On Saturday 11th December we were treated to an interesting and informative talk by Dr Susan Kay-Williams Chief Executive of the Royal School of Needlework. Dr Kay-Williams explained that the RSN was originally set up in order to continue and preserve the great tradition of hand embroidery. She showed us slides of students using a ‘slate frame’ , a traditional tool which dates back to at least the 18th century. The ‘slate frame’ requires the fabric to be stretched as taut as a slate to be worked on, hence the name.
Whilst having a base in tradition the RSN continues to challenge it’s students to interpret their ideas. One such challenge was to stitch a self portrait and we were shown images with embroidery worked on handkerchiefs and even a kitchen sieve.
Susan’s talk covered a whole gamut of work from traditional crewel work, through to white work, black work, black work in red, stump work and a myriad of designs and interpretations of past and present students work.
My personal favourite, and judging by the gasp that went up as Susan showed the slide, many others too, was The Coronation Robe of Queen Elizabeth II from 1953. Susan showed a sample of the Gold Work undertaken by the RSN for the cloak.
Bringing us right up to date Susan talked about the hand embroidery on the cloak worn by Benedict Cumberbatch in the film Dr Strange. A great source of pride for the RSN is that, although many people may work on a particular design or project, all the work is identical. The cloak was a central character in the film and in order to withstand the rigours of filming 12 cloaks were made, each one having to be indistinguishable from the other.
Altogether a most enjoyable and educational afternoon.
Below. Dr Kay-Williams brought many samples of the work done by the RSN