Wednesday, September 11, 2019

The Harmony with Nature Casket Course - Open for Registration

I have mentioned before that my cabinet maker is retiring from this project in a year.  During that time, we will have finished 250 short flat caskets and 65 double caskets that have not been purchased previously by the Cabinet of Curiosities students.  In addition, the entire 'infrastructure' for Cabinet of Curiosities - the caskets - is coming to an end.  Everyone was around 55-65 when I started this originally about 12 years ago.  And guess what - they have gotten older.  There are many things that have already been discontinued or the last runs have been made or planned.

Therefore I decided to use these last two sets of caskets to run two project courses which would come with everything in the project class so I would be ensured that everyone would have what they needed to make the casket successfully.  This also allows me to open it back up and allow people who have been watching on the sidelines into the fun and to make a casket.  I really hope as many as possible take me up on it as these will be the 'last chances'.

I opened the registration this week and already 25 students have signed up in 24 hours.  But I have also gotten the many predictable questions from stitchers who are new to the Thistle Threads universe  - they usually center around costs, shipping questions, fears about 'keeping up' or skills that might be needed.  I thought it would be helpful for those thinking about the course to hear from stitchers who have taken a casket course - to hear from their perspective on what it has meant to them as it is hard for me to express all the facets.  As one student told me - it's not just a project, its everything in my stitching life... as you read below - I couldn't have said it better.

If you love the look of 17th century embroidery and have the opportunity to create and own a replica, it's a no brainer. Why wouldn't you do it? I don't think it matters what your skill set is. No one who started out on these courses could possibly have had all the skills needed. Besides, some of them are quite surprising and in any case learning new skills and working things out for yourself adds more layers of understanding, appreciation and obsession. I was expecting the cost to be hideous, but when you consider the research that has gone into every element - the high quality, artisan-made materials, the distances they've travelled and the fact that you can name the person who made them, not to mention the skills of each person involved in the myriad processes - it represents realistic value for money. As for the time involved - I'd say just start, join in.  - Simona

 I had this conversation with a few people while my casket was on display.  It's amazing but cost, or but not confident in my skills or but can it really be worth the money.  I mentioned all the work that went into the caskets themselves but mostly I talked about the class experience and how much I learned from it.  What it really boils down to is that CoC is something entirely unique - a deep dive into this particular kind of object and the embroidery that went with it - and it is an opportunity that will not come again once it's done.  Too much went into this class, all the research, producing locks and hardware for the casket, the specially woven tape for the exterior, the specialty threads, etc etc.  The combination of knowledge, research, and production necessary to produce this was really a one time thing.  The stars aligned for us to have this great opportunity to learn and to make, and when it's gone, it's gone.  As for skills, when I started this class I hadn't done any needlelace, or goldwork, or really much of anything besides pottering around with some floss and a hoop and I am now coming up on a finished casket.  The class teaches you everything you need to know, and it's not like the originals were made by experts.  They were made by girls who were learning themselves.  - Katie

I would especially recommend this course to people who live in far flung areas around the world. It is a simply wonderful way not only to improve your skills, but to feel part of a community without any borders! The Ning site gives you the opportunity to communicate with people who all share a common interest. Sharing your successes and your questions with like minded people really gives you a sense of community. Even if you live in a large center, how often do you see people's eyes "glaze over" when you mention that you are passionate about embroidery, just prior to them asking you what are you "knitting" now
The lessons are a wonderful way to learn new skills, and to increase your own creativity. There is no pressure to produce an item in a specified time. Being able to work at your own pace takes away all the stress that can come from more formal tuition. And what can I say about the actual content of the courses except that everything has been so well researched. The instructions for all parts of embroidery, from framing up to new stitches are so clear that whatever your skill level is, you will just grow in confidence as you progress. And the kits themselves are superb. You will not find better quality and attention to detail anywhere else. - Leslie-Ann

If you’ve always admired historical caskets in museums and wanted to have one, this is your opportunity. The techniques and reproduction materials are as close to authentic as we’re going to get in modern times. This course is accessible to both novice and expert, whether you want to stitch it as designed or tweak it to make your own (I love the unicorn and would have to move him to the front). There are no deadlines or evaluations, you can work at your own pace and dive as deeply as you like into the historical research provided. Prior to taking this course, my only needlework experience was many years of cross stitch and a single gold work project. Now I’m closely examining 17th century works online and in museums, able to identify threads and stitch techniques and enjoying every moment of creating my own museum quality casket.  - Sheetal

