As a 2017 graduate from the Royal School of Needlework’s Future Tutor Programme, which was run in partnership with Lady Anne’s Retreats, Auburn Claire Lucas is a tutor close to our hearts. Auburn is a young professional hand embroiderer who’s dream of “being able to stitch all day long” has come true!
Auburn has a real love for 18th Century fashion – a time where they were experimenting with style, colour, technique and materials. She says: “Everything was beautiful and ornate and the embroideries on both male and female dress were just exquisite”.
Ahead of Lady Anne’s Needlework Festival, we caught up with Auburn to find out a little more about her passion for stitching.
Why and how did you become a needlework tutor? Did anyone or thing, in particular, inspire you?
I’ve been enjoying embroidery as a hobby since childhood and then again when I was at University studying costume. Pretty much all of the costumes I made had some sort of embroidery on them. After University, I began working at a tailor’s and though I enjoyed my job, I found that I wasn’t being very creative anymore. I wasn’t doing any embroidery, because I was working so much.
All that changed when I entered into the Hand & Lock embroidery prize. When I wasn’t at work, I was stitching the embroidery piece I had entered. I was stitching at all hours, even in the middle of the night and loving it! I didn’t really get anywhere in the competition, but that didn’t matter as I’d realised that I wanted to do embroidery all day long and if I could, I needed to find a job in embroidery. That’s when I found the Future Tutor Programme at the Royal School of Needlework. The reason I wanted to become a needlework tutor is that I had such a wonderful learning experience at University that I wanted to be able to give others that same or similar experience through their learning.
What is your main needlework interest?
My main needlework passion is historical costumes. I love looking at original historical pieces of embroidery and trying to work out how the stitches were invented and created. It’s fascinating and mind-boggling at the same time, and I’m often inspired to try and recreate them. My favourite embroidery techniques are Whitework, Stumpwork, Appliqué and Silk Shading.
Do you have a favourite stitch?
My favourite stitch is really quick and really simple – French knots. They create such wonderful textures, they can be worked in any thread, on any fabric and can be beautifully shaded like in Chinese embroideries.
If you had to choose one needlework possession to save in a fire, what would it be?
My thimble! Having been taught to use a thimble when I started at the tailors I now can’t stitch without one, whether it’s embroidery or tailoring. I use one of the old tailoring open-top thimbles which are surprisingly hard to find nowadays. I have 3 which fit me perfectly.
When developing your designs, which activity takes the most time?
Usually, actually getting the idea down on paper takes the most time! With any, one idea, there are usually so many variations that come with it that it takes me a while to get them all out of my head and roughly drawn up. Then, it’s a case of deciding which ones I want to develop further into a final design.
How much time do you spend stitching each day?
This changes all the time as it depends on what work I have on and if I’ve fallen behind on “life admin” but, I always stitch for a few hours every day. I guess the real answer is never as much as I would like!
What is the best piece of advice about needlework you have been given and can share with our students?
I’ve been given so much advice over the years it’s hard to pinpoint the best piece but the advice I’ve passed on the most is: “It’s never going to be perfect, especially the first time you try something, but you should always be proud of your work because you’ve dedicated your time and effort into creating it! Creating a perfect piece of embroidery would be boring anyway because you would no longer be challenged and you wouldn’t have another piece to move on to.”
What advice would you give to students to get the most out of their workshop experience?
Have fun, and do the best you can. It doesn’t matter how anyone else is doing if their piece is finished before yours or you think they’re a better stitcher. Just enjoy yourself and enjoy stitching and learning.
Thank you Auburn for your time and energy, we look forward to having you with us in our home town during the Lady Anne’s Needlework Festival 2021. Visit Auburn’s page on our website to see all the details of the workshops she will be offering at the Festival.