25 April 2014

A spider or a duck????

Sigh - well I'm all webbed out, get it!   Been looking at the workings of web stuff for so long that's it, I will turn into either a spider or a duck!!

I've updated my profile on the ERTF site (now I'm no longer doing the techy stuff, about time I sorted me out!)

But more importantly drum roll please, trrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

My website has been updated
Please take a look, some photos removed, new added, freshened up a bit.  If you find any typos do let me know, stare at things for so long it starts to merge.
Of course this does mean, that the computer itself is the equivalent to opening cupboards and drawers and scattering things everywhere.  Needs a major tidy, but that also means I need a chocolate fix before I'm even  going to bother with that.

Right, so what was I doing before I thought no good, trying to change a little bit every day on the site is not working, so let's hit it.
Oh I know I was doing some of this....

prepping for the EG meeting I'm taking in July.  Miraculously this pile is still on the table, and hasn't been snaffled by furries.  They did however remove the leftovers from the waste bin!  The workshop will involve a bit of recycling, or upcycling or repurposing or whatever the phrase is these days. (I saw the term applied to rescue cats.... as preloved, awwww).

Next week I'm off to the Book Fair in Norwich, combining with family and personal appointments, but I have a place on the close up viewing session to see the Anne Boleyn Bible.  No doubt I will be overwhelmed with ideas from my visit.... oooh I wonder if I feel another long book coming this way.

Until next time - quack!

16 April 2014

Ting ting, change here please

And breathe....

Now moving into a new phase of creativeness.  I have been the ERTF Website Manager for the past three years, its a role I've now handed over to my friend Janette. What an experience and huge learning curve its taken me on.  From day one of it being a helping and managing role, to writing out website design briefs and doing much of the background stuff to aid making a new website entirely.  Certainly not what I anticipated, doubted I could do. I've learned so much, and doing that has supported me through some dark times. But time now for it to move on to another.... fresh eyes to see what's needed next and time for me to put back into my own.  My poor little website has been much neglected, and sometimes doing for others your own things get pushed down the pile.  Its time for them to regain their priority.
So I still have my physical post-it notes... and the puter ones attached to my home page!

Excellent talk at the April ERTF Conference, on Photographing your Textiles.  Hints and tips and a really nice helpful speaker in Dr Chris Thomas.  See his view of our day here.

Saturday really good talk at the Embroiderers' Guild meeting, and not a stitch in sight!.  Liz Trenow talking about her 11 generation history with silk weavers, and the stories behind those experiences which have evolved into novels, a collaboration with Lynne Edwards to inform a book and provide possibility to make the quilt described within the pages.  It was fascinating from all sorts of aspects, and much enjoyed.

The Material Girls are now moving full steam ahead (or more likely full sail ahead) with their next project.  A collaboration with the National Trust.  This is taking me in a whole new direction, and part of the reason I joined the group in the first place, for challenges.  Our brief for this project is very tight, and someone said to me they couldn't work like that, so prescriptive.  I thought about it, and realised that actually I already have my 'freedom' via the work I do as myself, so I don't feel confined or squashed by this project, because its a compliment, or different aspect, to how I work elsewhere.  I'm changing in subtle ways too for The Girls... I love love love my 8x6 notebooks, it was finding the size of notebook to suit me, that freed me up in terms of using.  But my notebooks for these projects have moved into A4.  Not entirely comfortable with that, but with so much research to do, let's give it a go.

The sun is out, my tree is full of blossom... as I'm no good at realistic imagery in my work, nothing better than nature itself, so here's a photo.  And today, I'm going to do some arty play.

08 April 2014

Looking Back on Studies - Teaching

Warning: word heavy post.

I had done various bit of teaching off and on for some little while, but always it bugged me that I ought to know that what I was doing was correct, the best way possible, and so an itch to scratch, I needed a teaching qualification.

This time yet another college locally and studying:
City & Guilds 7302 Level 3 Introduction to Delivering Learning.
So in the Autumn of 2004 I took this short course, with the Certificate issued in 2005

Guess what… another personal difficulty, made my appointment for interview and enrolment and my mother-in-law died unexpectedly.  A bit hectic dealing with everything personal but was able to make the interview, the funeral, the course and everything else necessary personally.

This teaching course was a mini course, 11 weeks long, learning to teach adults.  Very intensive.  Yet again City & Guilds played their tricks, 8 weeks in and they changed how things were to be done.  Some of the assessments had to be reworked.  Panic for many, but having been part of C&G for such a long time, not a surprise.  I just don’t understand why they do things part way through, why it doesn’t wait until the next intake.
Amongst those in my class were a nurse, who needed to teach other nurses, specialist skills, someone who was teaching IT to those seeking work, another on the beginning of teacher training.  Many were out there already teaching successfully within their workplace, but needed the formality of a qualification. 

