Hand & Lock Prize for Embroidery 2020


The annual Hand & Lock Prize for Embroidery celebrates emerging embroidery talent from all over the world and 2020 marked the 20th anniversary of the prestigious competition. Circumstances meant this year’s week long exhibition in central London had to be cancelled, but Hand & Lock conceived an alternative event, ‘Virtual Prize Week’, which took place from 16 to 20 November culminating in a live virtual prize giving where the winners in each of categories were announced.

The brief this year was ‘The Poetics of Colour’ and embroiderers were asked “to become totally colour focused, real colouristas, and continue texture with colour to tell a story.” Each of the Finalists embroidery submissions fell into one of four categories. The 2020 Prize for Embroidery has awards for Fashion and Textile Arts, and these two categories are further divided into Student and Open sub-categories. There were also five Associate Awards celebrating technical skills, innovative materials, environmental sustainability and digital embroidery.

RSN Future Tutor Graduate 2020 Martha Blackburn won First Prize in the Student Textile Arts category as well as winning the ‘RSN Associate Award for Innovation and Technical Excellence in Hand Embroidery’. We are also extremely proud that six Winners or Finalists were students or Graduates of the BA (Hons) Hand Embroidery Degree:

Naomi Aindow, RSN Degree Graduate 2020, was The Worshipful Company of Gold & Silver Wyre Drawers Associate Award winner Award for her graduate collection, ‘Spores of Life’. Her collection focused around Fungi and Lichen, looking at the minute patterns within an overall spore, such as the Oyster Mushroom and Tundra Lichen. Naomi is particularly drawn to these macro details; “The concept, the deeper you look the more you discover, is perfectly demonstrated through the common puffball mushroom. The surface texture appears to be fluffy but closer inspection reveals tiny soft spikes. This concept is detailed heavily throughout ‘Spores of Life’. As you gaze deeper into the adornment, more stitches and textures become apparent.”

Lucy Tiley, RSN Degree Graduate 2020, was awarded third place the Student Textile Arts category and was The Worshipful Company of Broderers Associate Award winner for her graduate collection, ‘Omnipotent Horizons’. Lucy says; “’Omnipotent Horizons’ is an interior collection consisting of a re-vamped period style chair and matching stool, based around aerial views. Using a colour pallet of bold purples and oranges coupled with fierce patterns, Lucy captures the beauty of the landscape through organic paint marks that then translate into beautiful stitch. She uses layers of embroidery and fabric manipulation to mimic the textual feel of her artworks. Aiming to create collections that are sculpted around her client’s lives, their needs and wants are important to ensure the personal connection between person and furniture; to connect through their senses.”

Hisae Abe, RSN Degree Graduate 2020, was awarded third place in the Student Fashion category for her graduate collection, ‘Kimono’. The way Hisae works is very influenced by Japanese culture and how the Japanese conduct themselves. ‘Kimono’ is inspired by her mother’s Kimono which was found in her mother’s drawer after her she had passed away; “The Kimono was created by traditional Japanese detailed hand craftsmanship, Japanese hand embroidery and Shibori, which is exquisite hand dyeing. The Kimono industry has shrunk in Japan so I wanted to bring something new to her Kimono to encourage more people to become interested in this iconic Japanese garment and I hope that the tradition of wearing Kimonos will continue into the next generation. The large peony at the front reminds us of the relationship between mother and child because the mother’s existence always appears large and towers over the child.” Hisae has expressed the natural cycle in which the flowers bloom, the petals fall and pile up on the ground, and the flowers bloom again. This is like our life cycle and contains the wish she has, that the Japanese tradition of the wearing the Kimono is inherited and continues forever.

Grace Ingman, RSN Degree Graduate 2020, Finalist in the Textile Arts Student Category for her graduate collection, ‘An Immortal Bloom’, which is a collection of flowers in representative formations to scarring on peoples bodies. Grace says; “’An Immortal Bloom’ began with a continuation of my working of embroidery with nature and scarring. It is a project which endeavours to be an inclusive textile art collection exploring the scarring people wear on their bodies that others may never know about or understand the impact of them to the person to whom they belong. It is not a representation of particular peoples scarring but rather a beautiful floral celebration of a collective of people’s individualities. The idea of the ‘immortal bloom’ is the flowers are taken from my grandfather’s garden and live on with his love and mine through this embroidery. In a time when there is pressure to have a certain look, size, shape, ‘perfect’ by photo-shopped ‘beauty’ standards, I create this to counter that, through the wearing of someone’s scar on your own body and being impacted by the way it can be so beautiful. It is a collective of works hoping to create a view that imperfections are perfection and we should strive to celebrate that.”

Jessica Vale, RSN Degree Graduate 2020, Finalist in the Fashion Embroidery Student Category for her graduate collection, ‘Flying the Flag at Half Mast’. Her collection was inspired by her family connections to the Evacuation at Dunkirk, and exploring the ways that the significance and poignancy from this event could be married with the strong and linear patterns that have become synonymous with Jessica’s practice; “I design wearable art for a gallery setting, where the fine embroidery and subtle details can be best recognised and appreciated.” She is driven by concept, often repurposing vintage garments while using precise embroidery to allow their past to be fully appreciated. Bold and clean pattern is a strong characteristic of Jessica’s style, and can be found throughout her work.

Durga Shanthakumar, RSN Degree 3rd year student, Finalist in the Fashion Embroidery Student Category for her entry, ‘Plush Bomb’, on the theme of Disney toys. She created drawings and paintings based on her toys and then edited them on Photoshop to create different patterns as a guide for her sample making; “I wanted to recreate a soft texture in a fashion way and started looking in to textile artists and designers who used soft, fluffy materials” Durga was inspired by RSN Tutor Tracy A Franklin’s book, ‘New Ideas in Goldwork’, and used Japanese passing threads looped in to metal gauze for the fringing.”

We are so proud of all of our 2020 Winners and Finalists and look forward to another exciting year in 2021 when the Hand & Lock Prize for Embroidery brief is ‘Digital Doppelgangers’!


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