Sally Wilson - Prize Winner 2016

As winner of the Textile Arts Open category, Hand & Lock delve into Sally Wilson's story behind her piece and entering into the Prize for Embroidery with an exclusive interview.

In 2005 Sally Wilson had a life-changing accident, which resulted in a traumatic brain injury with ongoing neurological issues and a severely broken left wrist.

After two years of recovery and rehabilitation, she began to explore art again. However, the loss of feeling in her hand left her unable to work with traditional methods. She began exploring hand guided machine embroidery on a basic sewing machine. As her fingers regained some feeling, her work has become diversified to re-incorporate her love of mixed-media and welding.

Did you face any obstacles when creating your piece?

The main obstacle is my inability to function normally due to a traumatic brain injury (TBI) I had a few years ago. It impacts on my daily routine and ability to concentrate for sustained periods, therefore, the scale of the piece sometimes overwhelmed me. This was not helped by the fabric I created for the coat which was far too dense to sew through easily. I ended up using pliers to pull the needle through for each stitch and embellishment; which was gruelling at times and very time consuming.

What is your plan for the next year and what do you hope to achieve?

I was intending to take a break and catch up with all of the areas of my life that have been neglected! However, when I heard the brief for the Hand & Lock Prize 2017 my creativity kicked in and I can’t stop thinking of ideas, so maybe.

I will definitely be producing a piece of the Society of Graphic Fine Art at the Bankside Biennial 5-17 June 2017 and one of my pieces has been chosen to represent the National Open Art at ArtRooms 2017, Meliá White House, London, 20-23 January 2017, so hopefully opportunities may arise from these two fantastic events. I usually enter the NOA competition and the Royal Society of Marine Artists at the Mall Galleries.

Who was your mentor and what was their contribution to this winning piece?

Sam Roddick was my Mentor. One of the main areas she helped me with was the beak of the Shoebill. Unfortunately, with only a few weeks until the completion deadline her ideas of a ceramic or metal beak were not feasible. However, it encouraged me to create a beak decoration which definitely worked and enhanced the piece. I would have loved to have met her at the Prize Evening but I realise she is a very busy lady.

What is your favourite element of your piece and why?

I am not usually very impressed by any of my pieces when they have been completed. However, I have to say that I do love the ‘Duck’ as I lived with him for virtually a year and he took over my life for that period. So the element I most appreciate is his ‘character’ and also, he doesn’t talk back!

What inspired you to take part in this competition?

I have considered entering the Prize for quite a few years but always felt that the Fashion element of the competition was not my forte. I was delighted to find the Textile Art category had been introduced this year. It was an excellent opportunity to test my improving dexterity since the accident.

If you could have any job role what would it be and why?

I love my life as an independent Artist. It allows me to cope with my ongoing health issues of concentration, fatigue, memory and fragmented thinking. Although I do not like to dwell on my limitations, I am aware that I am incapable of leading a ‘normal life’. Textile Art has definitely been a saviour and a fantastic form of rehabilitation/therapy. A long held ambition is to have a piece exhibited in the V & A museum as I have constantly drawn inspiration from this very special place. I would also love to hold an exhibition of my growing collection of competition/event works at a reputable gallery. The work would show my gradual recovery from TBI and my artistic development over the same decade; the work diversifies from simple free machine stitch to welded steel and mixed media creations which are all unique.


What do you think this competition has taught you?

Never to give up and always to try new things! I had not previously produced a piece of work which focused preliminarily on hand stitching. It was a very intense learning curve; I spent many hours researching and learning simple and complex stitches and I also learnt to keep a good supply of finger plasters in stock.

Describe your piece in 3 words.

Handsome, Meticulous, Story-telling

How did you feel when you found out you were the winner of the open textile category?

I cannot explain how excited and emotional I felt. I know it is a massive accolade but after seeing the other finalist works I realised that it would be a miracle to achieve 1st Place as the standards were so incredibly high.

It felt like a dream to hear my name. I don’t remember much of the presentation as I was so astounded and emotional.

How did you hear about the Central African Shoebill? Was this something you were interested in before The Prize?

To be honest I hadn’t heard of the Shoebill prior to the Hand & Lock prize. I wanted to create a design which followed Hand & Locks brief to ‘stand the test of time’ whilst ‘celebrating the history’ of something special.

I investigated animals and birds that were nearing extinction and came across the magnificent if not bizarrely featured African Shoebill (Balaeniceps Rex- ‘King of the Swamps’) and thought it was stunningly unique!

I do love creatures that have personality and this one certainly did. As I read into its history and background, I realised it had a wonderful story to tell and the visual inspiration from its habitat and ecology was incredibly rich.

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