One stitch at a time. The story of the Wemyss School of Needlework is inspiring. So much so that the postgraduate students studying Museum and Gallery studies at the University of St Andrews have curated a museum to showcase, not only the works but also the story behind it.
The collection of their embroidered works at St Andrews Museum, in the first major exhibition outside of the School since 1936.
Accompanying the exhibition are several free educational events, which the students hope will engage visitors with the works on display through various workshops. Other events also focus on the history of the School and the village in which it lies.
The exhibition – Sewing Independence: Revealing the Wemyss School of Needlework – has been developed as part of the coursework for the M.Litt Museum and Gallery Studies but has left a lasting mark on the young curators.
“Our class was split into two with eight of the other students curating a science based exhibition,” explained Jenny Greiner, display team. “Those with an interest in craft and handiwork naturally gravitated towards this project.
“However the main thing that the exhibition has taught me is what needlework meant for the girls at the time. It was not a handicraft, it was a way of life – a way of having some form of independence and to learn a skill. That is one of the biggest lessons we have taken from this.”
Fiona Wemyss, the current guardian of the Wemyss School of Needlework, said: “Our involvement with St Andrews University is very important to us on two counts. To help young people is a continuation of our original raison d’être and to be the subject of their exhibition in 2016 will, I hope and expect, increase awareness of our existence and encourage more people to visit us and realise what a treasure trove the Wemyss School of Needlework is.”
Gavin Grant, collections and exhibitions team leader at the Fife Cultural Trust said: “We are delighted to be able to show the exhibition in St Andrews Museum and work with the University once again and the Wemyss School of Needlework. The students have created a fantastic show and I am sure visitors will love the wonderful display of textile objects they have selected.”
Jenny explained the process and work behind curating such an event: “The exhibition was 100 percent a team project carried out by all eight of us in the Sewing Independence group.
“In collaborating with the Wemyss School of Needlework and St Andrews Museum we undertook every stage of the exhibition set up; from deciding on a title, to choosing each piece now on display and organising every aspect of the exhibition before and after the opening.
“As a group we designed and personally set up the exhibition; hanging frames, moving cases, writing and applying labels. Everything you see in the exhibition is the result of many months of hard work, carried out by people who are not yet professionals, but who already have the skills to arrange a very successful cultural event.”
Sewing Independence is at St Andrews Museum until May 14 open 10.30 to 4pm (closed Sundays) until September. A drop in session on April 23, is also available to create your own embroidered piece from 11am to 3pm.