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 2019 brief, “Fool the Senses,” invited entrants to consider the texture and feel of embroidery. Projects focused on embellishments with sumptuous surfaces that intrigued and surprised as they to deceived, confused, and fooled the senses. Organizers encouraged artists to recycle and re-purpose old materials, re-imagining and transforming them into something new.
London’s Bishopsgate Institute hosted the final judging and award ceremony, showcasing 24 finalists’ masterpieces organized into four categories: textile works by students and textile works non-students, fashion by students and fashion by non-students. A separate display featured notable works pre-selected for associate awards by Hand & Lock’s partners.
Today we’ll meet the winner of the Wilcom Award for Digital Embroidery, Textile Art Category, David Morrish.
Location: Huddersfield, West Yorkshire
Describe your Hand & Lock entry and the inspiration behind it:
My piece was a free hanging, 5-ft tall, orange-framed embroidered jacket canvas, depicting the demise of the Yorkshire textile industry and artisan skills as a result of the emergence of the Victorian Industrialisation period. This piece uses the symbolism of a wise owl to represent the wealthy factory owners and scraggy rats to represent the manual workforce. Titled “Natural Order of Things” the rat is hanging innocently in the claws of the “harbinger of death”. The frame takes its inspiration from a C19th hand weaving loom, currently located in a preserved weavers cottage in Huddersfield. This art piece raises questions about the impact of new technologies on society.
Are there any secrets you can now reveal about your entry?
Hahaha yes. This piece originally started before I read the Hand & Lock competition brief and at that point the owl was embroidered on the canvas as a test sample to see if I could combine a variety of techniques to resurface a shaped full internal jacket. Once I read the brief, I decided a narrative was needed in order to “sell” the piece and give it more meaning and depth. The rat and frame were developed to create a personal narrative and link all the separate elements together.
When and how did you learn embroidery, digital and/or hand, and what impression did it make on you?
I am self-taught in digital embroidery, having imported a Janome Memory Craft machine when I lived in Latvia (2008-2010). Always having a passion for art & design, I wanted to taking my graphic interest into a more tactical direction, and digital embroidery seemed perfect. I lived in Eastern Latvia where half the year is under snow, so to pass the time and keep being creative I experimented with the machine on scraps of fabrics and old garments before being asked to make pieces for friends.
What was your first embroidery project?
Now you are getting me thinking…. It was a birthday present for a friend in Latvia who loved cars and gadgets. I embroidered a car logo on brown suede fabric and turned it into a phone case. I won’t tell you the car brand as I don’t want to get into trouble.
Tell us about your background and how it led you to enter the Hand & Lock contest.
Where do I start?
Brought up in a small village in Lincoln, under the legendary Red Arrows training path, I relocated and trained for a degree in Fashion Design at the University of Derby in the late 1990s, after which I spent 10 years working mainly as freelancer and consultant for a variety of designers and companies around the UK.
To generate a more reliable income stream I had a series of more stable jobs across a variety of sectors to include hotel & catering, automotive and quality assurance. I emigrated in 2008 and returned to the UK in 2010 where I decided to apply to become a teacher. As I was going through the application process, I took up some part-time teaching at a university on the fashion course, helping students pattern cut and construct garments. I entered The Hat Designer of the Year Award in 2010 and won the public vote at Premiere Classe, Paris, with three creations inspired by the theme steampunk.
Shortly afterwards, I took up my first permanent job as a Fashion Design academic at Sheffield Hallam University. I am still there today, inspiring students, while also continuing my own research and practice, specifically in embroidery and men’s tailoring. In 2018, I signed up to study for a master’s degree in Fashion & Textiles at Nottingham Trent University, part time (2 years), which I completed in June of this year. I came across the Hand & Lock competition during my first year of studies and had the urge to enter it, really as an opportunity to get feedback on my work from experts. I certainly did not expect to win an award! Recently I have become an Embroiderers’ Guild Scholar, and I now work closely with the guild to try and promote this wonderful craft.
What’s been the biggest surprise of your career and the projects you’ve undertaken?