Well - - - firstly, to deal with the cost.  Yes the classes are costly -  but the thoughtful way that this has been managed is to use the payment plans - which I've now been doing for years and I LOVE the idea!  It allows me to plan - and to see the progress of the payments in my monthly Paypal statements.  Payment plans for classes have allowed me to be a CoC member - and I think that this is the same for many of the community.
Also - when this CoC eras is done, it's over and it's not going to come back!  If anyone is thinking that they can wait for a couple of years until they retire and "have more time" - then frankly they will miss out.  Back once again to the lovely payment plans - - use the payment plan now - joing Ning for the community - and have Harmony sitting on your own kitchen table ready to go when the time becomes available!  - Wendy
I've admired the caskets in British museums for years.  So when I heard about the course, I immediately went on the website.  I nearly had a heart attack when I converted the cost the course and a double casket from US$ to Canadian $.  Then I took a break and thought about the annual embroidery or bobbin lace convention that I went to every year and calculated what I was paying for air fare, hotels, meals, registration and kits. After dividing that into the cost of the course, I knew how many years I'd have to skip the conventions and signed up. I'm now about 6 months away from completing my casket and I haven't regretted that decision for 1 minute.  - Margot
For me, the most amazing thing has been the sense of community, when I first joined COC 1 way back in the beginning, I thought why not, it may be interesting, but then I realized I was not alone.  In my local group of stitching friends we have 3 casketeers, 2 of whom are way more advanced on their projects than I; then the circle widened to people I met at Koala Conventions, with conversations along the lines “I know your are in COC, lovely to put a face to a name”; and finally out into the worldwide stitching community where I realized I knew far more about things than I had thought. It has all been so much FUN Tricia, thank you so much.  As to the cost.....I’m not adding it up, when I could afford I did, when I could not it waited.  But now I grab everything as I don’t want to miss out for 1 minute. – Mary-Anne 
In looking at this class, the cost needs to be broken down into comparisons to daily activities: 1) The full cost is less than in-state tuition for 6 credits at a state university. Six credits would be one or two classes for 3 months. This class is done over 2 years rather than just 3 months and the learning opportunity is far greater than one or two college classes. 2) The cost per month is less than $5 per day. An average beverage at most coffee shops is about that much. Could one give up a fancy cup of coffee daily for 2 years in exchange for a beautiful treasure and all the knowledge that is needed to produce it?  3) All of this class is done at home. Consider the costs of going to a class out of town - travel expenses, hotel costs, eating out at restaurants, as well as the cost of 12-15 hours of instruction from a very qualified teacher. The costs for that and this are quite similar but that project is much smaller, less intense, and the teacher is no longer available after you go home again. With this course, the instructor is available for two years, (occasionally with a small delay if she is traveling out of town, but even those delays are never that long :)).  In regards to skill level, caskets were stitched by young girls without the benefit of good lighting or quality tools, and to demonstrate what they learned when taught how to stitch. They were beginners. That should mean that anyone with the ability to thread a needle and follow instructions will be able to complete this project if they want to. It will take time and hours of study and stitching, but it can be accomplished. It is not an ornament that takes a few hours but instead 5 or more stitched pictures that are then mounted on a quality wooden product.  I was in the first CofC class. I didn't keep up due to a very busy work schedule. In retirement, I am going about it at a very slow rate, stitching other items as well and enjoying the time I now have to work on it. While I didn't have the experience of sharing with others while everyone was learning the same thing, I have enjoyed going through the materials now that I have time to concentrate on them. I never received a scolding about not keeping up, was never kicked out of class due to not having examples to share, and believe that the same would be true if someone were to take the class and not succeed in keeping up to a monthly schedule.  - Karen

I was also hesitant to take the original casket class because of the cost...until I changed my mindset about the nature of the class. This wasn't a "one-time" deal. It was the time equivalent of getting a Master's degree in 17th century needlework, at a fraction of the cost of a Master's degree. All the wonderful stitching materials, instructions and historical information were included in that cost. Unlike a true Master's degree, I could do the work at my own pace, with no tests, papers or other assignments. Plus, the "homework" was stitching! -Carol

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