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08 April 2014

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...

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