We at Hawthorne and Heaney feel quite strongly about the importance of embroidery education and passing on theses skills that would otherwise die out quite rapidly in the digital age we now live in. The days of sitting down to do something with your hands are becoming rarer and rarer and although we relish in the simpler and slicker processes that our iMacs and DSLRs bring us, we still very much cherish the time stepping away from the screens and sitting down at the frame.
Because of this, we try to encourage people to take up or expand on a skill such as embroidery and learn it simply for the love of it. Our sister company, The London Embroidery School, has quietly been trying to do its bit to maintain the survival of traditional embroidery skills such as tambour beading and goldwork by offering classes at a variety of levels. These techniques have gradually been dropping off the embroidery syllabus as now the majority of textiles BA’s don’t teach them anymore and over the past few years, several well known embroidery degrees have been removed altogether which is a very sad reality.
In response to this issue, we feel that it is very important to help students who already have an interest in the field to experience what it is like in an embroidery studio by offering short term internships. For us, it is great to have new blood in studio, to get fresh ideas and opinions and to add to the wealth of experience that we have as a team. For the intern, its a great way to see the processes that take an idea through to an embroidered piece in a real business context and understand how a studio functions. Along with the usual advantages of creative internships such as industry contacts, references, learning on the job etc. specialised internships provide the student with an understanding of the specialised skill. In such a niche area as embroidery, it can be hard to know what to expect as there is not a lot written on the matter and there aren’t an abundance of opportunities to dip a toe in the field. Therefore we feel that internships should have some taught time to act as a bridge between studies and industry along side the interns other duties. Having tried this out with our last few interns, setting aside a morning a week in which they can just work on their hand embroidery skills with the staff present and the open offer to attend any of the London Embroidery School Classes during their internship provides some time just for improvement of their own skills, giving them a little more than just saying that they worked here at the end of their time with us.
As a former intern of Hawthorne and Heaney and now an employee, I can confidently say that internships are very important and valuable to the students that are hungry enough for them and the business. Interning has has quite a lot of bad press over the last year or so and it can be a very competitive market where you feel like you are just turned over as another intern in the mill. But equally, i think it’s fair to say that if those who work hard to try and set themselves apart from the masses of students with a wealth of experience and skills, then they’ve really doing all that can be asked to be in the best position possible.