The Funk Files: Embroidery Frontiers – Meet Myra Chung

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 in couture. The 2014 brief was Floral: Pattern and Geometry.

Myra Chung, 2014 Hand & Lock Prize for Embroidery Winner
Myra Chung, 2014 Hand & Lock Prize for Embroidery Winner
Twelve finalists were selected from nearly a thousand photographic entries. Each finalist was then paired with an industry specialist who mentored him/her throughout the design, development, and execution process.

On October 12, 2014, finished garments arrived at the Hand & Lock studios. On Friday, the 7th of November, London’s Bishopsgate Institute hosted the final of the 2014 Hand & Lock Prize for Embroidery.

Today we’ll meet the first place winner in the Student Category.

Myra Chung

Location: Arlington Heights, Illinois USA

You’re a student, right? Where are you studying? A part time student at Harper College.

Congratulations, Myra, on your win! Please describe your Hand & Lock entry for us: A sumptuous garment inspired by Queen Victoria’s paintings and combined it with Lotus. I focused on staying within that historical period but kept it modern and futuristic.

Myra Chung, Hand & Lock Prize for Embroidery competition dress
Hand & Lock 2014 Prize for Embroidery competition dress by Myra Chung. Model: Erian O’neil. Photography: Jutta Klee. Hair & Make Up Artist: Stephie Hoyle.

What made you want to enter this competition? Recommendation from my professor, Beata Kania, who is a two time winner at Hand & Lock embroidery prize under Open Category. But it was a challenge that I’ve always wanted to put myself into to test the limit of my creativity and passion for embroidery.

What motivated your choice for your entry? While researching through images, I found a painting of Queen Victoria in a gold dress with high neck collar. From there, I wanted to add an Asian esthetic, which is my background, so I chose Lotus to mix with the English historical period.

Myra Chung lotus flower embroidery detail
Detail of Myra’s embroidered lotus flower.

Are there any secrets you can now reveal about your entry? Although my strongest inspiration was the gold dress painting, the design I was going for was nothing like it. I planned to make a pink dress with repetitions of small flowers in gold colored beads, threads, and bullions. But everything changed when I suddenly changed my mind to order a random fabric that I did not even bother to order a swatch. From this experience, I’ve learned never to trust my computer monitor on fabric color choices. Maybe, I could have returned it and re ordered the ones I had in mind from the beginning. But I am glad I turned my mistake into one of the best pieces in my portfolio.

Who was your mentor, and how did s/he help with your project? Ms. Beata Kania. She was the one to open the embroidery class at Harper College. Ms. Kania focuses on every one of the students; what their strongest and weakest aspect is, and she knows very well how to bring out the talent in them. That was the case for me as well, and I am very grateful to her to find the passion for embroidery in me that even myself had not realized.

When and how did you learn embroidery? <It was the Fall semester of 2012. I took beginner's class and since then, Ms. Kania has taught me various techniques that suits into my design aspects.

What was your first embroidery project? A bird using french knots and satin stitches. And a rose with any techniques I favored; chain stitch and bugle beads.

First embroidery by Myra Chung: Bird
First embroidery by Myra Chung: Bird
First Embroidery by Myra Chung: Rose
First Embroidery by Myra Chung: Rose

What made you want to pursue embroidery and textiles in school? Embroidery is always useful. Especially, the appreciation of hand craftmanship should be more recognized in this fast-paced technology industry. I have a philosophy that no fine piece of work can beat any hand work, no matter how well that piece is printed from a machine. Though the world is moving fast within all kinds of machineries, I still believe nothing can beat a human’s time and effort on hand work. I’ve learned this respect towards hand craftmanship from my father who is a Master Tailor, and he is the one who showed me what really is a finely tailored garment. And his appreciation towards embroidery made me to pursue deeply into this H&L competition.

To date, what’s been your favorite course of study? <Patternmaking and embroidery. I get excited when the patterns are perfect and clean. In any industry, the base is always the most important. If the pattern is off, there is no way your finished garment would be perfect. It is surprising how much people do not take pattern drafting seriously. Embroidery seems to have different characteristics from patternmaking, but the precision of each stitchings and spaces seem to be somewhat similar.

As you study embroidery, what has surprised you? <How much patience I have (ha-ha). I knew H&L garment would take long to finish, but it sometimes ate up my patience. But I was able to gain a lot more things from this experience. I feel confident to overcome any bigger projects ahead of me.

I hear that. Embroidery is very slow work.

What in your life influences and shapes your embroidery? The ideal of myself. I am somebody who does not like to stand out in crowds. As a fashion designer, I know I need to speak up for my garments. But rather than explaining who I am, I want my garments to be the spokesperson. I do not mind at all if people don’t recognize me. All I care is about my garments standing confident and proud to explain what they are without words. That is the reason I like rich and sumptous embroidery. But myself is not like that at all.

I like to marry embroidery with other crafts and use embroidery in places where you don’t normally see it. What non-embroidery skills do you bring to the table that you might like to combine with embroidery? A perfectly made suit. Finely tailored with the best quality woolen mixed with cashmere. Mohair is my favorite suiting fabric. The exellence of luster and sheen would be perfect with my embroidery aspects. I believe a classic should always remain as the classic forever, but I want to twist around the fine tailored suit with luxurious embroidery.

Describe your ideal embroidery or textile career. The best ideal is to work for a fashion house like Valentino, McQueen, Chanel, Givenchy, etc. I would love to be in the embroidery team to create the masterpieces that they all bring out every season.

What would you like your embroidery to do in the world and for the world? Someday, I hope to design embroideries for donations. It could be used for a t-shirt or a logo. I wish to help out whoever needs help in any ways, and I hope my talent can be part of the great cause. I believe that my talent is not solely mine and therefore, I wish to share it with others.

Do you have any projects or events coming up that that we should know about? I have an upcoming fashion competition in Chicago in March 2015. After that, I am planning to participate in Arts of Fashion 2015.

Where can we find your work? For now, my facebook page. I am working on updating the beginning to end of Hand & Lock competition.

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

Would you rather stitch with barbed wire, licorice laces, or bicycle chain? Barbed wire

Favorite thread: Any silk threads

If you could embroider with just one color thread for the rest of your life, what would it be? White

Favorite embroidery tool that isn’t a needle, hoop, or scissors: My hand :). I like the basics the best.

Name something edible that you can embroider: Horsefish

If your embroidery were cataloged with books, what genre would it be (romance, mystery, horror, history, psychology, something else)? Children’s fairy tale books

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

What’s your embroidery code name? Hide and seek

Well done, Myra! It’s been fun chatting with you. We wish you well as you continue your studies, and we look forward to seeing more of your designs in the future.

The Hand & Lock 2015 Prize for Embroidery Competition

All right, MrX readers, you’ve got just one more week to learn more about the Hand & Lock 2015 Prize for Embroidery competition and perhaps enter. The registration deadline is 31 March 2015.