Image: Detail of embroidered denim jacket. Ana Maria Restrepo (Colombia). Finalist, Textile Open Art category.
The 2022 iteration of the world’s premier embroidery competition has just entered its final round. The Hand & Lock Prize for Embroidery, run by the official embroiderers to the British Royal Family, gives new designers the opportunity to showcase their embroidery talents and gain vital exposure and experience. Since it was founded in 2000, it has been expanded to include textile artists, interior and accessory designers as well as those working in fashion. The competition highlights the exquisite craftsmanship and skill of this intricate craft and serves as a focus for the embroidery community to celebrate each other’s works. Indeed, the annual prize giving has become a significant part of the London fashion calendar; an occasion where industry professionals, designers and influencers congregate to see the latest embroidery talent.
Each year, the prize opens with an online registration, which closes in April, followed by a two-month window for entrants to upload evidence of their work. Encouraged to follow a specific brief, if selected for the second round, they then work with an expert mentor to perfect their submissions, in time for a final, live judging event.
The prize has helped launch the careers of hundreds of designers and makers, with many former winners working at top European design houses, starting their own successful businesses, and event joining the team at Hand & Lock.
Image: Glove. Eline Gaudé (Finland). Finalist, Textile Student Art category.
The exhibition that accompanies the prize-giving welcomes embroidery enthusiasts, contemporary art lovers, students, fashion influencers and London tourists alike, and is usually accompanied by a curated schedule of talks, events, and workshops.
This year, the prize received over 500 entries, from 44 countries across the globe. The 23 finalists now have the opportunity to work alongside their industry mentors to perfect their final submissions, before the winners— who will share over $35,000 in prizes —are revealed at a live judging event.
The four categories— Textile Open Art; Textile Student Art; Fashion Open; and Fashion Student —will be judged by a panel including Philip Treacy, Cornelia Parker, Esme Young, Anthea Godfrey, Jenny King, Anna Murphy, and Alastair Macleod.
Image: Detail of ripple texture for jacket. Harvey Williams (UK). Finalist, Fashion Open category.
Perhaps fittingly, given the recent accession of King Charles III, the 2022-3 brief is all about the power of nature, evolution, adaptation, biomimicry, texture, colour, craft, and sustainable practices. Amid the climate crisis, war, economic uncertainty, and the pandemic, many people are turning to spiritual practice for solace. Entrants were asked to consider embroidery a form of meditation, to interrogate and pay attention to their own mental, physical, psychological, and spiritual states as they engage in acts of creation. Further, they were asked to reflect on the role of textiles and embroidery in common rituals, and the emotional and symbolic power of colour and material combinations.
Image: Recipe for bioplastic embellishment using found cherry blossom. Ella Parr (UK). Finalist, FashionStudent category
The brief encouraged the embroiderers to ‘explore the work of artists such as Madge Gill, who created mediumistic textile arts. Gill claimed to be guided by a spirit, ‘Myrninerest’ (my inner rest) and her pieces have an otherworldly quality that provokes questions about reality. Also, pay close attention to the colours used in spiritual and ritualistic textiles. What are the cultural meanings and how do those meanings shift when cultures clash? In Buddhism, meditating on the colour yellow transforms inner pride into wisdom. However, in the Christian faith yellow is associated with Judas Iscariot and has become linked with betrayal, envy, jealousy and greed. Play with contradictions and semiotics and weave new meanings into your creation. Consider both the light and dark aspects of the mystic arts.
In Fashion at The Edge, Caroline Evans asks that we recognise that fashion and textiles are perishable and therefore remind us of our fragile and finite lifespans. The Memento Mori present in art and fashion is also in many spiritual rituals. In your work, try to speak to beauty and decay, life and death, light and darkness. Finally, contemplate the performative role of your creation. Invent your rituals and consider how the item engages with the physical and spiritual realm. Think about combining the ritual of making with the performance of using. Also, imagine the future, the metaverse, augmented reality, and cryptocurrencies, and consider how evolving technologies might play a part in the next era of spirituality…Create your own mythic and mysterious universe and make an embroidery statement that resonates with reality.’
Image: Fire Lady. Madge Gill. Ink on card, circa 1940. Courtesy of collection of madgegill.com
SELVEDGE wishes to congratulate all 23 finalists, whose work will be included in Hand & Lock’s biennial exhibition, held at the Bargehouse OXO, Tower Wharf, from 16-19 November, 2023. The Embroidered Arts Exhibition will also include rarely seen embroidered art works, iconic fashions and the most innovative and exciting new designs.