Sunday, July 13, 2008

City and Guilds thoughts - part 1

I have been encouraged by Kirsten L Flamme to carry out my threat to gaze at my navel and talk a little about my thoughts on City and Guilds courses. I am going to split this into two posts, this first one being about my experiences so far on the certificate post, the second will be about my debate about doing the diploma.

I hasten to say that what follows are my personal experiences, no doubt influenced by my personality. Other people may well have entirely different views and if so I invite you to blog them and comment her to let us know you have done so.

I have been doing the Certificate for Design in Patchwork and Quilting for 2 years now. I attend in person, once a fortnight on a Sunday morning, at an institution which also offers distance learning. It is 20 mins drive from my house. I found the course in the February of 2006 after I discovered quilting in January 2006 and was excited to find a course that would take me through all the different techniques as well as design methods. However, by the time it started in September 2006 I had learned an awful lot myself through books and my class at Morceau in Penrith.

You can find the syllabus for the course here.

We did it so that the first year was concerned with building up portfolios on the five design methods: line, form, colour, shape and texture. This involved a lot of art techniques albeit at a very basic level - my husband and I took to calling my class 'going to kindergarten' because there was so much sticking and gluing. We were banned from doing anything with stitch for these portfolios which I found frustrating.

However, I did learn from doing these portfolios and I now do look at the world around me with entirely different eyes. Personally though I found that some of what we had to do seemed extraneous. For example we had to paint a colour wheel. Having read about and viewed a colour wheel I don't think painting it added anything - but then I learn well by reading. Others learn better by doing. I did feel that there was a strong element of doing to show that I had learned. Obviously that is always going to be the case with a formal qualification. However, I would have preferred to be able to work to a greater and more advanced level with the textiles themselves . I am still unsure why I made a model of an African chief's hut from table protector, a San Miguel box and Costa Coffee Straws!

It is certainly the case that doing the course has opened my eyes to design theory and practice. However, it is not a course which really respects improvisational design. They assume that good design requires planning samples etc

As for the samples and techniques, I found that we were given scrappy pieces of handwritten notes ( 2 or 3 pages A4 per week.) Sometimes these were taken ( in breach of copyright) from other books. I found my teacher used the words 'difficult' and 'tricky' frequently in relation to every technique and was generally very discouraging. There was no inspiration from her current work we could take as she teaches by showing her own dated portfolio from when she did her certificate some many years ago. My class were frequently befuddled by what we were supposed to do and got little or no guidance. I learned from books.

The class was held in overcrowded conditions when it was very hard to actually work in class - most of the time we used it as social time and did the actual work at home. Supply lists for each class were often inadequate anyway so we found we did not have what we needed for that class and got into the habit of bringing something different to do. All very annoying! However, I have made good friends from my group which in itself is valuable.

I do strongly suspect that this experience is related to this particular institution and may not be the case if the course was done elsewhere.

I am now at the stage of going to on to making my resolved pieces and can see that I am working in a way which I would not have done without the course. I also feel though that I was not supported to achieve the quality of work I could have done in my earlier pieces though and am now in the dilemma - do I go back and redo samples to satisfy myself that I have done the best I can or, do I leave them at the 'passable' stage they are at and use my time to go on to new things.( My tutor has seen very few of my samples.)

I would think that any one with a basic art training and who has either done some patchwork and knows the basic techniques or who can follow book instructions and / or is prepared to supplement books with short classes on line or in person would not get much out of this course. If you have no design background at all or of you wish to ( slowly) work through techniques and are happy making samples for samples sake then you will get something out of it.

The advantage of attending in person has been that the fees are much much cheaper. Doing it by distance with this institution costs £1,175 in total and I have paid I think £600 for the three years plus £55 registration fee. However, I would think that if you took the log book ( see link above) as a starting list and invested in a good library, you could - if you had sufficient self-motivation- easily learn everything by yourself for a much lesser cost ( bearing in mind I had to buy the books anyway because the teaching was skimpy).

My views as a say... I don't regret doing it because I haev learned a lot about design from it, but my mixed experiences are causing me dilemmas for the future... see the next post!

1 comment:

Quilt Pixie said...

sounds like for you the question for moving forward is around do you want the professional qualifications? -- sometimes one pays (financially, emotionally and in time) for a qualification accepted by others -- you have something to prove your level of proficiency... I know I did not complete a PhD program becuase once I realized I could, I no longer wanted to -- I didn't particularly want the proof for others, I wanted to learn enough for such a qualification for myself.....

No learning is ever wasted, though it does sound like this program has been fairly expensive in a non-financial sense for you. (and hey, to be fair, financially too...)