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 2017 brief invited entrants to ‘celebrate, let go, to let loose and indulge in childlike freedom, to celebrate history, global culture, sense of place, sense of identity, and to celebrate embroidery and life.’
London’s Bishopsgate Institute displayed entries from 32 finalists and hosted the final judging of the 2017 Hand & Lock Prize for Embroidery.
Today we’ll meet the second-place winner in the Textile Art Student Category.
Name: Paloma Alarcon
Foundation diploma in art and design – University for the creative arts Epsom
BA Hons Textiles – Arts university Bournemouth (graduated 2017)
What made you want to enter this competition?
As a designer you can struggle with confidence especially because its something personal, you end up wondering what people think. A lot of encouragement from family and my course leader at AUB made me want to apply for the competition and believe in my work. Hand & Lock produce admirable textiles work, and it was a good opportunity to showcase my work by entering the competition.
What motivated your choice for your entry?
I produced a couple of final realisations but felt my entry represented my idea the best. I ended up feeling content with the colours, textures and had fun while making it. Those factors helped make my final choice.
Are there any secrets you can now reveal about your entry?
Just having fun, letting go even if it goes right or wrong. I mixed traditional and modern techniques, finding the right balance and interlinking ideas. I think making a personal connection with the theme of your project, helps to make it unique.
When and how did you first learn embroidery, sewing, etc., and what impression did it make on you?
I was born in South America, Peru, and without realising, I was surrounded by embroidery and textiles. I moved to London and adored all the art projects at secondary school. I started learning embroidery from year 7, which lead to practising and learning through GCSE to my degree.
What was your first embroidery, costume, or textile project?
The one that made most of an impact was during my A-level because that’s when I noticed textiles was my true passion. I would spend hours experimenting and made connections with each topic such as reflecting on memories and Peruvian textiles.
What made you want to mix media?
I have always being curious and don’t like the ordinary, I always used random pieces of plastics, metals to attach or mould together. My work has changed throughout the years but mixing media with embroidery will always be my passion as I do not feel restricted.
To date, what’s been your favorite course of study or project?
“A Peruvian Tale” my final degree collection as I managed to continue experience and push the boundaries in textiles.
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 it means to be at the beginning and representing something new and different. It’s exciting and makes you feel secure that you are following the right path in your career.
Describe your ideal career.
My ideal career would be to have my own business being a designer maker and teaching textiles techniques. I would like to give back to the community and help out.
What projects are on the horizon for you?
I currently spend two months in Peru learning new embroidery techniques and co-work with artisans to produce a range of hand embroidered cushions. Even though this project is different than my final degree collection, I wanted to try something new and give back to the Peruvian community. I have also produced a series of makeup bags, 100% hand embroidered, inspired by Peruvian ancient textiles. My aim would be to start selling the cushions and bags and reinvest to produce more textile products and end up helping artisan communities.
Where else can we see your work?
What one piece of advice would you offer someone who wants to mix embroidery with other media?
I would say to never give up and just keep on going, if you have a vision do not let others put you down. Also the idea of mixing techniques and medias is to have fun and experiment. There are no limits; just go for it!
Rapid-fire Round: (Don’t think too hard about these.)
No mixing media in your next project. Pick ONE. Which one do you choose? It would always have to be hand embroidery.
You’re creating an accessory for an animal. What is the animal, and what is the accessory? I would say a lion, and I would create bold statement necklace piece.
If you were not an artist/designer, what would you be? I have always liked working with young people. It would be something like teaching or a support worker.
You’re writing a novel, and the hero is a mixed-media artist. What’s the plot problem s/he must overcome? I think that the heroine is working on a project to save the community, but villains try and steal all her equipment. But as she is a mixed media artist, she produces the same project with different material.
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? It would have to be Jane Bowler, as I have always admired her work. And I would make a traditional Peruvian dish.
Do you listen to music while you work, and, if so, what is it? Yes, I always listen to music while working. Ut has to be upbeat music. Recently, I have started listening to Christian music, and the positive energy also motivates and helps me concentrate.
A studio is remaking a movie, and they want you to embroider one of the costumes. What is the movie, and what costume are you embellishing? I would like it to be The Hunger Games, and Elizabeth Banks’s outfit! They are incredible.
You must include something edible in your next project. What do you use, and how do you incorporate it? It has to be chocolate. I have a real sweet tooth. Perhaps melting it with other materials or making it into beads.
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? It has to be Lady Gaga wearing a 100% hand-embroidered and embellished bespoke dress.
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.