Every year, Hand & Lock organizes a competition for the prestigious Prize for Embroidery to promote the use of hand embroidery in fashion and to discover emerging embroidery talent. The 2015 brief was about the individual design identities of Countries.
On Thursday, the 5th of November, London’s Bishopsgate Institute hosted the final of the 2015 Hand & Lock Prize for Embroidery.
Today we’ll meet the second-place winner in the Student Category.
Name: Alice Selwood
School: Falmouth University 2015
The name of your Hand & Lock entry is “Kernewek Bywedh – The Cornish Life.” What does that mean? And do you know how many times I had to look at that name to get the spelling right?!
I’m not surprised. I’m still waiting for the Cornish Linguist Police to catch up with me! It should in Cornish mean Cornish Life.
What is your connection to this, and why did you choose this for your entry?
Although not a true native, I grew up in Cornwall, and I absolutely love the landscape, culture, the pride of its people; and for me I wanted to explore what made it. By looking back at its history, its mining heritage, the language and communities, you get to grips with how gritty and hard living in Cornwall was, which pulled communities together, looking out for one another, pitching in when times were tough, all of which is still so present in its culture.
And on the plus side I got to watch Poldark as “research.”
What techniques did you develop or employ in the design and execution of the piece?
I really wanted to push digital embroidery beyond the quick stitch logos, and so I was trying to create a really dramatic 3D effect, that made you question whether it was stitch. But all of this was new to me, I’d never worked with digital embroidery so after about three months of playing, this was my big finale.
What made you want to enter this competition?
Loved the concept of the competition; it made me explore something I had never thought to.
Who was your mentor, and how did s/he help with your project?
I had two: my University Tutor, Hannah Maughan, she really pushed me out of my comfort zone to treat embroidery as art and not just a fancy print technique. The second is Pete Tarrent, he showed me the initial mechanics of digital embroidery and has been my go to “google” since. He has been so incredibly encouraging and excited about what I’m producing.
Are there any secrets you can now reveal about your entry?
Well . . . on the inside of the garment there is a small pocket on the left breast I’ve lined with pink silk, glitter and candy floss—somewhere fairies may rest their head, I felt the dark and powerful image portrayed on its exterior needed balancing.
Okay, that’s the best secret we’ve ever had revealed in The Funk Files.
When and how did you learn embroidery, sewing, etc., and what impression did it make on you?
I’d been taught how to sew through lessons in school. I didn’t have much patience for it, but I loved fabric manipulation. It wasn’t until university that I was really introduced to embroidery, beadwork and digital embroidery that I absolutely fell in love with it.
What made you want to pursue textiles in school?
Honestly, I didn’t at first. I was going to study Chemistry at University, and whilst taking a gap year I did a foundation degree in Art, and it was at that point I realised I could chase something that was considered academic and “useful”, or actually I could follow something that made me happy and see where it takes me.
What was your first embroidery or textile project?
My first embroidery project was a gross patchwork quilt. It’s green and brown, covered in glued-on sequins and ribbon bows. My mum loves it and has it hanging at home. That makes me smile, but I still dislike it.
To date, what’s been your favorite course of study?
I once took a pottery class with a friend. My pots were so gnarly and definitely could not hold water. We came out covered in clay, and it’s the most fun I’ve had in a session.
What non-embroidery skills do you bring to the table that you might like to combine with embroidery?
I love to work in 3D: creating paper origami structures, maquettes and layered cutwork, and I’m wanting to push 3D embroidery, so by working in paper first I can see how the embroidery might form.
Tell us about your Mini Monsters project.
The Mini Monsters are so adorable! This was a small collaboration project with this amazing print designer, Hannah Williams. She creates these small little creatures with stories that are so playful and hilarious, something so completely different from my usual work, we decided to work together and create a small collection of embroidered monsters. We’re still working on a few more things.
Describe your ideal career.
If I could continue designing for myself, being able to work down in Cornwall, or even being able to work abroad with my embroidery, I would be ecstatic. But I think I would like a business manager; that side of freelance is no fun for me!
What projects are on the horizon for you?
I am currently working on an embroidered bag collection, using my digital embroidery to create these really beautifully textured pieces. They’ll be out soon and I’m really excited about them!
Where else can we see your work?
I really wanted to start getting into more art pieces and wall hangings. I love my more commercial work, but I’m slightly constricted to practicality, with the art I want to get extravagant and really push the 3D embroidery.
Keep an eye on Alice’s website.
Rapid-fire Round: (Don’t think too hard about these.)
Favorite tool that is not a needle or scissors: Paper
Design a thread. It’s the only one you can stitch with for the next three years, so make it something you really, really like. Of what is it made; what color is it; and what do you call it? A single unicorn hair. Initially it’s black, because black is timeless, but depending on the temperature and state of weather (Hair must be from a British Unicorn), the thread would mold and change colour, but it would always have a slight sparkle to it even on the dullest of days.
Oh, I want this thread!
What stitchable motif would you choose to represent you and your life? An optical Swirl—it’s a happy shape, but I have no idea which direction I’m going in.
Name three books you love:
North and South
The Book Thief
You’re creating an elegant accessory for a monster. Describe it. A silver Tiara with a feather base lining—to make him feel pretty but because he is a monster and most likely a little clumsy. It’s not his fault; it’s the way he was born. It needs to be plastic to be more practical!
You must include something live in your next project. What do you use, and how do you incorporate it? I think growing moss could be something really interesting to work with, to create a living sculpture.
If you were not a textile designer, what would you be? I would love to run away to the circus and become a trapeze artist.
You must turn a song into a cushion. What’s the song, and what does the cushion look like? Nuvole Bianche, by Einaudi. It’s a beautiful and peaceful song. I think the cushion would be small, understated in a pearlescent white silk with pattern work of ink dripping into water.
You’ve been selected to participate in a show that combines textile art with performance art. Describe your piece for the show. Using spray-on-fabric to create a leotard, the artist would be able to rip and rebuild his own garment using just a spray can—a Dance/Textile Graffiti Piece.
A celebrity wears something you’ve made on a talk show, and you receive fame, fortune, good health, fitness, and cake for life. Who is the celebrity; what does s/he wear; and what is the talk show? Nichole Kidman—A dark, dramatic, smooth feathered dress, interlaced with lengths of iris beads. The morning show, after being out the night before.
Jen Funk Weber is Queen of Funk & Weber Designs, a cross stitch and counted-thread embroidery designer and teacher dedicated to stitchy explorations and adventures.