Single most valuable thing

Coral seas had a very difficult question for me: “What was the single most valuable thing that you learnt from the course?” When I sat down with Nicola Jarvis, my teacher, to talk to her about the answers to all of your great questions, she really wanted to hear my answer to this one. Honestly, I had to think about it for a long time and really clarify the best way to explain what I learned.

Because I’m a musician and a teacher, I think I approached this question from a slightly different perspective than others might. I tend to look for more global answers to questions, so an answer such as “how to execute long and short shading perfectly” or “how to design a piece of crewelwork” wouldn’t be truthful. I did learn lots of specific skills and being at the course helped me to increase and consolidate my knowledge of crewelwork.  It also gave me the opportunity to meet some truly amazing women who share my passion – they are enthusiastic, supportive and kind. I hope I get to work next to them in the workroom again, often.

So what was the single most valuable thing I learned from the course?

I learned that professional embroiderers are artists who have skills and knowledge that are greater and deeper than I ever imagined.

Embroidery is a hobby for most of us. Fortunately it isn’t terribly difficult to achieve a reasonable result with some skill and practice.  In fact I thought I wasn’t too bad when it came to my level of technique and skill. Well, I’m OK, but I have a very long way to go before I even come close to those who do this for a living. And that’s the other component of my answer: this is their living. These people must produce embroidery under the pressure of a deadline, to order, at the highest level of skill day after day. They know multiple ways to create something beautiful, solve a problem, devise a new method to get the visual result they want. They think in thread.

The RSN’s goal is to teach the traditional methods of the various methods of embroidery. In this respect the RSN is exactly like the training I had as a musician: I had to learn the basics of my instrument, practice the rudiments until I had complete understanding and a good mastery of skill before I could deviate and experiment with new ideas and ways of doing things. Nicola Jarvis taught us the basics well. She is an amazing teacher, able to adapt her instruction to meet the needs of a wide variety of learners. She also shared her new ideas and alternative methods with us so we would know that, after we master the basics, there would be alternatives. But first the basics.

The RSN course is expensive. Traveling to England is out of reach for many. It was a choice for me to spend this amount of money and it meant I had to say no to other things. I am so glad I made the choice: it was worth every penny.

And man, can the pros stitch fast!





14 thoughts on “Single most valuable thing

  1. My sporadic needlework definitely means I’m not ever going to make a living from whatever I do …

    For others like me, enjoy all that you do – at whatever your level.

    I enjoy hearing about the experiences of others – and love seeing the work of others — not just from professionals.

    Be encouraged that you are doing something that many will not attempt.

    Kathy makes me enjoy that I find creative people amazing at all levels. She’s wonderful to share her journey with us.

    Gentle as you go,

  2. From your response, I’d say you learned a very valuable lesson. And thanks for spreading your knowledge.

    I’ve enjoyed traveling along with you on this marvelous experience.

  3. Hello,
    Like Marny , I am a sporadic needleworker and I enjoy every
    minute I spend on a project. I love following Kathy work, it is inspiring and OH so beautiful.
    Thanks for the pleasure you give us everyday.

  4. Thank you for giving such a thoughtful and considered answer to my question. To be honest, I expected something along the lines of “how to do this technique” or “learning more about that” or maybe a small but really useful tip. This was a far more useful insight to the real value of this course.

    It is one that I seriously want to do but could not undertake for a least a couple of years yet. I have wondered if I justify the cost but following your progress on this module has convinced that it would definitely be worth it when/if I am able to undertake such a commitment.

    Thank you again for sharing your experience and for asking the questions on our behalf.

    Good luck with the assessment.

  5. Thank you for taking the time to think about that question, Kathy. Your answer honours the tutors and the organisation, and encourages us all to be more thoughtful in our attitude to what we do.

  6. Just as a note to the US followers of this blog, Nicola will be teaching at Winterthur, DE in October as part of their symposium in the Embroidered Jacket that was made a few years ago. I am really looking forward to a class with her after these posts! You can find more info here.

  7. Kathy,

    These posts have been extremely interesting and rewarding to read. I’ve only taken a one day course at RSN and am amazed to see the pros at work. The teachers at RSN are so very much more accomplished at their craft than many I have come in contact with. And yes, they are professional artists much in they style of the old Masters who created beautiful art on commission under pressure of a deadline. They are definitely not hobbyists.

  8. Hi Kris,

    I’m going to the conference/workshop at Winterthur on 10/20, 10/21 and 10/22. (actually they added a day 10/20 because it was popular). I was registered and had to cancel, but things change and I am now going. Unfortunately I am waited listed for Nicola’s class. I was scheduled for her class, but by the time I registered again there were no spaces. Drat. LOL

    Did you register to go and are you taking Nicola’s class?Hope to see you there.

    Jeannette in PA

  9. Hi Kathy,

    Love the picture of you an Nicola and your absolutely beautiful crewel. I lived vicariously thru you posts. You answered so many question and I learned so much.

    I don’t know how to thank you properly for sharing with us.

    Many, many thanks.

    Jeannette in PA

  10. Hi Jeannette,

    Yes, I will be in Winterthur and I am signed up for Nicola’s course. I was lucky enough to meet her on the Embroidered Jacket tour in the UK this past September and really enjoyed my conversation with her. Crewel is one type of needlework I have not explored as much, so I am really looking forward to her expertise in class. I also spent quite a bit of time stitching on that jacket, so I would not miss this conference for the world!


  11. Whoa! I can’t believe how beautiful that is! I am amazed!! That little bell flower thing is so intricate and the stitching is beautiful! Congratulations on such a beautiful piece.

  12. I really admire your commitment and achievement. You have created a wonderful piece of art.
    I find your blog inspirational although the standard is much higher than I aspire to, being somewhat ancient and decrepit by now!

    Best regards
    Liz (England)

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