We are delighted to welcome back Dr Susan Kay-Williams and Amy Hare for an autumn season of Online Talks about the RSN and our amazing Collection of hand embroidery objects spanning four centuries. Join us to discover more about the RSN and discover why we’ve been the international centre of excellence for the Art of Hand Embroidery since 1872.

In this season of live talks, RSN Degree Lecturer and fashion historian, Amy Hare, discusses more rare and wonderful pieces from our archives during her one-hour object-focused talks, while the RSN’s Chief Executive and Exhibition Curator, Dr Susan Kay-Williams, is joined by key RSN associates as they celebrate significant milestones in their stitching journeys and their best-selling books in the lead up to our 150th Anniversary in 2022. We  are also delighted to welcome guest speaker, Caroline de Guitaut, Deputy Surveyor of The Queen’s Works of Art at the Royal Collection Trust, for a fascinating illustrated talk in December.

Easily accessed via Zoom, all our talks are embellished by captivating slides and are followed by Q&A sessions.

Please note that these Talks are LIVE ONLINE EVENTS and are not available to watch immediately afterwards. If you cannot watch a live event, or want to watch again in the future, we do re-release popular talks at a later date ‘On Demand’. Bookings for RSN Live Online Talks are non-refundable. Bookings usually close at 3pm on the day of the event. After booking, you will receive your unique Zoom invite by email 24-48 hours before each event (3 hours if booked on the day).

Caring For The Royal Collection

Guest Speaker: Caroline de Guitaut,
Wednesday 1 December 2021, 7pm UK GMT

Bookings close at 3pm on the day

Join Caroline de Guitaut, Deputy Surveyor of The Queen’s Works of Art at the Royal Collection Trust, for a fascinating illustrated talk about this fabulous Collection and hear about some of the challenges of looking after a myriad of fascinating objects.

Caroline has been responsible for many exhibitions at Buckingham Palace and other royal residences, including the Coronation Exhibition of 2013 which featured three items made by the RSN, one of which was the Robe of State.

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From Page to Frame: Meet Gifted RSN Authors

Dr Susan Kay-Williams, Wednesday 8 December 2021, 7pm UK GMT

Bookings close at 3pm on the day

Join Dr Susan Kay-Williams for some festive fun in our last talk of the season. Susan will talk books with two RSN authors Emi Nimura, whose Goldwork book has just been published and Jen Goodwin on her Blackwork book.

Alongside this, Susan will tell you about some of the other books by RSN tutors from the 1990s techniques book, known affectionately as the green book to the collection of the essential stitch books known as the pink book – we like colours!

In addition, our festive special will feature work by recent students that highlight Christmas and parties to get you in the mood for the end of year celebrations!

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People’s Choice RSN Collection Talk: Underwear & Nightwear

Amy Hare, Wednesday 12 January 2022, 7pm UK 

(This talk has been re-scheduled from November 2021 and all original bookings will be honoured)

From the luxurious negligee to functional combinations, embroidery becomes a subtle and highly personal art form when it appears on those garments worn closest to the skin.

Join Amy as she explores the RSN’s unique collection of underwear and nightwear to reveal an intimate experience of the past.

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Previous Talks

Nicola Jarvis: RSN Apprentice to Award-Winning Embroiderer & Degree Tutor in 30 years

Wednesday 10 November 2021, 7pm UK GMT

In this talk we welcomed Nicola Jarvis who trained with the RSN 30 years ago. In conversation with Dr Susan Kay-Williams, Nicola tells us about her experience of the RSN Apprenticeship but also taking those skills further when she took an MA at Wimbledon School of Art.

Nicola also talks about her love of William and May Morris’s work and the impact of winning a competition at the William Morris Gallery, along with the early days of teaching on the RSN Degree programme. You’ll also be treated to a gallery of some of her most exquisite pieces of hand embroidery.

Fashion Accessories from the RSN Collection

 Amy Hare, Wednesday 27 October 2021, 7pm UK BST

Amy has delved into our Collection to find glorious examples of bags, purses, gloves, fans, shawls and parasols that reveal our enduring appreciation of hand embroidered accessories.

Accessories are where the craft and artistry of embroidery, and the display of fashion, taste and consumption are perfectly matched. In this talk, Amy will explore a variety of embroidered objects that demonstrate the versatility and beauty of embroidery over the past four hundred years.

RSN Apprentice to Head of Studio & Teaching:
Anne Butcher’s 40-year Stitch Journey

Wednesday 13 October 2021, 7pm UK BST

As the RSN approaches its 150th anniversary in 2022, Dr Susan Kay-Williams will introduce you to Anne Butcher our current Head of the Studio and Teaching who celebrates 40 years of association with the RSN next year.

