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 2019 brief, “Fool the Senses,” invited entrants to consider the texture and feel of embroidery. Projects focused on embellishments with sumptuous surfaces that intrigued and surprised as they to deceived, confused, and fooled the senses. Organizers encouraged artists to recycle and re-purpose old materials, re-imagining and transforming them into something new.
London’s Bishopsgate Institute hosted the final judging and award ceremony, showcasing 24 finalists’ masterpieces organized into four categories: textile works by students and textile works non-students, fashion by students and fashion by non-students. A separate display featured notable works pre-selected for associate awards by Hand & Lock’s partners.
Today we’ll meet the first-place winner in the Textile Student Category, Inge Tiemens.
School: Amsterdam Fashion Institute, graduated in June 2019
Describe your Hand & Lock entry and the inspiration behind it:
For me, embroidery is actually a form of meditation. I personally consider it as an escape of contemporary society wherein unrest and rapidity plays a major role.
This feeling of this unrest kept me so busy that I wanted to base my graduation project on this subject. Where does this feeling come from and is it a familiar feeling for other people? During my concept research I came across ‘Solastalgia’: missing your natural living environment.
The term Solastalgia was the basis for Biophilia in order to draw embroidery to the current zeitgeist. Solastalgia describes, as it were, our indefinable fears and feelings of powerlessness due to a disturbed attitude in our living environment. Melancholy is about longing for elsewhere or the past, solastalgia is about changes in the physical environment of today. The factors that cause solastalgia can be both natural and artificial. Climate changes such as drought, fire and floods are a major cause of solastalgia. Together with urbanization, this can have a great effect on the human mind.
I find it important to offer a form of escapism in my textiles, but also to keep the sharp edge clearly present. The goal is to let the viewer step out of reality for a while, but at the same time to convey a message. With Biophilia I try to offer a form of confrontational escapism, as a form of appreciation to our nature that we are in danger of losing.
You used some unusual materials for your project. Tell us about them.
Before I even started I already knew that artificial beads were not an option for me, I wanted to create a piece which will leave the viewer with a lot of questions. And the main question: what is it? And it worked!
For the experimentation part I started using tiny leaves, seeds, flowers, everything I could find in the forest. Until I found a broken butterfly wing which was completely useless and nearly fell apart in my hand. I could still see the beautiful pattern in the wing and the cell structure. A friend tipped me about a Dutch Lepidoptera Facebook group, where I got in contact with Isa a moth/butterfly breeder. Isa’s goal and hobby is to keep the population alive with releasing them in nature, unfortunately some moths didn’t made it. So that’s where I jumped it! Now they will live on forever :).
Besides the moth wings, I also used clay to sculpt my own beads inspired by lichen. The clay is also handmade and will dissolve in water!
Are there any secrets you can now reveal about your entry?
Don’t look at the inside, haha! I didn’t think about the finishing, of course, so I struggled a lot at the end. Preparing the wings was actually more work than the embroidery itself, which made the deadline very tricky. There is actually one more thing, the piece has been placed upside down on the doll and in the photoshoot, oops! But I also like the idea that it can be “worn” in different ways.
Oh, that’s one of the best secrets we’ve gotten here!
When and how did you learn embroidery, sewing, etc., and what impression did it make on you?
I got in touch with embroidery and textiles at a young age because of my grandma and great-aunt. I actually wanted to study Fine Art in the first place because I love to paint. Glad that I didn’t do it, otherwise I wouldn’t discover my love for embroidery in the second year of AMFI! I was always fascinated by beads and embellishments. I’m a very tactile person and working with such amazing materials and structures made me so happy.
What was your first embroidery, costume, or textile project?
The first project in which I used textile manipulation and embroidery was for the Atelier project, in the second year of AMFI. I used smocking techniques together with beading, but the end result wasn’t that great in my eyes due to the lack of time and the beads in the garment itself. Because of this I got even more motivated to level up my embroidery skills. In the next semester I made a fully beaded piece for the minor textiles, which was very satisfying to do. I used around 4 kilos of beads!
To date, what’s been your favorite course of study?
My graduation, it brought me a lot of joy to work with new and unconventional materials. Even though I had a lot of failures, broken needles and back pain. Maybe I need to buy a better chair.
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 love that, thank you so much! For me it means creating new ways of beading with innovative materials but also to honour the history of embroidery and the complex techniques of this beautiful craft. There is so much material in front of us, and there is no need to buy new beads. It would be great to integrate new sustainable materials in the (couture) embroidery industry.
What projects are on the horizon for you?
Right now I’m working on a new big project, based on the mutation in cells of organisms. I finished my research phase last week, so now the fun part begins: making samples!
Where else can we see your work?
My website is still under construction unfortunately, but my Instagram is always up to date!
What one piece of advice would you offer someone looking to expand his/her embroidery skills?
Start with the history, master the technique and then add new and innovative materials. Once you’ve mastered a technique, it is easier to develop a refined piece of embroidery with unconventional materials. And don’t use too many materials in one sample, this is also a tricky part for me. But “kill your darlings” is very useful sometimes.
Rapid-fire Round: (Don’t think too hard about these.)
You’re creating an accessory for an animal. What is the animal, and what is the accessory? A gekko with embroidered wings, how crazy would that be. A mini dragon!
If you could work with just one color for the next three years, what would it be? Black never bores me.
What stitchable motif would you choose to represent you and your life? An organic veiny branch, structured but all over the place at the same time.
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? Agnes Obel, I always listen to her while I’m embroidering. My famous mushroom risotto!
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? Oh that’s not a hard one: Elizabeth (1998), the costume in the “I am no man’s Elizabeth” scene! But I also would like to see my natural beads in a Maleficent costume—perfect match :).
You must include something live in your next project. What do you use, and how do you incorporate it? Tiny seeds! How cool would it be if tiny sprout will pop out in-between the beads.
If you were not an artist/designer, what would you be? A healing therapist for sure.
You must turn a song into a costume. What’s the song, and what’s the costume? Agnes Obel – Golden Green, a very fragile and refined dress with organic bead clusters growing over the body. Made with a sheer silk chiffon in a powdery colour.
A book you’ve recently enjoyed: In praise of Slowness – Challenging The Cult of Speed by Carl Honore
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? Cate Blanchett! I adore her. She is known for her amazing suits, so I would make a fully embroidered suit. This is actually one of my goals!
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.