There are two ways to study for your certificate course at the RSN: an intensive course held over two weeks or a series of single classes spread out over a much longer period of time. Both kinds of courses are offered at the RSN Hampton Court and at the various satellite schools.
Typically in an intensive you would be in class Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday for two weeks. Friday, Saturday and Sunday between the two weeks you would not have class but you would have a lot of stitching homework to do. It’s hard work but great for people who travel from a long distance since they only pay their travel costs once for the whole course. The students would usually have one teacher for 6 students or two tutors for 12 students. All students work on the same technique at the same time. You all begin together so you’re all in the same place in your project (approximately) during the two weeks. Teaching is done individually but also things can and are demonstrated to the group or parts of the group as the need or opportunity arises. Ideally all students finish their pieces by the end of the 8 days.
When you come to Hampton Court to study the way I did and many, many others do, for a day at a time, your course can take much longer than 8 days/two weeks. Some students I met come once a week, some once a fortnight, some once a month. There can be up to 12 students in the classroom every day. The students can be working on as many as 4 or 5 or more different techniques. During the time I was there, students were working on silk shading, goldwork, canvas work, appliqué, blackwork and crewelwork. Some were working at Certificate level – as I was – the more beginning course. Others at Diploma level – the more advanced course. Again, there are two tutors in the classroom for the up to 12 students. The major difference is that these tutors have to respond to a huge variety of questions, demonstrate multiple techniques at many levels, be ready to assist a rank beginner as well as a highly advance students, all at different points in their projects.
This kind of scheduling means that the students need to be prepared to be somewhat independent and very patient at different moments during the day. It just isn’t possible for the tutors to everywhere at once! (Although they try to be and do an amazing job!)
My first morning I put the canvas on the slate frame. I’d learned how to do this before but there was a student in the class who’d never done it so she needed quite a bit of help.
We stopped for tea and biscuits every day at 11 am and lunch at 1 pm. The students and the tutors who didn’t have admin. things to do that day gathered in the well at the bottom of the stairs going up into the library, just inside the front door to the RSN you saw in my last post.
After lunch I transferred my design onto the canvas after reducing it in size. For the Certificate course, your canvaswork piece is to be A5 in size – for American readers that means half a letter sized piece of paper.
At the recommendation of the tutors, I cut the canvas larger than I needed for the finished piece. That’s done so there is blank canvas handy to try out and/or practice different stitches before you stitch onto the design. Sometimes imagining how a stitch will look in a specific place isn’t how it ends up looking so it’s always a good idea to test your stitches first when you’re a beginner like I am.
That was as much as I got finished on the first day. However, least you think that wasn’t much, I also got to observe and learn from the work the other students were doing. The pace of the class wasn’t nearly as quick as it can be during an intensive. Partly, that’s because there isn’t a deadline looming in only 8 days and partly, because the tutors can’t always respond to your questions and requests for assistance immediately. Often during the waiting time I could get up and look at the work of the other students and that was really interesting!
You can see the little bit of stitching I did get done the first day. However, I completely misunderstood how to read the stitch diagram and did the stitch incorrectly. Tutors did walk by and ask me if I was OK and if I needed help but, because I thought I understood what I was doing, I told them that I was fine. Only later in the week, on Friday, did a tutor catch my mistake and help me correct it.
Which brings to to why I explained the difference in the intensive and the longer term courses. During my intensive courses I had all the help I needed and the tutors checked on our work frequently. Looking back over the week I just spent at the RSN Hampton Court, I would have learned more and gotten farther if I’d asked for help more often.