Thursday, 13 October 2011

A Tale of Two Tutors

I attended two embroidery classes recently and had two totally different experiences.

I do quite a lot of classes and workshops and, on the whole my experiences have been very good. Even when the class has been less than brilliant, I have usually enjoyed it and learnt something new.

At a class I went to a couple of weeks ago, not only did I not learn a single thing, when it was over I felt totally deflated and demoralised. I am not going to name the tutor or say what the class was about because it is my understanding that this person will not be delivering any more classes. I don’t like to write negative things about classes or workshops and would not have written about this particular class except that the experience I had yesterday was so vastly different that I cannot help but compare the two.

I attended a class led by Phillipa Turnbull of the Crewel Work Company and run by Burford Needlecraft. I read about it on The Unbroken Thread. Kathy took this class last year and enthusiastically recommended it. I find Crewel work in general and Jacobean designs in particular, very attractive but I’ve not felt drawn to learning it. Even if I had seen this class advertised I probably would not have signed up for it but for Kathy’s recommendation and her suggestion that it would cover lots of laid work. I am fascinated by laid work designs which are widely used in Japanese embroidery as well as Crewel work. As it turned out we did not do any laid work other than a brief demonstration late in the afternoon but I was not in the least bit disappointed. What we did do was an in depth lesson on Long and Short Stitch!

Phillipa is a commanding and competent tutor. At the outset she asked that we stitch in silence so that she could hear the rhythm of our stitching and so that we could hear everything she said, even when she was tutoring someone else. (I am used to working in a quite class room and find it much more relaxing and enjoyable that a noisy environment.) Phillipa also asked, and kept reminding us, to address our questions to her and not to each other so that she could be sure to teach us everything we wanted to learn that day.

The technique was broken down into steps which Phillipa first described verbally while drawing large diagrams onto a white board as a visual aid. She then went around the class demonstrating that step to small groups. She repeated the demonstration as many times as necessary until everyone to 'got it'. Then she went around the whole class again to give individual guidance and encouragement. If anyone struggled or made a 'mistake', Phillipa would use their work to demonstrate how to bring the stitching back on track but in a positive and supportive manner that did not ridicule or undermine anyone.

We took three short breaks for refreshments when we could stretch, relax and chatter then it was back to work. As well as LSS and we received brilliant tuition on how to make beautiful and consistent French knots. We also received advice on posture and how to avoid muscle fatigue and were told which end of the wool goes into the needle and why it makes a difference. Of course, we also covered some things that I already knew, like keeping the needle perpendicular to the fabric but it never hurts to be reminded of the basics about anything.

In a day that went far too quickly, I learnt heaps and came away brimming with confidence.

I was so absorbed in the class that I did not take a single photograph but if you want to see some related pictures, hop over to Kathy’s blog and take a look at the Marriage Pillowe that she is test stitching for Phillipa.

Happy Stitching


Rachel said...

Teaching well is a gift, and not something that everyone can do - your recent experiences have really highlighted that, haven't they!

Cynthia Gilbreth said...

I very much like it that you focus on the positive experience you had w/ Phillipa Turnbull. She sounds like a truly gifted teacher and you're lucky to take a class from her. Maybe she will consider coming to the States some day. I'm looking forward to seeing the photos of your project. Is it the Marriage Pillowe?

Moonsilk Stitches said...

I am soo jealous! I would love to take a class with Phillipa Turnbull. I was actually at Burford, oh, 14 years ago or so--I love that I can picture it in my mind and "see" you there. I discovered Renaissance crewel wools there. I agree with Cynthia--I like that you focus on the positive. I think having a less than stellar teacher can really make you appreciate the good ones all the more.

Elmsley Rose said...

That sounds like just a wonderful class!
Um, which IS the right end of the wool thread to put in the needle?
I'm also extremely interested in laid work.

Susan Elliott said...

I loved her reasons for preferring a silent classroom. She has a much better sene of where each student is at that point. Glad you had such a great day. I think it helps to be reminded of everything these days! We don't always remember over the years. Happy day!