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 second-place winner in the Fashion Student Category, Sophie Elisabeth Reynolds.
Location: Richmond, Surrey
Education: MA Textile Design Innovation, Embroidery – Graduated 2019
Describe your Hand & Lock entry and the inspiration behind it:
My Hand & Lock entry evolved from an exploration of materials, tactility and well-being. I took inspiration from repetitive natural forms, taking photographs underneath the microscope, and of naturally occurring patternation. Creating organic embroidery designs and layering materials with both contemporary and traditional techniques.
I really wanted to explore and push the boundaries of what I could do with the multi-head embroidery machine, after some fighting with the machine between myself and the wonderful technicians, we were able to get some results on an extreme scale.
I am always really driven by tactility and working in a multi-media discipline. Alongside the digital embroidery, laser cutting has also been used to create surprising and tactile elements, playing with the juxtaposition of hard/soft, and matt/shiny materials such as wood, leather, silicone and acrylics. Beading and hand embroidery have also been used to compliment the contemporary techniques, adding intricate detailing and to draw the eye in closer.
Are there any secrets you can now reveal about your entry?
Originally there was not as much fringing on the coat as there ended up being. There were several times where I thought I was definitely finished, but then after a few days of pondering and reflection, I couldn’t stop myself adding more. I think I had a bit of an obsession with fringing, which I think actually worked in my favour in the end as the impact of the coat is so much greater being so extravagant.
When and how did you learn embroidery, sewing, etc., and what impression did it make on you?
I first learnt embroidery whilst studying my BA at Bath Spa University. I went with a friend to a lecture that The Royal School of Needlework were holding in Bath, entered a competition to win a chance to take part in an embroidery class with them, and won! I took a silk shading workshop and this really took my attention, and I continued to develop embroidery through my BA and subsequently since.
What made you want to study fashion and textiles in school?
I’ve always had an interest in anything creative, I wasn’t the most academic person at school and I found textiles and art was something that I enjoyed and was naturally quite good at. I never really thought about doing anything else as a career other than something creative, so it was a natural step to take up study in textiles further, embroidery was then something that I then specialised in for my Masters Degree.
To date, what’s been your favorite course of study?
To date my favourite course has been Intermediate Gold Work at London School of Embroidery. Gold work embroidery is my favourite hand embroidery technique; I love the amount of detail and texture you can create with the materials and there is something quite special about the medium.
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 so much. That is so kind; I am very honoured! I think it means to always look to push techniques and ideas, it doesn’t necessarily matter if you know the outcome, actually most the time, work ends up being something completely different if you did have an idea to start with. This is the most exciting part – exploring the material, process and having fun along the way!
Where else can we see your work?
What projects are on the horizon for you?
I am currently working in the industry full-time so have found finding time between working and commuting hard to come by. But I am to starting to work on a little collection which I hope to launch very soon.
Describe your ideal career.
I still don’t really know what my ideal career would be, never really have! But in an ideal world it would just mean that I can carry on creating, having fun exploring embroidery and maybe having my own company one day.
What one piece of advice would you offer someone looking to expand his/her embroidery skills?
Just keep on exploring and don’t be afraid to work outside your comfort zone. Push yourself and enjoy.
Rapid-fire Round: (Don’t think too hard about these.)
You can work with just one color for the next year. What color do you choose? It has to be pastels, probably pink.
What stitchable motif would you choose to represent you and your life? Going on a walk with my boyfriend and sausage dog.
A book you’ve enjoyed recently: Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig.
You must include something scented in your next piece. What do you use, and how do you incorporate it? Coconut, embed oils in the threads.
If you were not an artist, what would you be? Probably something to do with dogs, groomer maybe!
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? Grayson Perry, technically not lunch, but a really good chocolate cake.
A studio is remaking a movie, and they want you to design the costumes. What is the movie, and what is your favorite costume in it? Not necessarily the film but The Lion King. I am just in awe of all the theatre show costumes; it would be a dream to work on any of them!
Favorite material to work with: Organza
You must create a garment or accessory for an animal. What is the animal, and what do you create? A sausage dog, top hat.
You must turn a song into a garment. What’s the song, and what’s the garment? What a Wonderful World, a brightly coloured rainbow dress.
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