The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall were joined by The Duchess of Cambridge today, for a visit to Trinity Buoy Wharf and the Prince’s Foundation.
The former docklands in east London is home to a training site for arts and culture, run by Charles’ charitable organisation. The future King is a keen supporter of traditional crafts and trades.
Kate last joined her in-laws for an engagement in February 2020, when she visited Stanford Hall military rehabilitation centre with her husband. She was invited by Prince Charles to today’s engagement ‘in recognition of [her] shared interest and longstanding support of the arts and creative industries’, Clarence House explained.
The royal trio were greeted by representatives of The Prince’s Foundation including David, the Earl of Snowdon, who is the Vice President of the Prince’s Foundation and Charles’ nephew, before taking a tour of the site, which encompasses many different crafts and art forms – from to stone carving, to fashion and textiles, thatching, blacksmithing, and more.
Inside, the Royals got to meet students from The Prince’s Foundation School of Traditional Arts, who were working on geometry and mosaic projects.
Next came chatting to photography and animation students. The Duchess of Cambridge is a keen amateur photographer herself, regularly releasing family photos that she has taken. In 2019, Catherine became Royal Patron of the Royal Photographic Society, taking over from The Queen.
In the oldest part of the building, it was on to the Future Textiles Studio and Pattern-cutting studio, which was once the old Hemp Store where dock-workers made rope. Here, home-school students demonstrated their sewing-machine skills – of course, it wouldn’t be a royal visit if they didn’t get stuck in! Charles, Camilla and Kate were invited to try their hand at sewing a straight seam.
Students Soukayna and Safiya Ouhammou spoke to Camilla and Kate about their jumper designs, inspired by lilies near to the centre. It forms part of their course.
Soukayna, 15, said they started off by taking photographs on their phones of lily flowers on the river, before sketching out their ideas. “We started by thinking about our inspiration from the things around us, so I took some pictures when we went for a walk by the river and the lily looked so beautiful on the water.
“It gave me the idea to make a contrast of colours on the jumper which could be stitched together, one on top of the other.”
Graduates and Entrepreneurs from The Modern Artisan project, which is a collaboration between The Prince’s Foundation and YOOX Net-a-Porter Group, will then discuss techniques behind traditional kilt production and silk smocking and demonstrate hand-sewing onto fabric.
The Prince of Wales dons a kilt, often of Prince of Wales tartan (or sometimes Balmoral), when in Scotland, and it is considered a traditional craft to create the woollen fabric and then the garment.
Young designer Nicole Christie, who trained with The Prince’s Foundation Modern Artisan project in Scotland, spoke to PEOPLE about her experience. She got to catch up with Prince Charles, whom she has met previously, and meet Camilla and Kate for the first time. Christie is taking her first steps in the fashion world with her label, Ellipsis.
“It was amazing seeing the duchesses interacting about one of my garments,” she explained. “I only started my business 18 months ago and never thought within that time I’d have Royals looking at my garments. Kate was asking about the silk — I use 100% silk sourced in the U.K. They were really taken aback and it was an honour for me that I had the chance to meet them.”
She added: “They were really humble and interested in what I was talking about. It was not a day-filling visit — they were asking questions about my business and the support I’d had from the foundation and the Prince’s Trust.”
The student gifted a silk clutch bag to both Duchesses, and a pink hair scrunchie for Princess Charlotte. “I just thought I couldn’t leave her out,” Nicole said.
Life drawing – albeit fully clothed – was also on the agenda in the Clore Drawing Studio, full of students from The Prince’s Foundation Diploma Year programme.
Abigail Ede, 18, commented: “It was quite overwhelming to meet them. I never thought I’d meet them. They were wishing me good luck.”
The Royals watched her sketching in the class. “I was quite nervous before they got here, but they were really nice and just asked me about my work and you can tell they have a shared interest in art.”
Ede – who will be attending Oxford this year to study Fine Art – recounted that Catherine said here drawings were ‘really good’. “She asked me what the theme was. I told her they were about the natural hair and movement and how it impacts the black community, and she said she really liked it.”
Camilla spoke to Imogen Lewis, 19, from Suffolk, and joked: “I think I’d rather be doing the drawing with you!
“It looks such fun. How long do you have to do it?”
Prince Charles, meanwhile, was taken with stone carving. He spotted a snail shell sculpture by the students, and chatted teacher Lily Marsh. Marsh said: “The Prince spotted it straight away, he was fascinated by it.
“He said the snail’s shell is one of those incredible creations of the natural world that has its roots squarely in the world of mathematics and geometry.
“He said ‘it is a perfect example of nature and philosophy being interconnected in a holistic way’. It’s no mistake, it really is geometric in its shape and design and for its success to survive, so he is exactly right.”
The future King told Ms Marsh of the ‘importance of safeguarding traditional skills for future generations’.
She added: “That is our focus here, to invest in the next generation of budding artists and craftspeople who may have never even learned of these techniques before but could go on to have hugely successful and flourishing experiences and even careers from them.
“The Prince’s Foundation certainly believes in the power of opportunity and you are seeing it being realised right here.”
Finally, Their Royal Highnesses took a walk through the sculpture studio, admiring the wax sculpture works on display. Students were also making their own.