Every year, Hand & Lock organizes a competition for the prestigious Prize for Embroidery to promote the use of hand embroidery and to discover emerging embroidery talent. The 2017 brief invited entrants to ‘celebrate, let go, to let loose and indulge in childlike freedom, to celebrate history, global culture, sense of place, sense of identity, and to celebrate embroidery and life.’
London’s Bishopsgate Institute displayed entries from 32 finalists and hosted the final judging of the 2017 Hand & Lock Prize for Embroidery.
Today we’ll meet the first-place winner in the Fashion Open Category.
Name: Ami Waring
What made you want to enter this competition?
A sense of unfinished business! I had always wanted to enter but chose to focus on my degree whilst at university so I planned to return to the Open Category with something fresh and new.
What motivated your choice for your entry?
My surroundings. I spent a lot of time among the nature in Surrey, trying to live in it, breathe as much of it in as I could. I let this affect what I produced, without thinking too deeply to begin with, seeing what it inspired me to produce and what I naturally celebrated. My experimentation with materials and technique drove my concept and piece to grow from there.
Are there any secrets you can now reveal about your entry?
I roughly sketched a small drawing before ever thinking of any embroidery, concept or garment idea. I forgot about this drawing until the end of the project and then re-found it. It holds a surprising likeness to what I in fact produced.
When and how did you learn embroidery, and what impression did it make on you?
My Mother and Grandmother had taught me to sew probably at or before the age of 6. I loved finding creative solutions for any material and this made me passionate.
As an adult, embroidery seems a full-bodied industry. It’s exciting to develop constantly.
What was your first embroidery project?
A wardrobe for my favorite childhood soft toy. At primary school: felt slippers with peacocks across the toes!
Tell us about your background and how it led you to where you are.
I grew up in Surrey and moved to London to follow the industry and study at London College of Fashion. Although academic, I was always passionate in Textiles class prior, particularly in A Level where I combined very technical surface detail with garment design. I was constantly launching myself into artistic opportunities: Art Editor for the school magazine; booklet designer for the school play; competitions; a hand and machine sewing interior design job alongside.
This hard working attitude followed me through the industry and positioned me in good stead for juggling a variety of creative and embroidery work when I became a Freelance Embroiderer.
What’s been the biggest surprise of your career and the projects you’ve undertaken?
Enjoying my career quite as much as I do. Helping produce a fully embroidered short film (in stop frame animation) for the 2018 BBC World Cup Advert.
My job in The Funk Files is to interview “pioneers on the embroidery frontier.” That’s you! What is the embroidery frontier, and what does it mean to be a pioneer here?
A forefront of embroidery innovation. It is an exciting creative space to be in to test and stretch capabilities to new limits and see what opportunities it creates.
What projects are on the horizon for you?
A mix! Hand embroidery for high-end/couture, digital embroidery, bespoke commissions and even some tailoring and product design. I would love to continue with even more work with couture and intricate hand embroidery and develop my freelance career.
Where else can we see your work?
I displayed a temporary exhibition at The Garden Museum earlier this year displaying my Hand & Lock piece with new supporting work and a collection of embroidered jewellery for sale alongside the exhibit. I can be contacted directly for jewellery purchases or any commissions. My Instagram account is also a good, social way to contact me too.
Most importantly however, I am currently developing a website and all-rounded branding to showcase the new space of my work and direction. Do check back in with me! When launched, this will be www.awembroidery.co.uk
What one piece of advice would you offer someone looking to expand his/her embroidery skills?
Absorb whatever experiences and opportunities there are around you and make the most of them. Be keen to gain and share experience with colleagues and build great relationships there.
Rapid-fire Round: (Don’t think too hard about these.)
If you could embroider with just one color thread for the next three years, what would it be? Blue. Consider it a Picasso phase in embroidery.
What stitchable motif would you choose to represent you and your life? A Compass with a freehand arrow that can direct me to life’s next adventures.
You’re asked to create a garment for an animal. What is the animal, and what do you create? An active camouflage suit for elephants to hide from poachers.
Favorite book you’ve read recently: This Is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor, by Adam Kay. 12 Rules of Life: An Antidote To Chaos by Jordan Peterson—the next in line to read!
You must include something live in your next garment. What do you use, and how do you incorporate it? A live weather cloud inside a transparent bodice to display the garment, I would hire specialist help to collect wisps of dramatic weather from around the world and catch these inside an ever changing bodice beneath my garment.
If you were not an artist, what would you be? A Novelist/Creative Writer.
You must turn a song into a garment. What’s the song, and what’s the garment? So many options! For now: Rain Song by Led Zeppelin. A delicate-looking dress embroidered with its own free-falling crystal rain!
A place you’d like to visit: The moon without such life-altering journeys.
A celebrity wears one of your garments to an awards show, and you receive fame, fortune, good health, fitness, and cake for life. Who is the celebrity and what does s/he wear? Olivia Colman with an outfit fit for a royal occasion!
We’re hosting a show of “performance embroidery.” Describe your piece in the event. Video is such a popular artist medium right now. I would create embroidery that is seen on screen digitally and then transforms itself wildly out of the video into 3D to shock audiences—a reminder to see craft in its flesh!
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.