So this short course taught me, how to lesson plan, assess results, different types of learners, all inclusive language etc
For the most part it confirmed that I was on the right track with what I’d been doing in my own small way.

The next step up was a one year teaching course, however there was a problem with this, and I briefly explored the options of trying to do it.  It required X amount of hours teaching practice.  For the most part this kind of thing is usually done with the person teaching their subject in a college situation whilst studying how to actually teach.  Locally had their quota of creative tutors, plus it was never my intent to teach weekly in a college environment.  Sadly offering workshops as my teaching practice was not acceptable, and thinking about it, for the needs I had outside of a formal teaching environment, I didn’t think I actually needed more by way of paper qualification.  My itch was scratched.

Over the years I've done lots of day workshops in various subjects, spent a couple of years attending a drawing class (though you'd never guess) participated in the Embroiderers' Guild Development Scheme, attended conferences and opportunities on marketing, promotion, business planning, artist development - indeed it was at one of these I was invited to participate in my first Art Trail.

I have not taken on any further formal studies since the above, although for many years I kept regular updates with the options of a degree in embroidery, or courses offered via the Open University.   However, nothing else has come along to make me say I must do this.

I have an armful of qualifications as an adult which would surprise a few people from the distant past, not least the school teacher where I managed a Grade 4 CSE in Art!!  Plus as almost every time I study the formal stuff, there is a family difficulty, I think it safer for others, if I stay away…..

It feels good to have recorded the journey, so often we forget or let it slip by, a means to an end, but this how where what and why is what makes up me today.

Looking Back on Studies - Papercraft

Warning: word heavy post.

Since my first days studying City & Guilds Part 1 Creative Embroidery I’d been using paper as a ‘fabric’.  In the design classes we learned how to make paper, and on the Embroidery side I stitched into it.  So I’ve been stitching on paper since around 1993, albeit tentatively.
By the time Part 2 was finished, I’d made all of my Assessment pieces including paper in some form or another, so when the college offered up a specific course relating to Paper I jumped at it.

2002/3 I took the one year course City & Guilds 7822 Creative Skills Papercraft.

This one year course covered all sorts, from making paper in various fibres, to how to colour paper, in its pulp stages, or after.  Constructing coloured layers of handmade paper, adding various things to the pulp, different effects from using the pulp.  Alongside this using machine made papers we made all sorts of things, pop out cards, intricate cuts etc.  All the creasing, folding, manipulating was done by hand.  These days you can buy templates for things, or dies which readily cut, but on this course everything was make it yourself from scratch.

So having had a very happy and successful first year, we then wanted to extend our studies, and this we did via NCFE Advanced Certificate in Creative Studies Papercraft in 2003/4

This was another one year course, but was very much like studying Part 2 Embroidery.  Actually many of us felt this layout and format was much easier and better, more informative and useful than Part 2.  We again had a dreaded log book, but this time it made far more sense.

Again there were assessment pieces to be made, and this time real clients to deal with.  We had to make proper costings, design mood boards, present to our clients, ask specific questions and note the answers, and present it all to the room as evidence and proof of everything.  Clients were presented with alternative options, timescales, costings, and we made the items specific to their requests.  Real clients, real pieces made as the client wanted in the time they specified.

In addition we’d have criteria such as an Assessment piece to be made based on historical research.

Perhaps it was already having done Part 2, perhaps it was how this other examining body laid things out, but a lot of things clicked into place.

And yet still I wasn’t quite finished with studying…..

Looking Back on Studies - Part 2 Embroidery

Warning, word heavy post.

So now we reach studying City & Guilds 7900 Part 2 Creative Embroidery.

Here I was now in 1995/6 studying Part 2 having overlapped the one item from Part 1 because of difficult circumstance.
Having had two major bereavements in less than six months I was not in the best of places, but equally this particular year of study seemed to lack focus and direction.  Of course it wasn’t helped to hear of my friends at their new college and how exciting it all was.  I toyed with joining them there, but the journey was too far.
Eventually I decided to write this year off, as not working.
I applied to another college nearer home, to again learn Part 2 whilst the rest of the class were doing Part 1.  Initially this was agreed, and I burned my bridges with the original college, only to find that the admin at the new place decided I couldn’t do as I’d hoped.
So there I was at the end of the college year in 1996, without any means to continue studying Part 2.  I decided nothing for it, but to take a year off, and wait for the Part 1 people at the new college to finish and join them when they all started Part 2.  It was a nervous time, as I wasn’t sure I’d get to fulfil my dreams and my studies.

Now its the Autumn of 1997 and finally I’m back to studying Part 2, at a new college and with a new tutor, even from the one I’d been in discussion with.

