Sunday, July 13, 2008

City and Guilds thoughts - part 2

This post follows on from Part 1 and will probably make more sense of you read that first

This post is about the circular thoughts that are raging in my brain as I consider whether or not to go on and do the City and Guilds Diploma in Patchwork and Quilting. I share them because I was encouraged to do but also because the wise comments I hope to receive may help me!

The first thing I should say is that the thoughts are a little premature as I have a year left of the Certificate to do before I can do the diploma anyway, but I am genetically programmed to think ahead!

My first dilemma I think I have solved - that was whether to stay at the same level and do the Certificate in Machine embroidery. I do want to learn much more about machine embroidery but I realised that I was going to have to repeat all the same design work as I had just done if I did the same level course. In some ways this means I could do it better than I did first time round but on balance I want to go forward so I shall not be doing this. I will however be setting myself goals to learn in this area and in due course buying lots of books so if you have recommendations - please comment.

So the remaining dilemma is whether or not I should do the diploma. Here, in no particular order are the contradicting thoughts running through my head. The log book for the course can be found here:

1. My experience with the Certificate makes me sure that I do not want to continue at the same institution. I want the benefit of good personal tutoring from active artists. A long conversation I had with Linda Kemshall convinced me that her company would provide just that. It would costs a lot more than going in person to my existing institution.

2. However, at the end of the same conversation she asked me why I felt I needed a course - why I didn't just learn by myself! This is a very good question and goes to the heart of the issue requiring some real navel gazing. I have several graduate and post -grad qualifications - I have (excuse the lack of modesty here) excellent research skills and learn very well independently. My time management skills are re known. So learning alone is no problem - either literally alone or online without a class structure.
So why am I so attracted to a course? Possible answers are:

(a) I am a qualification junkie. I love education and learning. I think constantly that there is more information or knowledge out there that I could glean if only I was at the right class and I want it. ( To wit: I just e-mailed a museum in Aboriginal art which we may go to on our holidays to ask how to get on their digeridoo workshops. Do I need to learn the digeridoo? No of course not. Do I need to spend holiday time in a class? No. But I could have done and what fun that would be! In fact they no longer run them. Bah!)

(b) I respect other people's knowledge. I believe that people can teach me. I am also jealous of people who know more than me and I want to be like them. I believe that I can do things if only I learn how. I was bitterly disappointed however with the standard of teaching and inspiration I got on my certificate course and would be very very careful to ensure that I chose the right person this time round. I had a similar experience with a University when I started my third masters degree, which was my second in Creative writing ( see (a) above!). The standard was dreadful and half the class including myself pulled out. So I am very concerned that I falsely assume that a course holds the mysteries I am seeking. Plus, it occurs to me I could spend my money on a series of master classes at Festival - the three days ones that run before the show for example - or travel to short courses and achieve a variety of teachers inspiring me.

(c) I like purpose. So the idea of a qualification at the end is a motivation to do work, which I might have otherwise avoided, not realising that it would actually be of worth to me in the end. However, I think I might finally have learned this lesson and now know that sketchbooks and samples are not a waste of time necessarily! I have an exceedingly supportive husband so it is not a case of needing an excuse to work on my 'hobby' but somehow a course gives 'playing around' validity.

(d) the Diploma involves an in-depth research project with samples and work coming from that chosen inspiration. I love the idea of a research project. I thrive on research projects. My whole family ring me to get me to Google all and sundry rather than research it themselves because I am good at it. So, I could just set myself a research project and set to. Why do I need to spend £1250 ish to do it? Because there is a qualification.....

(e) Why do I need a qualification? Well, I don't right now in career terms. I guess in the future if I wanted do teach it would be handy to have a diploma. But my 'day job' is such that I would not be giving it up to do textile art ( love it too much/ it pays too much) any time before semi-retirement. So I could do the diploma later.. but if I am going to do the work now, why repeat things?!I did say to a friend that I wondered if I needed the approval - you know having a tutor say. Well done you clever girl'. She told me to find my validation elsewhere ,which might be good advice if I knew how to do it!

(f) Will the course be what I want? To some extent it is in the sense that it involves taking what I know to the next level. I feel that I have so much more understanding of how make the course work for me than I was given at the beginning of the Certificate that I could really make the most of this one.
to learn what I want to learn if I just taught myself stuff and on the other that I would be stretched into areas I However, it involves some work I am not fussed on (miniatures) and doesn't cover some I am ( machine embroidery, felting) - although I gather there is real scope for edging towards that in the way you interpret the syllabus and work. I feel that on one had I would have more flexibility might otherwise ignore if I did the course. And If I did it online there is no rush as it is time flexible so I can go off into jollies in other areas anyway. Indeed I quite like the idea of spinning it out so that (i) I can really do it in depth whilst still having time to do fun quilts and (ii) I can avoid having to find another course to do when I finish it :)

(g) wherever I do it - is it really worth the money? I am lucky in that I can pay for the course without worry. However, that money can only be spent once and I do not want to waste it. Is it better spent on materials/ books/ short courses etc. ( Or blown on a trip to Houston?!) How much value is there in what I pay for as opposed to the the value of the work I would do for myself anyway? Of course one option is to pay to register in person at my current institution knowing full well I will not get the inspiration and tutoring but in effect allowing me to teach myself but still get the qualificaton - sort of C&G-lite! (It galls me to give them my cash though!)

