The 2021 Hand & Lock Prize for Embroidery culminated in a show-stopping five-day exhibition at the Bargehouse warehouse on London’s iconic South Bank. Combining both prize entrants from 2020 and 2021 with an exciting array of contemporary and historic embroidery works, the exhibition was a rare opportunity to see so much exquisite craftsmanship.
Because embroidery permeates so many different aspects of visual culture from interior design, art, to the clothes we wear, the exhibition sought to reflect this diversity. With a huge and exciting array of objects, artworks and fashions, the 2021 Embroidered
Art Exhibition sought to reflect on the myriad of places where embroidery adds artistic excellence.
From the opening day, visitors had the opportunity to explore seven rooms featuring embroidery by artists including Yinka Ilori, Karen Nicol, Alice Kettle, Madge Gill and Richard McVetis. Beyond the work of these textile artists, the exhibition included notable fashion by British brand Burberry, Hand & Lock’s collection of embroidered sportswear and a historic embroidered uniform from Henry Poole & Co. Interior decoration, conceptual pieces, a wedding dress from the 1950s and even suffragette banners further demonstrated the limitless potential of embellishment.
Alongside the exhibition was a popular series of talks, workshops and taster sessions. Visitors enjoyed hearing from the likes of Nelly Agassi, Jenny King, Karen Nicol, Diana Springall and Anthea Godfrey as they each offered insights into their embroidery practice. Other exhibition guests, sought more hands-on engagement and joined professional embroiderers from the Royal School of Needlework and the Worshipful Company of Broderers in the taster sessions or booked onto their formal workshops. A diverse selection of guest tutors led classes and workshops in a dedicated space. For five days inspiration filled the air and visitors marveled at the pieces on show, heard from the experts and joined in developing new skills themselves.
"The Prize means so much to so many people and we were so happy this event could bring the community together after such a difficult year."
On Thursday 4th November the exhibition closed earlier than usual and preparations began for the all-important evening awards ceremony. In 2020, due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the awards had been entirely virtual with announcements streamed on social media and Zoom. But with restrictions lifted and confidence higher in 2021, Hand & Lock returned to the live awards format. As always Hand & Lock chairman Alastair Macleod took to the stage to introduce proceedings.
Standing in front of a large audience of entrants, judges, artists and
VIPs he expressed his thanks to all those who made the event possible and heralded a new era of creative artistic expression. Joined on stage by Head of Prize for Embroidery Sophie Carr the announcements began.
2021 entrants had been asked to create a fashion piece or art object that reflected the 2021 brief. This specially written brief asked entrants to consider themselves as both a physical and a digital being, to interrogate what it means to have another virtual self, a Digital Doppelgänger.
The top prize in Open Fashion Category went to the self-taught Tatiana Rodina for her sublime black tulle gown beautifully peppered with 3D silk shaded and beaded butterflies and florals. Rodina incorporated a beaded QR code engaging with the virtual themes in the 2021 Digital Doppelgänger brief. In the Student Fashion Category first prize was collected by returning entrant, Rachel Ellenbogen. A student at Parsons School of Design New York, in keeping with the brief, Ellenbogen reflected on her social media for inspiration and charted nine years of Instagram in meticulously detailed beaded images.
Away from fashion, the top prize in the Open Textile Art Category went to Lesley Wood for ‘Digital Shadows of Self’, a narrative embroidered artwork charting her family linage. With printed fabric, hand-dyed organza and a self-portrait in refined silk shading she evokes the invisible links between herself and her ancestors who now exist as digital doppelgängers on the internet. First place in the Student Textile Art Category went to Royal School of Needlework graduate, Kate Pankhurst for her piece ‘Lockdown O’Clock’. Featuring or nue, passing and stumpwork this monochrome embroidered alarm clock conveys the slow passage of time and the reduced worldview Pankhurst experienced during the 2021
UK lockdown. Pankhurst was also chosen as the winner of the Worshipful Company of Gold & Silver Wyre Drawers Associate Award for the best use of the goldwork embroidery technique.
Other Associate Award winners included Lucy Martin who was chosen as the winner of the Worshipful Company of Broderers Associate Award and also won the Royal School of Needlework Award for Innovation & Technical Excellence in Hand Embroidery, David Morrish who won the Wilcom Associate Award for Digital Embroidery Textile Art category and Rachel Moore who won the Wilcom Associate Award for Digital Embroidery Fashion category.
Company Director Jessica Jane Pile explained, “The Prize means so much to so many people and we were so happy this event could bring the community together after such a difficult year.”
Reflecting on the high standard of entrants, Hand & Lock Chairman Alastair Macleod commented, “There is no doubt in my mind that some of the 2021 and 2020 finalists will go on to shape the future of embroidery for decades to come.”
As the five-day exhibition came to a close thoughts immediately turned to 2022. With another exciting brief and life slowly returning to normal, Hand & Lock are excited to see what the future holds with 2022 Prize giving ceremony and 2023 Embroidered Arts Exhibition.
"There is no doubt in my mind that some of the 2021 and 2020 finalists will go on to shape the future of embroidery for decades to come.”