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 first-place winner in the Fashion Student Category, Faye Arguelles.
Location: London, United Kingdom
School: London College of Fashion, BA Fashion Textiles: Embroidery
Describe your Hand & Lock entry and the inspiration behind it:
The design of the garment was inspired by my birth country’s nature and landscape imageries, of contrasted heritage land in the Philippines like the Banaue rice terraces along with mining sites caused by urbanisation. Hence I used natural fibres such as abaca (banana fibres) and pina silk (pineapple fibres) along with synthetic fabrics such as silk-mixed fabric and polyester organza to surround the concept with the conflicting themes of the natural process versus the man-made. Furthermore, J Henry Fair’s photographs of environmental pollution and earth damage crisis were a key inspiration for me as they stimulate the idea of creating some horrifying yet stunning visuals.
The concept explores the perception of beauty found in the toxic and scarred faces of planet earth and the ongoing complexity of natural forms. I wish for it to express the constantly changing ways of our earth caused by nature and the ongoing pragmatic concerns on climate change and civilisation. I also hope to embody a garment that priorities sustainability in design by showcasing meticulous hand-craftmanship and delicate hand-rendered pieces.
Are there any secrets you can now reveal about your entry?
This garment was actually part of my graduation collection, and as I have to further develop the garment I think the macrame technique played a major role in the designs.
When and how did you learn embroidery, sewing, etc., and what impression did it make on you?
Growing up I always found my grandmother holding a thread and a needle and doing her cross stitches. As a child I was always curious and amazed how she made those beautiful images framed and hanging on our walls. I was probably around 7 years old then, and I asked her to teach me how to sew as I wanted to fix some of my clothes. She only taught me the basics like tying a knot. But I think that was enough to spark my curiosity about embroidery, which, back then, I didn’t know existed.
What made you want to study fashion and textiles in school?
At first I wasn’t sure whether to pursue Fine Arts or Fashion, but I always find my drawings very intricate and detailed. I’m also very crafty and like meticulous works. So when I was applying for universities, I remember going to London College of Fashion open day and coming across their textile course, and it was the first time I’d heard of an Embroidery course. I was just very excited and curious about how I would be putting my ideas and drawings into this new approach. I then applied for it and got accepted.
To date, what’s been your favorite course of study?
My Embroidery course, but I think I found the experience of working with different designers more enjoyable and challenging.
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?
I think for me the embroidery frontier means creating new challenges and innovation but also not forgetting the history of embroidery. It is also very important to know what you stand for and what you want to achieve and show in your designs.
Where else can we see your work?
I also have an instagram account where you can check out my work.
What projects are on the horizon for you?
I’m currently in the design process of a new collection which still involves using our natural resources as my main material.
Describe your ideal career.
I want to work with a brand (doesn’t matter if it’s my own or not) that I will have a strong belief and passion for when it comes to designing process and production.
What one piece of advice would you offer someone looking to expand his/her embroidery skills?
Always challenge yourself, be very experimental with your materials, always gain experience and absorb all the skills you learn.
Rapid-fire Round: (Don’t think too hard about these.)
You can work with just one color for the next year. What color do you choose? Cream white
What stitchable motif would you choose to represent you and your life? A baby leaf
A book you’ve enjoyed recently: Validate Me, by Charly Cox
You must include something scented in your next piece. What do you use, and how do you incorporate it? Lavender, I would probably dye my fabrics with the lavender as well as dry the flowers and use them as my materials.
If you were not an artist, what would you be? A wildlife photographer
You are making lunch for the artist of your choice—and s/he will love it. Who is the artist, and what are you making for lunch? Van Gogh and pasta bolognese
A studio is remaking a movie, and they want you to design the costumes. What is the movie, and what is your favorite costume in it? Beauty and the Beast, Belle
You must create a garment or accessory for an animal. What is the animal, and what do you create? Quokka and a hat
Favorite material to work with: Abaca (banana fibre)
A celebrity wears something you’ve made 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? Gal Gadot and a heavily embroidered blazer suit
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.