Anne will reveal stories about training as an Apprentice in the 1980s, some of the projects she worked on, our move to Hampton Court and her wedding dress featuring in our 125th exhibition in 1997.  She returned to the RSN after having children, first as a teacher and then to run the Studio and the C&D programme. Anne will also talk about what it was like to suddenly move everything online in 2020.

Available on demand in November 2021.

Erica Wilson: The Original Hand Embroidery Influencer

Wednesday 29 September 2021, 7pm UK BST

Erica Wilson achieved celebrity status as an embroidery entrepreneur in the second half of the twentieth century. We are delighted to welcome guest speakers, Anne Hilker and Vanessa Diserio (Erica’s daughter), who will shed light on Erica’s fascinating life and career as the original hand embroidery influencer.

This talk looks at Erica’s early training at the Royal School of Needlework; her career, including her kits, books, television show, and store on Madison Avenue in New York City; and her stitching styles and techniques. Anne will also be highlighting pieces from the current online exhibition at Winterthur Museum, “Erica Wilson: A Life in Stitches.” Vanessa  will reveal stories of growing up within such a creative family and how she continues Erica’s embroidery legacy today.

Anne Hilker is a writer, historian, and lifelong embroiderer. She co-authored, with Linda Eaton, Erica Wilson: A Life in Stitches, published by Winterthur Museum in 2020.

Vanessa Diserio now runs the family business and their beautiful shop, Erica Wilson Nantucket

Watch On Demand

60 Years at the RSN with Elizabeth Elvin (former RSN principal)

Wednesday 8 September 2021, 7pm UK BST

Join us to meet Elizabeth Elvin in conversation with Dr Susan Kay-Williams.  Liz was the former principal of the RSN and is now celebrating 60 years of association with us – not bad for someone whose letter of appointment only confirmed a place for four months!

In this illustrated talk, Liz will reflect on her early days in the Workroom learning from some of the longest serving members of staff, going on to teach for the RSN, then later returning to the Workroom and becoming principal in 1990, a role she held until 2007. Today Liz is an assessor for the Certificate and Diploma programme. Liz will share anecdotes and stories never revealed before!

Watch On Demand

All That Glisters: The Historical Appeal of Metal Thread Embroidery

Amy Hare, Wednesday 30 June 2021, 7pm UK BST

In this talk, Amy examines Goldwork embroidery in the RSN Collection and considers the global appeal of this technique throughout history.

Through the objects in our archives, we can learn more about how metal thread embroidery has played an important role in the material culture of power, status and identity.

Watch On Demand

Landscapes in Stitch

Dr Susan Kay-Williams, Wednesday 16 June 2021, 7pm UK BST

Join us to see some stunning embroideries by past and present RSN students who have taken both rural and urban landscapes as their inspiration for Canvaswork, Blackwork, and Appliqué projects.

Dr Susan Kay-Williams will also reveal the constraints and opportunities of creating landscapes using Jacobean Crewelwork. The colour palettes may be limited, but our creative students display playfully distorted perspectives to create mythical landscapes and every possible take on the tree of life motif!

Watch On Demand

Hats, Bonnets & Veils: Embroidered Millinery

Amy Hare, Wednesday 26 May 2021, 7pm UK BST

From the purely functional to the highly symbolic, head coverings and their embellishment can tell us much about the lived experience of the past.

Join Amy as she explores this significant element of the RSN Collection and shows you stunning examples of millinery throughout the years.

Watch On Demand

Four Weddings, Four Coronations & Two Funerals: The RSN’s Royal Commissions

Dr Susan Kay-Williams, Wednesday 12 May 2021, 7pm UK BST

Official Royal Wedding Photograph, by Hugo Burnand

Image copyright: Hugo Burnand

In this talk, we’ll reveal some of the RSN’s precious gifts and commissions for the royal family illustrated by objects from our archives, letters and accounts in newspapers of the day.

Our Curator will show you some of the principal and well-documented items made for two State funerals, four coronations, four royal weddings and court events from 1901 to 2011.

This talk will reveal lots of pomp, splendour and lingerie!

Watch On Demand

Hand Embroidery in the 20th Century: Modernism in the RSN’s Collection

Amy Hare, Wednesday 28 April 2021, 7pm UK BST

How did hand embroidery adapt to the challenges of modernism and develop its own distinctive direction at the RSN in the twentieth century?

By considering samples, design work and unusual embroidered objects in the RSN Collection, Amy explores how hand embroidery looked to the past and to the future by creating the Art of the moment.

