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 second-place winner in the Textile Open Category.
Name: Samantha Trevis
Location: Bolsover, Derbyshire, U.K.
Describe your Hand & Lock entry and what motivated it:
My entry for the Hand & Lock Prize For Embroidery 2019 was an interpretation of the Andromeda galaxy. I get really worried about the mess our planet is in and wanted to show what could be made by recycling and re-purposing broken and outdated costume jewellery, handbags and sequined clothes. I’m a lifelong second hand and charity shop shopper. Most of the materials have been found on days out with my elderly Mum. We love a good rummage. Your trash is my treasure…donate, don’t dump!
I love to play with light. There’s enough darkness in this World and I’ve chosen materials for their reflective qualities. I’ve incorporated these into my designs and stitched in hidden features that come alive as the light changes or the viewpoint is moved. It’s hard to put into words how they evolve, as the light changes from day to night when different features illuminate. My creations are exciting visual experiences.
Are there any secrets you can now reveal about your entry?
Ha-ha, yes! I prefer to sew from my heart and never pre-draw a design, so off I set sewing, but then a few months later there was a big “oh crap!” moment when I realised I’d got really carried away. It was too big and I wasn’t going to be able to finish the swirl of the galaxy within the size of the fabric…. That led to me having to think my way out of that one and you can see the solution I came up with. Good question!
Great solution! Not only does it look great and seem fitting, given the expanding universe and the impossibility of containing a galaxy, it looks planned. Accidental genius is still genius!
Tell us about your background and how it led you to where you are.
How long have you got? I’m 54 now so I have a bit more to cover than most!
I’ve got a hot cup of tea and all the time you need!
I have been sewing since my Mum taught me as a little girl. I’ve continued to sew whilst raising my children, had various different careers over the years and taught myself upholstery. A car accident led to me having to rethink what I was going to do with my life and a scheme at the Job Centre helped me to start my business Patch Cottage Designs where I undertook upholstery and seamstress commissions and rented space in vintage emporiums to sell my own ‘reloved’ furniture creations. I have a fantastic archive on my website! My neck deteriorated. I was caring for my Mum and was in agony, needing surgery. Humping armchairs around was out and I needed to do something easier. Appliquéd cushions led to beads which led to me following couture embroidery. I was hooked then on all things sparkly.
When and how did you learn embroidery, and what was your first embroidery project?
I haven’t any formal training. I think I’m just handy in the sewing department and it gave me the courage to think I could do this. I made a cushion gift for my Daughter in Law, then made Nova, my first embroidered artwork…my interpretation of an exploding star, then Andromeda. I’m only just getting started so it’s very exciting to have achieved so much so soon.
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?
Wow! I’m honoured and very grateful. I don’t know about pioneer but I won’t ever be like everyone else in my thoughts and style because I don’t have the traditional training that most have, it’s gives me a carefree attitude and a bit of an edge so I don’t see myself as being disadvantaged. I was intimidated at first, battled anxiety and self doubt. To be here today able to say this, I guess I am on the frontier. I hope to inspire others to just ‘go for it!’ However old you are, even with no training, if I can do it, then you can do this too!
What’s been the biggest surprise of your career and the projects you’ve undertaken?
That I’m here writing this because I did so well in the Hand & Lock Prize For Embroidery competition! I just thought I’d take a chance and enter.
What projects are on the horizon for you?
Ah, I’m going with the flow at the moment. I’ve been really busy working through lockdown as the Activities Coordinator in a care home where my Mum is now a resident. I’m losing her to Alzheimers disease so it’s been good to make life fun for her and the other lovely residents.
My next exciting creation is well under way so ‘watch this space’ I’ll reveal more of my plans very soon. I’m finding I’m really good at juggling at the mo!
What one piece of advice would you offer someone looking to expand his/her embroidery skills?
Don’t follow the crowd, find your own style.
Rapid-fire Round: (Don’t think too hard about these.)
You can work with just one color for the next year—beads, thread, fabrics, everything. What color do you choose? Gold.
What stitchable motif would you choose to represent you and your life? A red love heart. It very much mirrors my logo.
We’re sending a collection of art into space with the hope that aliens will someday discover it. You’re asked to contribute a piece of embroidery. What do you make and why? I would create an erotic ‘origin of the species’ that expresses the feelings, emotions and essence of our being.
A book you enjoyed recently: The R.H.S. Allotment Handbook. I’ve been creating a victory garden to grow our veg.
You must include something edible in your next piece. What do you use, and how do you incorporate it? Hmmm, I thought of pockets of seeds stitched onto biodegradable fabric that would sow a garden but then thought of gilded nuts…I could work with those. I’ve a great gadget that drills tiny holes!
If you were not an artist, what would you be? I always said I’d have loved to have been an archaeologist. I hated history at school but now I find it really fascinating. I’d also be a happy gardener growing organic vegetables.
You must create a textile for an animal. What is the animal, and what do you create? Light up Winter coats for my dogs would be amazing!
Favorite material to work with: I do love a luxurious heavy velvet.
Describe your dream commission. What and for whom is it? If Johnny Dang wants to send over some scrappy bits of jewellery I’ll see what I can rustle up for him.
A studio is remaking a movie, and they want you to create a prop. What is the movie, and what prop are you creating? I’ve always fancied making chairs that you don’t sit in and now my neck has recovered from the surgery I’d like to at some point combine embroidery and upholstery to create some stunning art furniture. The Bond movie ‘You Only Live Twice’ had super villain Blofeld sat in the iconic G Plan chair. I’d love to work a bit of magic on one of those!