinator & Administrator and Anne Butcher the Programme Director. We were led through tight security along some back passages of the Palace into the RSN apartments. Finally we arrived in the courtyard of the RSN, and made our way up the lifts to the top floor where I was shown my classroom. I was hosted in the degree room with its stunning views of the formal gardens below and had to pinch myself occasionally to remind myself I was really there!
The day was spent being shown around the various classrooms, meeting some of the degree students, tutors and a tour of the studio, where we saw some restoration work being carried out. I was fortunate enough to see some of the collection including a beautiful display of whitework and some lovely examples of 18th – 19th century silk shading and crewel work. One would normally have to pre-book a tour to view this so I was in my element! The RSN library is filled with a plethora of books on embroidery, design, textiles and history, some of these rare, out of print books which if time had allowed I would love to have delved into.
Later I was taken to the RSN gift store on the ground level which opens onto some of the gardens to allow access to visitors and students alike. I signed copies of my book for the store and had a good browse through some of their lovely sales items such as bookmarks, greeting cards, books and kits all of which are available from the RSN online shop here.
Later in the afternoon Stacey and I had some lunch in one of the Palace cafes and then did a tour of the Palace. This is a whole other story but suffice it to say that I have always had a great interest in King Henry viii and his many wives and to see where and how he lived was fascinating. At the end of the day we made our way back (full of inspiration and a feeling of awe) across the bridge to catch the train back to Waterloo in preparation for the next day’s class.
Wed 24th June. Once again bright and early on Wednesday morning, we made our way on the train – I was so grateful to have my daughter’s calming presence and the fact that she remembered the way through security up to the RSN apartments. She was a huge support helping me set up and spent the day taking photographs of the class and surrounds. Stacey combines graphic design with photography and has a gift for capturing the beautiful essence of her subjects – you can see some of her work here.
Here are some photos of flowers in the Palace Gardens.
When we arrived Noleen and my lovely assistant for the day Becky, had set up the classroom for me – the kits were laid out and the fabric, hoops and magnifiers in place so all I had to do was set up my projector equipment. Becky was in total control of the teas, queries from students and all other aspects which left me free to devote my time to the students and teaching, wonderful, thank you so much Noleen and Becky for all your help!
The students arrived, most of them from the UK and Europe – one Lady, Paula Wilson came all the way from Hawaii, and another was from Sydney, Australia! The ladies were lovely, so appreciative and interested in every aspect of the technique, it was a joy and privilege to teach them. There was lots of discussion, laughter and of course stitching – all went home having completed a good portion of their bird and I hope having learned something? I know I learned a lot from them and do hope to be able to take you up on the invitation to teach classes again at some time in the future.
I like to think that traditional met with the new and we embraced each others ideas, so that together we can unite, grow and continue to encourage present and future generations in the art of hand embroidery?
Teaching at the RSN was so much more than a class, it was having the opportunity to participate in an establishment with traditions that go back hundreds of years and I was humbled and grateful for the whole experience, in particular the warmth and welcoming interest of the tutors and staff. A big thank you to all at the RSN for the opportunity!
I have some exciting ideas to share with you in the upcoming weeks. Meantime, wherever you are in the world, remember “Embroidery forever, housework whenever!” Keep smiling and happy stitching! Trish