Watch On Demand

The RSN’s Warm Welcome: 150 Years of Royal Visitors

Dr Susan Kay-Williams, Wednesday 14 April 2021, 7pm UK 

The School of Art Needlework was founded in 1872 and gained its Royal prefix in 1875 when Queen Victoria became Patron. Our President was Princess Helena, formally known as Princess Christian of Schleswig Holstein. She was very passionate about the RSN and encouraged many people to visit.

In this talk, Dr Susan Kay-Williams will reveal some of our esteemed visitors from Queen Victoria herself to foreign heads of state, as told through newspaper accounts of the time. What did Queen Victoria want to see? Who did Edward VII and Queen Alexandra bring to view RSN workers? When did Queen Mary first visit and with whom? These are just a few of the questions Susan will be exploring.

Watch On Demand

Whitework & Lace: A Shining and Affirmative Thing

Amy Hare, Wednesday 24 March 2021, 7pm UK GMT

The RSN Collection houses stunning examples of Whitework and lace objects spanning four hundred years.

Join Amy as she explores the function and meaning of white embroidery in the past and highlights some of the most delicate and interesting pieces in our Collection. See some rare and wonderful pieces from our archives in this object-focused Talk followed by a Q&A session easily accessed via Zoom.

Watch On Demand

Stitch is International

Dr Susan Kay-Williams, Wednesday 10 March 2021, 7pm UK GMT

In this talk we reveal the RSN exhibition that never was – ‘Stitch is International’! Our Curator, Dr Susan Kay-Williams, will bring its key elements to you virtually and show you some of her personal collection of pieces too.

You’ll see objects from across the world from Chile to Japan and India to Panama. The pieces include clothing and tableware, to the purely decorative. Be prepared for a riot of colour and stitches and a wide variety of subject matter!

Watch On Demand

Embroidery & Needlework in Education

Amy Hare, Wednesday 24 February 2021, 7pm UK GMT 

Back in 1872 the RSN’s central mission was to provide an education in the Art of Hand Embroidery, but needlework and sewing have been taught for centuries as part of girls education.

In this Talk we explore how needlework and sewing served diverse purposes in nineteenth century England, using teaching materials and fascinating student sample books from the RSN Collection.

Watch On Demand

Goldwork from the RSN Collection

Dr Susan Kay-Williams, Wednesday 10 February 2021, 7pm UK GMT

Join us for a talk which goes to the heart of the RSN’s work – Goldwork – the technique for which we are probably best known. You will discover our approach to this stunning technique and learn how others do it differently.

Our Curator, Dr Susan Kay-Williams, will show you samplers, pieces for the church and embroideries for royalty. You will also see beautiful motifs stitched by RSN students featuring Goldwork on its own or in combination with other techniques such as Blackwork and Silk Shading.

Watch On Demand

Four Centuries of Embroidered Bags, Pouches & Purses

Amy Hare, Wednesday 27 January 2021, 7pm UK GMT

Practical, affordable and highly significant, embroidered bags and purses form a substantial part of the RSN Collection. Join us to see some stunning objects and discover the chronological development of embroidery as an art form for accessories from the 17th to the 20th century.

Watch On Demand

Faces & Figures in Embroidery

Dr Susan Kay-Williams, Wednesday 13 Jan 2021, 7pm UK GMT

Tune in for a final chance to see pieces from one of our most popular exhibitions up close and in detail with our Curator, Dr Susan Kay-Williams! This talk will look at the different embroidery techniques featured through a small number of works.

Susan will be joined by a guest RSN tutor to explore the different stitches and how they have been brought together. Techniques covered will include Blackwork, Tapestry Silk Shading, Goldwork, Stumpwork, Appliqué and Canvaswork.

Watch On Demand

Victorian Embroidery in the 19th Century

Amy Hare, Wednesday 25 November, 7pm UK GMT

The commodification of needlework in Victorian Britain and the concept of self-improvement through craft is considered in Amy’s Talk. When we encounter an embroidered object, we can be charmed by its beauty, in awe of its craftsmanship or intrigued by its unfamiliarity, but we are also bearing witness to the act of making, the moment of deliberate and exact stitching. Join us as we examine a series of embroidered objects like these decorative Berlin Woolwork and beaded face screens made in the nineteenth century.

Watch On Demand

Self Fashioning: Embroidery & Needlework in Dress

Amy Hare, Wednesday 28 October 2020, 7pm UK GMT

Discover how embroidery has adorned and embellished fashionable dress for centuries. From needlework studios to bedroom stitchers, embroidery has been used to create the ‘self’ through fashion. Amy will show you garments and samples from the RSN collection to explore this idea.

Watch On Demand