This new venture suited me much better and took me on a much more creative and experimental journey.  At first it was confusing and scary because we never saw an example of what we were to do.  The room would be ready for the session, materials out, we’d had an idea of the subject/topic, and we’d be told “go play”.  Having been used to strict guidelines for my Part 1, this took some getting used to.  In fact the tutor ended up saying to me “I give you full permission to do whatever you like with this”
Again another log book, another set of multiple samples, 24 of them which had to be shown either in sample form or in the assessment pieces, and again multiple versions of each appeared.  But this time we could put them in a portfolio, bliss.  What’s more we could part work them and leave a needle in… as long as we gave full explanation for what and why.  We were also allowed to use work done via other classes (unheard of for Part 1) as long as full credit was given to the tutor and full explanation of the work.  We were expected to use a whole variety of fabrics, a list of 9 and threads too, a list of 6.  Then there was the section on care and storage of completed items, and presentation and display techniques.  My tutor would not pass the main assessment pieces if they didn’t also at the same time have their storage, and no a carrier bag wouldn’t do!

Alongside embroidery, there was research.  At this time the embroidery of certain countries.  The Log Book Criteria was to pick one country from each section, so we had three countries.  However, at my college, we shared all the summary explanations from other students for every single country, and just took our own three to be illustrated. That was the mantra “visual girls, visual” – we were forbidden to write essays and had to show designs and techniques via pictures.
In addition we had to study the History of Embroidery in the British Isles, from the year dot to the present day.  Again “visual girls, visual” – no lengthy essays allowed.  In fact we were told that the External Verifier may not even look at these two elements when she came to assess, such was the volume and repetition college to college, it could be pushed aside.  I can understand this, because there are very good books published on exactly this topic, and all students were doing was rehashing.
As you can see City & Guilds continued with their reputation of changing minds and ideas about what was acceptable and what was not.

There was also an individual Research Project where design and ideas were extensively looked at and samples made of techniques and ideas for producing designs. We had an extra thrown in for this one - design and make a book cover of a known book to fit in with the Research Project topic!
At my college only One of our Assessment pieces had to be made from this Research Project, other colleges set the criteria at all of them.
The Assessment pieces to be made were:
~ a one metre item (and no girls you cannot make a belt!)
~ a functional 3d  item
~ a panel or hanging to be displayed on a wall.

The 3d item came in for some irritation, as we were told function as in usable/practical.  So books, hats, bags etc appeared.  It was only when we’d completed these and the External Verifier came for a part year check, that she announced “function was to occupy space”  too late for many of us and upsetting for some, who had had ideas of sculpture but it wasn’t then allowed.

At my college we were not allowed to use the same techniques for each Assessment piece.  I had by now started to do more stitching on paper, so each of my three assessments did contain paper, but in different forms. Again I’ve seen some assessment pieces which were obviously a set of, because the same colours and same techniques were employed.  Again it’s a quirk of City & Guilds as to what the External Verifiers instructions were to each college.  It could be frustrating in the extreme.
These assessment pieces were much more stringently looked at week by week than during my Part 1.  We had to say each week what we would achieve by the next, and if we had not done it, there was a real inquisition into why not.  Also we had to state a budget before making, and cost it properly after, and let me tell you explaining why your figures don’t match up (as I had to) was a very daunting experience.  I’d used, approx. 4 dyes, pure silk, 4 silk paints, 4 markal paint sticks, plus the threads etc, and costing to buy all of those was way over the budget I’d set.  However, following debate, as it was a case of using little bits of everything it was agreed I didn’t have to cost as totally new full sized, but could part cost product.. Phew

Coming to the end of the second year, once again here I was not quite finished, with the one item to be completed.  But then most of us were in the same boat.  Perhaps it was the workload, C&G chopping and changing ideas…  A friend’s husband said we did far more work for Part 2 than he ever did for his doctorate!

So back to college in the Autumn of 1999 for one more term, this time alongside everyone else, again almost finished, and again, personal circumstances step in.  Just before Christmas my mother was diagnosed with cancer.  So I finished Part 2 around Christmas/New Year and didn’t attend college again.  So my Certificate is dated 2000 but only due to when they are issued.

See I told you the expected 5 years, wasn’t quite going to work to the original plan!

But……. I wasn’t quite done with studying, yet!

Looking back on Studies - Part 1 Embroidery

Warning - word heavy post
Having heard a speaker at our EG talking of their journey along the City & Guilds learning road, and spoken to a few tutors, I thought it prudent to record my own experiences.  Not least because C&G moved and changed so much, that I have no idea now how my qualifications fit in with what is now being taught.  I’m lost with Levels and Diplomas.   I suspect today’s students will also come across that issue, years on.

