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 Student Category.
Name: Lisa Carroll
Location: Melbourne, Australia
School: RMIT University, 2019
Describe your piece for the competition and what motivated it:
My entry for Hand & Lock was titled ‘State of Wonder’ which explored the beauty and artistry behind nature’s awe inspiring patterns; blurring the lines of the repeated forms seen in flora, fauna and ocean beds to create the ‘otherworldly’ that morphs these replications into a new form of nature by combining the use of embroidery, digital printing and cutting technologies. I was really interested in the alchemy aspect of the Hand & Lock brief ‘Material Alchemy and Modern Morality’ as by printing, embossing, colouring and cutting my own sequins feels magical.
Being in Australia, we don’t really have a hand embroidery industry, and I was keen to connect with like-minded embroiderers.
Are there any secrets you can now reveal about your entry?
Printing my own sequins is very time consuming but it allows me to use exactly what patterns and colour I want and not limit me to what I can buy. The secret is that I bribed my young nephews to peel all the sequins out when they were cut. There were thousands of them so it took them ages and cost me a bit of money and a lot of chocolate to keep them happy.
When and how did you learn embroidery and sewing, and what impression did it make on you?
My grandmother was always knitting, and my mother is amazing at sewing, so I was always surrounded by textiles and the concept of making. The greatest impression was my mum stored her ball gowns and wedding dress that she had made herself high in a cupboard and from a young age I was always getting them out just to touch all the beautiful beading and fabrics. I was never interested in wearing them; it was all about the fabrics.
What was your first textile project?
I’m not even sure of my first textile project, as I was always playing with the materials from my mother’s sewing off-cuts. It was probably making clothes for my dolls.
To date, what’s been your favorite course of study or project?
I’m completing my Masters at the moment, and it would be my favourite project as it has completely changed how I work. Once I discovered I could print on sequin material, my work took a complete change in direction. I hadn’t done that much embroidery until that stage, and I was completely self-taught, so I went to Paris to study at Ecole Lesage to learn the technical skills of embroidery from the best. It was such a fantastic experience.
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?
Thank you for the compliment, but I feel like I am on a constant learning curve of discovery. I’m really interested in forming a hybrid craft by integrating digital technology with traditional embroidery techniques. I think the frontier is incorporating the beauty of hand embroidery with modern technology and new materials.
Where else can we see your work?
What projects are on the horizon for you?
I’m currently working on a solo show for late 2020. I’m in the development stage, and I am doing a lot of experimental sampling at the moment to try and realise some of the ideas in my head.
What one piece of advice would you offer someone looking to expand his/her embroidery skills?
You need to have a lot of patience at the start as you need to practice and then practice more. But the rewards are so satisfying and embroidery can be incredibly therapeutic. One other tip, every project will take you longer than you think.
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? I love to play around with pattern clash so I would design a set of beaded wings for a zebra because why not?
If you could work with just one color for the next three years, what would it be? Dusty pink. I love it and it always seems to make it into my work even if it is the tiniest of highlights.
What stitchable motif would you choose to represent you and your life? Probably a bird. I can be a bit flighty! Also, like so many textile designers, I’m such a collector of bits and pieces that I find when I’m out and about in the world. I bring them home and store them away like little treasures that I might incorporate into a design at some stage. My prized treasure at the moment are quills from an echidna, and I’m just waiting for the inspiration to come on how I’m going to use them. Every couple of weeks I get them out of their storage spot and see if they are ready to reveal how I’m going to use them.
A place you want to visit: I find the history of textiles fascinating and recently I have been obsessed with the trade passages of the Silk Road, so if money and time weren’t factors, I would love to travel the Silk Road overland from China to Venice to truly embrace the history and see so many of the places where patterns originated.
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? I would invite American artist, Nick Cave. I would love to spend an afternoon chatting about his work, particularly his fantastic Soundsuits. As we are heading into winter here, I would make us a pile of roasted vegetables that we could just pick away at as we talked.
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 creating? Oh there are so many! But most costumes I think of I wouldn’t want to change except for one. As a teenage girl with red hair, I loved the film Pretty in Pink, the biggest disappointment of that film is the dress Molly Ringwald wears to the prom. It was a horrible dress, and I would love to make the dream embroidered Pretty in Pink dress for all the redheads out there!
You must include something live in your next project. What do you use, and how do you incorporate it? I would like to produce a piece that incorporates thermochromic threads and pigments which change colour when they heat so when the work is worn it changes colour through the body heat of the wearer. I like the idea of strategically working out the placement of the design so some colours would change and some wouldn’t on the body.
If you were not an artist/designer, what would you be? I would still want to work with my hands, and I enjoy physical labour, so I think I would probably want to be a carpenter.
A book you’ve enjoyed recently: The Feather Thief by Kirk Wallace Johnson. It tells the story of an extraordinary heist of rare bird skins from the Natural History Museum of Tring. It is wonderfully bizarre and true.
Describe your dream commission. What and for whom is it? I’m so sorry but I have to cheat here because I have two answers that are so different from each other I just can’t split them.
Oh, that’s not cheating. More is better here. Go for it!
Firstly, I would love to create an incredibly embellished, over-the-top leotard for Lizzo to wear in a music video. I just love her music and her attitude. It would be so much fun designing for her. Also, to add the Australian element, I think Cate Blanchett has incredible style. I would happily design anything for Cate, it wouldn’t matter what it was, even it was just an outfit to wear while she is doing the dishes!
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.