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 2018 brief invited entrants to “celebrate culture, gender and individual heritage in the global atmosphere of transformation.” They were asked to make their work “stand for something bigger than itself conveying a meaningful message relevant to the transient state of the world today.”
London’s Bishopsgate Institute hosted the final judging and award ceremony for the 2018 Hand & Lock Prize for Embroidery.
Today we’ll meet the first-place winner in the Fashion Open Category.
Name: Maud THOMAS and Laura SOLACROUP as ANONYMEUFS
Location: Paris, FRANCE
Describe your Hand & Lock entry and the inspiration behind it:
Maud: I already tried once in 2017:
I was excited to participate in a competition for which my piece was specifically made, inspired by the provided theme. I discussed with Laura the 2018 theme and she was really interested by it. I thought that it would be really stimulating to work with someone who could provide a new creative perspective.
Also, I wanted to do something as an individual creator that was different from my usual life as a “petite main”, hidden behind a big Couture House name.
Laura: For me it was the theme. I am not an embroiderer; I make clothes, so it wasn’t the competition per se that motivated me. Maud pitched it to me and I thought the subject matter was really interesting, and I knew I would love to express myself through this project. Maud is a really talented person and I thought if we worked together on this, we could make something great.
Are there any secrets you can now reveal about your entry?
Maud: What gave us strength and success was being two people, moreover, two people who harmonized creatively. We tackled different aspects of fashion, I am more of a technical and visual person that leads the embroidery visually, whereas Laura has a committed vision towards social issues such as the environment for example. Really, the secret for us is mutual aid and we had a lot of support from the people that we were working with at the time. We were both employed at different fashion houses and we are so grateful for how much they believed in us.
When and how did you learn embroidery, and what impression did it make on you?
Maud: For two years at Nogent sur Marne, for my Art degree at Lycée La Source and also in the embroidery workshops where I worked. At school, we learned to be creative and innovative. In a professional matter I learned to be a good technician in the ateliers. The first time I sat in front of the embroidery frame, I knew this was my place. I never doubted my choice.
Laura: I had never tried embroidery before so everything I know is thanks to Maud! She is a great teacher.
What was your first embroidery project?
Maud: I was studying Arts and Crafts, and for the final exam project, my subject was the “femme fatale”. I explored the feminine power of seduction through embroidery in three women’s portraits. In a professional capacity, the first dress I embroidered was for Yiqing Yin. It was my first Haute Couture show. The embroidery was thread embroidery and resembled blood vessels.
Tell us about your background and how it led you to where you are.
Maud: I have worked in workshops of Couture Houses for 5 years. I learned a lot of different embroidery techniques and how to be fast and efficient. One of the Couture Houses I worked for is Kenzo, and this is where I met Laura.
Laura: I come from a non-artistic background. I studied international management and I got to live abroad for a year. This is when I started taking sewing classes and I loved it so much that at the end of my Masters degree I applied to a Fashion School. I then started a two-year block release training at Kenzo where I met Maud.
Maud and Laura: We became friends really quickly, and we realised that we were from the same creative universe. Meeting each other pretty much got us to where we are now because we feel we would have never won such a competition without one another.
What’s been the biggest surprise of your career and the projects you’ve undertaken?
Maud and Laura: We can both say that the biggest surprise was winning the Hand & Lock Prize. It is one of the most incredible projects we’ve had to create.
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?
Maud and Laura: Being a pioneer here means that we can’t just watch what’s happening in the world today, we have to act. Here, we are doing it through art. We feel like we can take embroidery to another level. Embroidery is often seen as an old art form, something old-fashioned, but we like to think that we are changing the way it’s perceived through a more modern and fun approach. The expectation from people may have been that we would do something that was just pretty to look at, but we have the desire to go beyond that.
What projects are on the horizon for you?
Maud and Laura: After winning the Hand & Lock Prize, we felt like we couldn’t stop there. So we have decided to create a mini-collection where each silhouette would be inspired by one of the subjects we treated for the competition. Right now we are working on the “Vache Qui Rit” look… Also, we thought about our new duo name, right now we are called Maud & Laura, but we would like something more impacting, and more representative of what we are doing. And so we are now… “Anonymeufs”.
Where else can we see your work?
Maud: I have a personal website, where I show all my work. But we have an Instagram page @anonymeufs where we show the behind the scenes of what we made for the Hand & Lock project.
What one piece of advice would you offer someone looking to expand his/her embroidery skills?
Maud: You should know the fundamental techniques so that you can have the freedom to do whatever you want.
Rapid-fire Round: (Don’t think too hard about these.)
If you could embroider with just one colour thread for the next three years, what would it be?
Maud: Red. It’s the colour of passion, really effective and used as a symbol of revolt.
Laura: Harvest gold. When I think of this colour, I think about vintage jewellery, which reminds me of a different time. It is also a colour that goes with pretty much every other colour.
What stitchable motif would you choose to represent you and your life?
Maud: Flowers. For me, they are the most feminine representation. The people who know me, always see me wearing floral clothing or surrounded by flowers, it’s omnipresent in my textile work.
Laura: The Houndstooth. There is something very reassuring for me in the repetition. I like the fact that the colours intertwine and become one, creating a symbiosis.
You’re asked to create a garment for an animal. What is the animal, and what do you create?
Maud: A praying mantis, and I would create a very sumptuous dress to attract the male. There is something interesting in creating something minuscule but spectacular at the same time.
Laura: A rabbit, I would create a golden brooch for him.
Favorite book you’ve read recently:
Maud: Nana, Zola
Laura: King Kong Théorie, Virginie Despentes
You must include something live in your next garment. What do you use, and how do you incorporate it?
Maud: Grow flowers through the textile. The dress evolves with the growth. I would plant grains inside the fabric. It would change with the seasons and everyone could pick which flower represents them the best.
Laura: I would make a suit out of recycled material and with live statements on the back. A screen/monitor on the back with a counter that shows up-to-date figures on pollution.
If you were not an artist, what would you be?
Maud: I would be a florist, or a fashion journalist.
Laura: I would be an antiques dealer, or I would work for a non-profit organization to save the environment.
You must turn a song into a garment. What’s the song, and what’s the garment?
Maud: “Shine Bright Like A Diamond” – Rihanna. I would make a jumpsuit that is so bright; you can’t even look at it without squinting.
Laura: “Beau La Folie” – Lomepal. I would make an overall. He would wear it half way open, tied at the waist.
A place you’d like to visit:
Maud: India, to visit the temples, for the colours, the clothes.
Laura: Spain, to visit my grandma’s hometown.
A celebrity wears one of your garments 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?
Maud: Cyndi Lauper, with a crazy colourful outfit that would remind us of what she was wearing in “Girls Just Want To Have Fun”.
Laura: Lena Dunham, with a long sequin dress. The sequins would be made out of recycled plastic.
We’re hosting a show of “performance embroidery.” Describe your piece in the event.
Maud: I would create an air embroidery show (like “air guitar”) where a group of people are faking doing embroidery to bring back to the foreground this ancestral gesture.
Laura: I would initiate a participatory embroidery piece where everyone could play their part.
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.