Although I wanted to sew as a career, options were limited in terms of knowledge of, plus my mother told me I had to get a “proper” job, so it just never happened. Eventually as a mature adult (cough) I came across adverts for City & Guilds courses, wow I could do this, and not so far from home, well 20+ miles.  I was being made redundant from the ‘proper’ job and so I signed up.  Back in the day, the emphasis was that it was a privilege and honour to get on the course, it had status and kudos.
At my college we had to do a compulsory one year introduction course before embarking on City & Guilds proper.  So in order to go from start to finish it would be 5 years commitment….. had I but known….
So having enrolled in 1992, it wasn’t until September 1993 that I started City & Guilds 7900 Part 1 Creative Embroidery I was in the second year of the qualification via assessments, previously there had been formal exams.

Back in those days the design element, Preparing Working Designs, consisted of 10 topics, titles such as ‘social and economic’ ‘historical’ ‘folk culture’.  After a false start, the course format developed into taking two elements per topic, ie line, form, shape, colour, texture, and using those two as the means to make designs.  At my college the items chosen as finished examples had to be displayed in different ways.  We had one board, or two, or book displays or creative mobiles and boxes, whatever but it wasn’t allowed to be the same display format as used on another topic. So 10 topics, 10 means of display. A lot of work, a lot of money and a big pile of things now in the loft!!!
This section of the qualification was common to all creative skills offered, we were constantly questioned, will this work for upholstery, cake decorating, flower arranging, it was supposed to be transferable to any.  The idea was that if you moved from, say, Embroidery to Cake Decorating, you didn’t have to repeat these 10 boards, only the FWDs for your second form of study.
Following on from the PWD, the Full Working Designs, this was where two of the topic were taken further and were to be specific to your particular creative study.  It wasn’t merely taking a resulting motif and stitching it, there had to be design development. I made Folk Culture into necklace and earrings, and Art & Architecture into a cushion.

At the same time as all of this, I was of course studying Creative Embroidery Part 1.  Embroidery is a loose term and I often quote to people the dictionary definition of “surface embellishment”
We had multiple samples to make. The all important tick in the Log Book became something desperately sought. We had 30 ticks to mark off.  It wasn’t quite so simple as making one item per tick, I remember applique needed 5 different examples. In addition our tutor would throw in extra criteria… like a straight stitch sampler needed to be a picture made in nothing but straight stitches in all the various forms.  Or something needed to be a certain size.  Also labour intensive was the display means, simply putting into a portfolio wasn’t allowed, most of our samples had to be window mounted in mountboard, at very minimum surface mounted, but nothing went into a portfolio.  Again this was expensive, it might have looked nice, made end of year exhibitions look good, but in terms of practical use, and as source reference for the future, useless.
In addition there were 3 experimental samples to make, so memorable, I’ve forgotten what they ended up as!!!
There were other things like making a thread dictionary and a fabric dictionary of the different types, understanding needles, which for what etc.
All of this before we actually got to the making of the big assessment pieces.  We had to make 4 items, one showing historical influence….
~ an embroidered panel
~ a wall hanging – which must include manipulative techniques
~ accessory – chosen from a given list – I made a scarf
~ functional 3d item – chosen from a given list – I made a triangular box.

I know some colleges people made the items then did the back up paperwork.   At mine we did not.  Day 1 of an assessment piece we had to know where it was going to be placed, what types of walls, chairs, beds, people!  What fittings would be needed.  Actually a very good lesson for the future.  We didn’t have ‘real’ clients though, in the sense that we could have imaginary clients/scenarios, or family/friends.
City & Guilds soon gained a reputation for moving goalposts, and what was allowed at one college wasn’t allowed at another, sometimes tutor choice and sometimes the same External Verifier would give contrary views.  So the pieces I made weren’t necessarily what I would have liked to have made.

With only approx. three weeks to go until the end of the Part 1 course, and me very much on target to complete, I had done absolutely everything else and was working on my Embroidered Panel, personal disaster struck.
Sadly my 2 year old niece died in tragic circumstances.
When the External Verifier came to assess things, even though I had the test samples and the proposal for it, and I had nothing else to complete, she refused to allow me to pass on condition of completion.  I found this harsh considering I’d seen others being passed in this way for less reason, and with more outstanding.

It meant I had no choice but to enrol in the September on the Part 2 level whilst finishing my Part 1 panel.
Some of my student friends decided they would move to another college, by now more centres were available, different style of teaching, offering up different ideas.  For me it was difficult, still shaken by the bereavement, trying to complete one course and keep up with another, and without my immediate friends.
It was too painful to continue with the panel I’d started, so I made a new one entirely, and completed Part 1.
Tragedy struck again however, and just before Christmas my Grandmother died suddenly, we had sewn together since I was a small child, it was a very tough time.
I’ll give you another post on what happened with the Part 2 studies.

It wasn’t actually til almost the end of my time at this college that we discovered that City & Guilds offered Medals of Excellence.  It was something you had to be nominated for, and our tutor decided that she would never nominate anyone….

The journey continues...