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. This year, sponsors added Textile Art categories to the traditional Fashion categories. The 2016 brief challenges participants to create quality design that consumers will cherish for years and that will stand the test of time.
On Thursday, November 3rd, London’s Bishopsgate Institute hosted the final of the 2016 Hand & Lock Prize for Embroidery.
Today we’ll meet the second-place winner in the Textile Art Student Category.
Name: Suzanne Treacy
School/year: Northumberland College, Ashington, Northumberland, 2015-2016.
Cleveland College of Art & Design, Hartlepool, County Durham, from September 2017 (direct entry – level 5/year 2) to June 2019.
What made you want to enter this competition?
Entry into the Prize was part of a project brief at Northumberland College although as soon as I heard about the competition I had intended to enter at some point. I visited Hand & Lock twice during my first year at college and felt like a child in a sweetie shop during the whole tour. I was so impressed by the experience and I’d already resolved to enter as soon as I thought my work was of a high enough standard. I thought it would be good experience and obviously had no expectation that I’d become a finalist let alone achieve 2nd place in my category.
What motivated your choice for your entry?
My college project brief was to select an artist and an archive to inspire work for the entry into the competition. I chose Sassetta, I pious, Sienese 15th century painter and the Bowes Museum in County Durham. I had visited the museum before and was immediately fascinated by the ancient goldwork techniques and ecclesiastical textiles. Coincidentally, Sassetta’s painting, The Miracle of the Eucharist, is permanently exhibited there: This was the starting point for my piece.
Are there any secrets you can now reveal about your entry?
I had a black one-shoulder dress made to display my piece but it was made with the opposite shoulder to how I’d made my piece! The dressmaker didn’t have time to make another one so I had to take my entry apart, make some new component parts and start again!
Oh, wow! That’s funny now, but I’m sure it wasn’t at the time. Way to persevere!
Describe your life and career before you went back to school:
Since having my son in 2005 I’ve been a full-time mum. Prior to that, I worked in insurance, sales, human resources and administration. Immediately prior to studying fashion and textiles at Northumberland College, I attended a part-time course and obtained a QCF Level 3 in creative leather craft.
When and how did you learn embroidery, sewing, etc., and what impression did it make on you?
I first started stitching when I was about 7 or 8. My grandmother sewed, knitted and crocheted, as did my mother, and my earliest memories of sewing are whilst spending holidays with my grandparents in Hampshire. Both my grandmother and mother made clothes for me for various occasions and I couldn’t wait to make my own. They both also made clothes for my dolls when I was young and I remember trying to make them too. I’ve always been impressed with people who create.
Until recently, I’d never actually embroidered. Even now I really only do French knots: I love them. I made a sample for Hand & Lock during my internship with them earlier this year comprising hundreds of French knots using silk chenille thread…quite a challenge and very time consuming but well worth it. I’ve also been inspired in recent months by Pintangle’s ‘Take a Stitch Tuesday’ so something else to incorporate into my studies. The first issue of Mr X Stitch magazine landed on my doormat recently and I’m really inspired by some of the designs. I think Alexander McQueen’s fabulous A/W 2017 collection will inspire many new cross stitchers too.
What was your first embroidery or textile project?
My very first textile project was making clothes when I was very young. I always had a project on the go.
Prior to studying fashion and textiles, during the creative leather craft course I designed and made a leather handbag and corset. My first serious attempt at incorporating leather and textiles was during a college project in September 2015. I used ammonites as my inspiration and I created a leather base on which to attach hand woven tweed. I contacted a weaver on the Isle of Harris and bought two cones of wool direct from her to weave my own cloth. I made my own sequins then attached them to the tweed using seed beads purchased from H&L during a visit. I also foiled some of the tweed to produce different effects.
What made you want to pursue fashion and textiles in school?
I’ve always had a passion for textiles and I have quite a stash of fabrics at home. While I was studying leather craft, my tutor was ill and the stand-in tutor turned out to be the HND fashion and textiles tutor at Northumberland College. I mentioned my passion for textiles and I was invited to look around the college. The rest, as they say, is history! I decided to embark on the HND with a view to completing a degree at some point. I’m thrilled that I’ve just been offered a place at Cleveland College of Art & Design in Hartlepool to study for a BA (Hons) in Textile and Surface Design and I start in September. I can’t wait!
What’s been the biggest surprise of returning to school and the projects you’ve undertaken?
Returning to education as a mature student is quite a surprise in itself. I’ve had a passion for textiles for as long as I can remember but I’d never previously considered a career in the business. Becoming a prize winner in such a prestigious, international competition is hugely surprising: Receiving the email from Hand & Lock informing me that I’d become a finalist in the competition was a big surprise!
What non-textile skills do you bring to the table that you hope to use on your new path?
Leather craft which encompasses moulding, carving, burnishing, manipulating and laser cutting and, of course, my Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop skills that expand each time I use them. Both applications are only limited by one’s imagination and are essential to my career in design.
Describe your ideal (new) career.
Once I’ve achieved my degree, I want to design fabric and wallpaper under my own name. I really love embellishing and leather work too so I’m also hoping to take commissions when time allows.
What projects are on the horizon for you?
I have received the brief for my summer project prior to commencing the BA in September. This is primarily visual research and market research in preparation for my first project. I will have to wait until September when all will be revealed!
Where else can we see your work?
I’ve recently exhibited at The Late Shows and the city library in Newcastle. Hand & Lock will be exhibiting my prize-winning entry in the window of their atelier at some point within the next few months. They are at 86 Margaret Street, London, W1W 8TE.
Rapid-fire Round: (Don’t think too hard about these.)
Favorite embroidery or textile medium: French knots with the Princess Pleater coming a close second.
If you could embroider with just one color thread for the next three years, what would it be? Green: There are so many different shades. I’d never get bored.
What stitchable motif would you choose to represent you and your life? An egg timer with the sand flowing through the neck: The sand in the bottom half would depict the life I’ve had so far and the flowing sand would be a reminder that there’s so much I want to achieve and that time doesn’t stand still so I should just get on with it!
If your work were cataloged with books, what genre would it be (romance, mystery, horror, history, psychology, something else)? History, without a doubt, mixed with alchemy: It certainly provides a lot of inspiration for me.
You’re having a solo show for your art. What is the title of the show? ‘Suzanne Treacy: This is it!’
You’re asked to create a garment or accessory for an animal. What is the animal, and what do you create? I don’t like the idea of garments for animals so it would have to be an accessory: I’d probably weave a dog blanket with wool obtained from the Outer Hebrides and embroider the dog’s initial in one corner using my newly acquired skill of monogramming learned while doing an internship at Hand & Lock earlier this year.
Favorite book you’ve read recently: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. I’ve read it several times, in fact. The All Souls Trilogy is amazing from beginning to end and the TV adaptation is shortly to be filmed…I can’t wait!
You must include something edible in your next project. What do you use, and how do you incorporate it? Brown sugar crystals…I’d drip small amounts of perfectly clear crystal resin into small discs onto acetate and then scatter the sugar crystals along with some gold leaf. I’d top the sugar and gold leaf with more crystal resin to seal it and once dried, I’d peel off the acetate and link all the little discs together with gold embroidery thread using shisha stitch and make an inverted triangular necklace.
Please do this!
You must turn a song into a piece of art. What song do you choose? My Sweet Lord by George Harrison….I love ecclesiastical art.
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? Grayson Perry……My Hand & Lock entry, of course! A new style for him!
I met him at his exhibition ‘The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever!’ in the Pavilion at the Serpentine Gallery recently. What a talent!
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.