Lucy Tiley

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. The 2020 brief, “The Poetics of Colour,” invited entrants to use colour as a fundamental component of the design process, employing inventive embroidery and textures that enhance and enrich or contradict and counter the colour choices.

Today we’ll meet the third-place winner in the Student Textile Art Category, Lucy Tiley.

Location: Bristol

School: The Royal School of Needlework – Graduated in 2020

Lucy Tiley and her textile art collection, third-place winner, Hand & Lock Prize for Embroidery, Student Textile Art category
Lucy Tiley with her award-winning collection

The Competition

Describe your Hand & Lock entry and the inspiration behind it:

So, my entry was a collection containing a chair, stool and rug all inspired by aerial views. The project started with me painting different bird’s-eye views of landscapes, usually ones with interesting patterns and colours. Whilst doing these I realised my paint style was quite textured as I used lots of layers of thick paint, splashing it on with pallet knives and occasionally my hands. This led me to experiment with textured embroidery and trying to work 3D. It took a while, but it finally hit me: why not embroider onto something 3D like a piece of furniture! And from there the chair and stool were born. The Edwardian style of the collection, in regards to the base furniture, allowed me to encapsulate the past within the present, almost as a nod at preserving our natural landscapes and nurturing their beauty rather than taking it away.

Third-place winning collection by Lucy Tiley, Hand & Lock Prize for Embroidery, 
Student Textile Art category
Third-place winning collection by Lucy Tiley, Hand & Lock Prize for Embroidery,
Student Textile Art category

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

No huge secrets to unveil, except maybe one… The initial design of the chair and the purchase of the chair was actually thought up whilst in the pub, pen and paper in one hand and pint in the other… If it works, it works!

Detail of textured ottoman, Lucy Tiley
Detail of textured ottoman, Lucy Tiley


When and how did you first discover embroidery, and what impression did it make on you?

My first discovery of embroidery was when I was very young. My Nan is a whiz with the sewing machine and taught me all sorts of crafts, but I was a bit young to use the sewing machine, so I always worked by hand. My love for hand sewing blew up from there and only got stronger as I took art and textiles in school and discovered beading, dyeing, felting and all sorts. Embroidery knows no bounds and that’s what draws me so much to it; the limit is your imagination, and even when things go wrong, they can come out looking really cool and spark new ideas in yourself and others.

Textured embroidery applied to fabric, Lucy Tiley
Detail of textured embroidery applied to fabric, Lucy Tiley
Detail of textured embroidery applied to fabric, Lucy Tiley
Detail of textured embroidery applied to fabric, Lucy Tiley


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?

The embroidery frontier sounds so cool! Being a pioneer is even cooler. I like to see it as everyone, no matter where they are in their creative journey to themselves, is a pioneer for their artwork and their passion/confidence. I love the idea of inspiring people with my work—I believe with most things really—it’s so important to pass on information, tips and advice freely. The embroidery community is so vast, with so many different styles and techniques, it’s really quite incredible when someone uses you as inspiration. 

Embroidery close-up, by Lucy Tiley
Embroidery close-up, by Lucy Tiley


What projects are on the horizon for you?

I am currently working on a new collection. It doesn’t have a name yet but it’s small bits of furniture, rugs and wall pieces. Or it will be when I actually finish it…. I am taking inspiration from Indian patterns and colour patterns, using lots of golds and sari silks to give a really vibrant look. The current bit i am working on is a stool. It’s a handmade camel stool I found on Ebay and just had to have. The cushion on his back was screaming to be redone with loads of embroidery and beading, and his head is definitely going to be enclosed in some beautiful reins and tassels. He’s such a unique piece, I am going a bit crazy with some semi pattern clashes, but so far, I’m really loving the look.

Where else can we see your work?

I mostly showcase my work on Instagram @stitching_with_tilly; however, my chair collection will be showing at two exhibitions next year: Ely cathedral and the Fashion and Textile Museum in London.

Free-standing embroidery, ready for application, Lucy Tiley
Free-standing embroidery, ready for application, Lucy Tiley


What one piece of advice would you offer someone who wants to create art?

Honestly just go for it, surround yourself with inspiration, whether that’s in a physical place or in a room with lots of mood boards and artist ideas. It can be scary to start something new but even established artists wobble before starting, so relax get into a good mind set and give it a go. If it goes wrong, who cares? Either work with that and take it in a new direction, or scrap it and start over. There is no wrong or right in the creative world.

Bird embroidery, close, Lucy Tiley
Bird embroidery, close, Lucy Tiley

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

A book you’ve enjoyed recently: The Hobbit, J. R. R. Tolkien

You must include something edible in your next piece. What do you use, and how do you incorporate it? Strawberry laces! I would use them in a wall piece, as long strands instead of fluffy strands. I would 100% end up taking a bite every time I went past though!!

If you were not an artist, what would you be? Weirdly, I think I’d love to be postmortem medical examiner!

You are making lunch for the artist of your choice—and she/he/ze will love it. Who is the artist, and what are you making for lunch? If we could bring him back from the dead? Van Gogh for sure! I’d make him homemade pizza with a bottle of fizz on the side!

Hand embroidery by Lucy Tiley
Hand embroidery by Lucy Tiley

Do you save the best for last? I tend to go back and forth between the best and the rest but usually try to end on the best.

You must turn a song into an embroidery. What is the song and what do you create?  “Hurt” by Johnny Cash. It’s such a beautiful song. I can see some really intricate embroidery, lots of silvers stretching across a chaise lounge.

You must create a garment or accessory for an animal. What is the animal, and what do you create? 100% a cute papoose for a sloth to carry its babies in.

You can shop for free at one store. What store do you choose? The bead shop, specifically Tanzee Designs. I would spend hours and hours in there.

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 she/he/ze wear? Harry styles, some sort of elaborate jumpsuit with a partial over skirt with some crazy patterns, maybe a pattern clash too. The way Harry pulls off so many different outfits and radiates confidence, I would love to style him! Never been a fan of One Direction or his music; he’s just a cool guy!

What was the best gift you’ve ever gotten? Most recent one I can think of is my last birthday: my boyfriend got me this pen pot that has a ridiculously ugly and cursed face on it, and I love it so much!

Embroidery in progress, Lucy Tiley
Embroidery in progress, Lucy Tiley

Thank you, Lucy!

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Jen Funk Weber

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.

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