Well, this is a long post and I guess that if you got this far you must not have found it too boring. In summary I think my head is saying I don't need it and it costs a lot of hard earned money and my heart is yelling 'Its a course - take it , take it!'.

Sigh. What do you think?!


Quilt Pixie said...

have you tried making a decision/discerment grid? Basically you section a piece of paper into a grid 2X2. The top left area is labeled reasons to do X; the top right "reasons to do Y" the bottom left "reasons Not to do X" and the bottom right "reasons not to do Y". (X might be to do city and guilds, y might be to do personal study, or other courses, it might even be "not doing c&g, whatever)... Its a really useful way I've found for sorting out thoughts that ramble around. If you did a grid that was "do c&g, and do independant work" and found that indpendant work was it, you could then do another grid to decide between various options... It'll only let you work with two ideas at a time, but it does work...

floribunda said...

Hi Helen -- for us non-Brits, could you explain what "Cities and Guilds" is exactly? Or point me to a previous blog if you've already done that?

Gina said...

Helen, I did the Part 1 as the Certificate used to be called a few years ago, just before the syllabus changed. I had exactly the same experience as you and I quit just before I was due to make my final pieces. I went for a full day every week for two and a half years.
I felt I had no support from the teacher, she was just trying to make a name for herself. She was only interested in us bettering the students of another college. In the end I was so disheartened by her attitude that I stopped trying. The amount of people that dropppd out was phenomenal, over 75%. I think that tells the tale.
Her way of teaching us was to constantly criticise, not encourage. What ever you did wasn't good enough.
I did learn alot and it gave me the confidence to attempt anything but it didn't awake my creative side which I'm really disappointed about. Maybe a different teacher would have given me a better experience.

Love andhugs Gina xxx

Garnered Stitches said...

At the end of the day, Helen, life is for learning! Go for it. If I haven't learnt something new each day I feel I've wasted it.
As a "Distant Learner", I am fortunate to be able to work alone but after returning from my Summer School I do miss the interaction from other students being in the same room!
Best wishes

Kristin L said...

Thanks for your navel gazing! I have considered enrolling in teh C&G program (specifically the Kemshalls' as I'd have to do distance learning). I wrote about it here:
And then contemplated it some more. One of the things that I thought was in the comments, but must have been in a private email was a conversation I had with Dijanne Cevaal about the WHY of taking the course. Much like you, I think I was/am looking for validation. I kind of figured it out in this post here:
and now seeing that's it's over a year later, I'm thinking that unless i eventually decide to teach and need that certification you speak of, I probably won't go the C&G route. The validation would be great, and I'm sure I'd pick up some great information, but I'm a good book learner too, and I already have a great foundation what with art school and a lifetime of sewing. So, for now, I'll remain mostly self taught.

If I were you and decided to continue on to the diploma level, I'd definitely find a new venue. Whether or not you want to go to that level though, is another question. Personally, I'm much more excited by the possibilities of the diploma level than of the certificate level, so that colors my view. Since you've made it this far, perhaps it does make sense to keep going -- just with new teachers so that you have the chance of leaving the program in another few years with a good taste in your mouth!!

janet said...

Hi Helen
As we are now both at the same stage with C&G your posts have made fascinating reading! My opinion - for what its worth is that you should finish the certificate where you are. The 5 pieces you need to make should need minimal input from the tutor and you should be able to be as creative as you wish. I know this does involve a cost but you sound quite similar to me on your views to education. I would have to finish the course I had started.
However I would definitely not do the diploma with the same teacher - use the next year to decide what your best option is. I don't know how far you are from Skipton but you could always join our group next year(I do a 100 mile round trip to get to college). I am not saying my tutor is the best but she is good at pushing people to fulfil their artistic potential.

Ruth said...

Hi Helen,
I am currently doing the C&G Certificate with the Kemshalls. I find myself thinking along the same lines as you. I am enjoying the course and am doing things that I certainly wouldn't do if left to myself. A lot of the samples are of things that I've always thought that would be good to try but then never doing so.
However I don't really feel that I am getting a lot of input from my tutor. Mostly the comments are along the lines of very nice, good work, well done.
When I asked what I had to achieve to pass, the answer was more or less there is no marking no-one fails. So I wonder what the value of it really is. I did originally think I may go on to do the diploma but I now tend towards not.
I've since been pointed at the Open College of Arts, similar to the Open university, where you can get a degree that really does count for something.
If I still have the interest and energy and money at the end of the C&G course I think that will be the way I go.
I miss the contact with other students doing the C&G course. It's only me and my tutor. I have taken courses at Quilt University in the past and enjoy their set up much more - each class has a discussion forum and its own gallery so you can see what others are doing and chat to them too. You also get the benefit of the answers to their questions too.
I enjoy reading you blog - just been lurking up to now!