We turn the spotlight on 3rd year RSN Future Tutor, Martha Blackburn.

After completing a Degree in Textiles at Manchester School of Art, I decided to undertake further study and subsequently I applied to study on the RSN Future Tutors Programme (FTP). I really loved my undergraduate Degree, particularly the creativity and the freedom that studying in an Art School environment allowed as this started my love for embroidery and drawing. However, I wanted to take a more in depth focus on traditional hand embroidery techniques as well as considering the possibilities of starting a career in embroidery. As a result of this, I moved from my home in Lancashire to be able to study on the programme.

I really enjoyed my first and second years on the FTP which gave me the opportunity to explore a wide variety of hand embroidery techniques. My favourite techniques are Silk Shading and Blackwork. In 2019, during my second year, I entered the National Needlecraft Awards and won the category of ‘Best Original Design’ for my Blackwork piece as well as Runner Up for the National Needlecraft Award with my Silk Shaded ‘Blue Tit’. Throughout the programme, I have had the opportunity to teach and assist during a number of hand embroidery classes to a variety of ages including Degrees students, adults, and children and families during the RSN Family Stitch Workshops. These experiences have given me a glimpse of how hand embroidery can have such a positive impact on the students as well as allowing for the development of their unique creativity.

Alongside teaching embroidery, another really important aspect of the third of the course is the restoration and conservation of textiles. Studying the technique and structure of historical textiles and the processes of restoration and conservation has also really helped me to develop a deeper understanding and appreciation for our cultural textile heritage and the importance that embroidery plays in this.

Alongside my RSN Embroidery Studio practice, within our final year of study on the programme, we have also been working towards the completion of our Signature Piece. This is an important part of exploring our own embroidery practice as well as bringing together the many different aspects of design and technique learnt within these last three years of study. For my Signature Piece, I am designing and embroidering a series of portrait embroideries inspired by Pablo Picasso’s ‘Blue Series’ and I have started to explore how I can begin the process of translating my portrait drawings into embroidery.

After completing the Future Tutors Programme, I would like to continue developing my personal practice through photography, drawing and embroidery. I am really interested in the interrelationship between these three mediums and how it is vital that contemporary art and craft is continually being formed by traditional methods.


You can follow Martha on her Instagram page.