On 5th May 2022 it will be two years since I ran the first pilot Zoom session for the Royal School of Needlework – it was the last of a three-day drawing course, of which the first two days were delivered in person at Hampton Court.
The virus moved fast. By 23rd March we were in lockdown, a word I had not been aware of before the arrival of Coronavirus. I had one final drawing session to run of that three day course, as well as a ragular class of my own and a monthly ukulele group session I was responsible for- so lots of things which I wanted to keep going if I could find a way. I ran the first ukulele group session on 24th March 2020, with quite a bit of anxiety and finding the lack of feedback strange – I remember it felt very one way, me projecting outward. But it was better than not meeting at all.
As I remember, I’d spent April getting used to Zoom and training my various students and ukulele group members how to work it. I got my own local drawing class going online on 30th March. I’d run a few sessions for the ukers and my own class weekly so I was in a good position to respond when Noleen, responsible for organising day classes at the Royal School of Needlework, asked me to try the remaining drawing session online on 5th May. I had an old webcam strapped onto an overhead lamp with a bit of masking tape, which I used to show my paper and the exercises during the session, and I used my facilitation skills to help everyone feel engaged and get them all interacting, which can be a challenge in Zoom. Students were so appreciative of the chance to go on learning online. Noleen was very enthusiastic and encouraging about trying it out, and very positive about the results.
The 5th May 2020 final drawing class session worked well enough on Zoom for the RSN to go forward with advertising and running online classes.
Over the next few months I upgraded my tech to a visualiser with high quality definition, organised my space at home more carefully for teaching and redesigned the RSN drawing classes in the summer of 2020 into the current series of 4, which offer a drawing pathway right from the beginning. We ran a massive number of them through 2020. I think I ran the series twice in August, 8 classes in all, and about 4 of the RSN Drawing Flowers classes through May and June in 2020… I’ve lost count of how many classes I have run for the RSN since, and how many people have completed them.
It’s interesting to look back on it from this perspective; to remember that time and how strange it was, and what has become normal as a result. People have joined from many countries and continue to do so. I’ve counted students from the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, France, Belgium, Russia, and of course all over the UK and Wales, including a remote student in the Isle of Mull in Scotland.
Now, two years later, we are trying to find our way back towards normal life – but of course, some things have changed for ever. We can’t go back to the world we had before, but it turns out that the pandemic provided an opportunity as well as a crisis. One of those unforeseeable changes is that the RSN now has a permanent programme of online learning -for those who would never have come to Hampton Court in the UK, for those who can’t leave home very easily, and for those who are still shielding ‘online’ has opened up a new world.
For myself, my local class going online resulted in a community of students, who met in person at my Drawing weekend summer school in August 2021. I have another drawing weekend planned for this August, and it’s been great to come full circle – to finally meet in person those whom we’ve met and got to know online. More details about that here: https://carolinehomfray.co.uk/
For the current Royal School of Needlework online classes, embroidery and design: https://royal-needlework.org.uk/courses/day-classes/
For my own drop-in classes : https://carolinehomfray.co.uk/drawing/