I am constantly surprised by passionate creative people and their design processes. It fascinates me how people go about their design process to generate an outcome. I have seen so many different approaches that it always makes me question my own. Working with the 21 members of Sheffield Embroiderer’s Guild to create the Windermere Am I Still Beautiful? embroidery piece was an incredible experience and the variety of approaches, interpretations and techniques applied was very inspiring.
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?
Pioneer? Thank you, I am flattered, but I rather see myself as disruptive artist. I love challenging the way things are done and asking how things could be…what if…. I hate the idea that there is only one way to do something, especially when talking about creative subjective disciplines. I like to be excited and see things that make me stop and ask…how have you done that?
What projects are on the horizon for you?
I am currently working on a collaborative (COLab) series of small projects with artists and designers across the globe using Instagram to showcase the process and outcomes of my work. Essentially, I am recreating (with the artists permission) a piece of their work turning it into an embroidery in an attempt to show the benefits and flexibility this form of medium can offer. At the time of writing this, I am recreating a Dior watercolour illustration originally created by the Iconic Fashion Illustrator David Downton, which upon completion will be posted to him as a gift. Other disciplines I am covering include tattooists, graffiti artists, painters, graphic designers, cartoonists, skateboard artists, fashion designers, interior designers, illustrators and more.
Where else can we see your work?
Currently my work can only be seen on Instagram. I am working on creating a website with a shop feature, where I will be offering embroidered personalised products. Watch this space!!
What one piece of advice would you offer someone looking to expand his/her embroidery skills?
Embrace your mistakes, these are what makes your work unique, giving it a personality and soul. Don’t rush to unpick and redo.
Rapid-fire Round: (Don’t think too hard about these.)
What stitchable motif would you choose to represent you and your life? Goodness that is a tough one… probably an “Updating in Progress” symbol as learning never stops.
We’re sending a collection of art into space with the hope that aliens will someday discover it. You’re asked to contribute a piece of embroidery. What do you make and why? I would look at creating a large embroidery of animals doing human activities. I think it would be fun and certainly confusing if nothing else. 😀 Imagine their surprise when they finally reach earth.
A book you enjoyed recently: The Ratburger by David Walliams, to my son at bed time.
You must include something edible in your next piece. What do you use, and how do you incorporate it?
Has to be sweets – those long, red, string, strawberry laces and candy necklaces on the elastic – probably presented on cool street art, graffiti style, an embroidered female character, wearing large pumps – the laces will be used on the shoes.
If you were not an artist, what would you be? 100% a professional footballer, playing for a top premiere league club and owning fancy cars and lots of houses!!!
You must create a textile for an animal. What is the animal, and what do you create? Great question!!! Cat socks to stop my cats putting their paw prints over the kitchen surfaces when they come in from the garden, especially on a wet day!
A new-to-you activity you would like to try: Hang gliding over a rain forest.
Describe your dream commission. What and for whom is it? I have often thought about this when thinking of people to collaborate with for my COLab series. There are soo many I could pick from… (Deep breath) An embroidered…
Waistcoat for Ronnie O’Sullivan, tennis bag for Andy Murray, boxing robe for Tyson Fury, Sylvester Stallone painting, Noel Fielding doodle, bomber jacket for Will.i.am, dress for Paloma Faith, tailored jacket for a Robbie Williams video, a tattoo wall hanging for David Beckham, a prize art piece for the London Marathon, a corgi dog coat for the Queen, a Banksy embroidered piece of street art, an embroidered 3D standing sculpture for the Yorkshire Sculpture Park…. But I think my dream commission above all these would be to collaborate with John Galliano to make an embroidered stage outfit for Lady Gaga. That would be an incredible experience.
Here’s hoping some of these people have Google Alerts set for their name, read this post, and call you!
A studio is remaking a movie, and they want you to create a prop. What is the movie, and what prop are you creating? This made me laugh, where do you think of these questions?? It has to be a Marvel film and the prop would be either a superhero or villain outfit.
We’re hosting a show of “performance embroidery.” Describe your piece in the event: A large scale embroidery piece of Sir Mo Farah winning a gold medal at the Olympics.
Thank you, David!