Old Age, by Emma Cassi

Emma Cassi | Fashion Embroidery

The Funk Files: Embroidery Frontiers

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. This year, sponsors added Textile Art categories to the traditional Fashion categories. The 2016 brief challenges participants to create quality design that consumers will cherish for years and that will stand the test of time.

On Thursday, November 3rd, London’s Bishopsgate Institute hosted the final of the 2016 Hand & Lock Prize for Embroidery.

Today we’ll meet the second-place winner in the Textile art Open Category.

Name: Emma Cassi

Website: EmmaCassi.com

The Competition

Describe your Hand & Lock entry:

Masks depicting the four ages of humans—Childhood, Youth, Adulthood, and Old Age—part of the ten largest paintings of Hilma Af Klint.

The masks:

I have created lots flowers embroidered with sequins, broken ones in buckles, special ones hand dyed, vintage seed beads discovered in vintage shops and markets.

I have sewn them on bits of lace, crochet, cut chantilly lace, macramé…

In order to show the enigmatic symbols, logarithmic spirals and floral imagery of Hilma Af Klint, I didn’t plan any of the masks, I did all the flowers and little by little I constructed the face of the different ages looking at the paintings.

Childhood: Old pink/orange/pink/red/Gold/silver

Young age: Blues/white

Adulthood: Yellows/purple/lilac

Old age: Skin colours/beige/white


Embroidering the Invisible, by Emma Cassi
Embroidering the Invisible, by Emma Cassi


What made you want to enter this competition?

A nice person at Hand & Lock. I was going to buy some embroidered crowns for my jewellery collection called Windsor…

And He was very persuasive, when I say yes, I can’t go back…

What motivated your choice for your entry?

I saw the wonderful exhibition of Hilma Af klint at the Serpentine at the time of my entry for the competition and I was reading a lot about Quantum physics…

It was a fantastic way to enter her work deep down, to follow her path to discover how to show the invisible.


Childhood, by Emma Cassi
Childhood, by Emma Cassi


Who was your mentor, and how did s/he help with your project?

It was Polly Leonard from Selvedge. We know each other because I had an interview for the magazine a few years before, and I used to do the Selvedge fair to sell my jewellery.

To be honest, I would have preferred someone I didn’t know to have a new view on my work, but it was nice to chat fabric and travels with Polly. I love going to her shop. We did not really talk about my actual embroidery work , or I wasn’t listening; this is not what I was looking for to improve it or go beyond…

Are there any secrets you can now reveal about your entry?


I love secrets and of course there are lots because I am talking about spiritual and invisible…

All the lace is very old from the 18/19 centuries. It is all the pieces I could not use because they aren’t stiff enough for my jewellery, or there aren’t enough to reproduce, sometimes they have holes or stains, it is all a kind of lace, crochet, chantilly, tulle…

The sequins are vintage as well, they are from the 50s and some are made with gelatin. This is why the mask needs to be away from the sun or it will melt and a bit of water on it and the colour will fade…

We made a secret dance to showcase the masks, but they couldn’t show it during the exhibition.

The dance is very special, if you have seen the Oa tv series, you might understand what I was trying to achieve…

I worked with a math teacher who is teaching maths to kids or adults with contemporary dance and movements. She has created an algorithm for my masks because the archive I chose was the first algorithm by Ada Lovelace.

I have also created ephemeral costumes for the dance made with seaweed and fluffy blossoms from trees.

This is the dance.


Youth, by Emma Cassi
Youth, by Emma Cassi



When did you first take an interest in embroidery , and what inspired you to try it yourself?

It is very precise, I was in a shop and I saw an embroidered scarf by Dries van Noten. It was one of his first collections, the ones dedicated to India 1995-96.


Adulthood, by Emma Cassi
Adulthood, by Emma Cassi


Tell us about your education background and how it led you to where you are.

I have been to les Beaux art in Dijon France working with Marc Camille Chaimovicz, Orlan, contemporary artists…

And then life… learning on my own… working at the same time as designer at Country Living magazine, making jewellery and becoming an interior stylist.


Old Age, by Emma Cassi
Old Age, by Emma Cassi



What’s been the biggest surprise of your career and/or the projects you’ve undertaken?

I was actually able to work with others and it was great.

Where else can we see your work?

I sell my jewellery online and in Japan for HP France.


Hilma Af Klint, AdaLovelace, inspiration for Emma Cassi
Hilma Af Klint, AdaLovelace, inspiration for Emma Cassi



What projects are on the horizon for you?

I am working with fabric at the moment dying with natural dies and weaving… I am giving a rest to my fingers with embroidery… I want to go to India…

Describe your dream commission. What and for whom is it?

Surprises… I have never thought about it… I welcome anything… but why not outside, an exhibition in the woods.


The Face of Embroidery, by Emma Cassi
The Face of Embroidery, by Emma Cassi


Rapid-fire Round: (Don’t think too hard about these.)


You can work with just one color for the next three years. What color do you choose? Skin color

What stitchable motif would you choose to represent you and your life? A snake

What is a sport or activity you haven’t tried but would like to? Climbing, escalade in French

You’re creating a piece of jewelry for an animal. What is the animal, and what do you create? Ah, funny! The Japanese took a picture of a dog wearing my necklace…

But I would love to make a piece for an elephant during the Jaipur festival of colours, and I would love to do the painting as well with my kids. This has been a dream for few years!

You must include something edible in your next design. What do you use, and how do you incorporate it? I have used lots of seeds and things I have found in nature already to create pieces, like the lime leaves, camomile flowers, jasmine flowers and rose petals.

But I will think about something new for this questions, why not mochi, the delicious Japanese rice cakes…

If you were not an artist, what would you be? A hobo?

Les chochard Celetes.

Or in English, the Dharma bums, Jack Kerouac.

Favorite dessert: Japanese desserts

You must turn a book into a work of Textile art . What book do you choose, and what do you make? The soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery. I will make a creature like an octopus full of different embroidered techniques, threads, beads and sequins. I love the swirly design. I would have lots of fun using branches as well, maybe.

A place you’d like to visit: Another earth…

We’re hosting a show that combines Textile art with performance art. Describe your piece for the show. I will send you link for that.


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