2024 Brief

Traces of transition: Embroidery that illuminates the layers of our lives.

Brief Context

As we transition from the past into our future selves, what layers and fragments of our past still shine through? 

Some fear change while others embrace it. Change, transformation, evolution and adaptation are all essential to our individual and collective well-being. Through self-improvement, education and our environment each of us emerges renewed each day.

Transformation is all around us from the ever-changing technology we carry in our pockets to the changing view from our window. Some societal transformation demonstrates progress but other changes can demonstrate a growing threat.

The boiling-point discourse around free speech, the increasing carbon in the atmosphere, the slow decline of craftsmanship. These changes threaten our survival and quality of life.


But in response to negative change, there is reason to be joyful too; across the world, Millennials and Gen Z are increasingly motivated by social justice and care deeply for the environment. As they assume positions of power and responsibility, the priorities of our governments and global organisations change to reflect their concerns.

In 2024 The Hand & Lock Prize asks you to consider cultural and personal transformation. Visualise multiple changes, layered upon one another representing progress and decline, innovation and inertia. Combine personal optimism with collective fears and consider how these might be connected. 



The Brief

A palimpsest is an ancient document where the original inscriptions have been erased to make room for new texts. It has become a word we use to describe our capacity to see the age and history of an object or place. This idea of the old making way for the new, while leaving faint traces is at the heart of archaeology, art, evolution and innovation.

Consider yourself, the objects in your home and wider society and look for the layers that reveal the stages and transformations that led them each to where they are today. Look at your environment, the landscape, the forest, the city through which you make your daily commute. See the ancient ruins that lie sandwiched between glistening glass skyscrapers and construct your own histories.

Ask questions and challenge historical assumptions. Make connections and weave your ideas into the physical layers of your embroidery. Is the ticking clock of ecological apocalypse timescale, a counterpoint to disappearing cultural traditions and skills? Does the practice of upcycling and reimagining clothing echo the practice of reinterpreting and rewriting history?

The 2024 Prize brief expects you to investigate the journey and underscore the stories woven into scars, cracks, wrinkles and fissures. Through your process, you should explore metaphorical and literal damage. You should actively engage with repair and reconstruction and emphasise the visible hand of restoration.

As ever, colour and texture should reign supreme and engage with your concept at every level. Colour has the potential to be mood-enhancing and uplifting supporting the continued focus on well-being. Exploit saturated, muted, ethereal, blurred, filtered, manipulated, or morphing, transforming colour. Use colour to underscore your vision and engage with trends and modern movements. Pantone’s 2024 colour predictions lean heavily on the shades of the transformational autumn palette. Consider the colours associated with decay, demise, renewal and revival.

For texture, take inspiration from the French Impressionists who used unconventional tools, techniques and the alchemy of oil and marble dust to create new impasto textures. Painters use heavy layers of thick paints to build up a three-dimensional surface with oily peaks and valleys. Imagine how you can recreate embroidery that speaks of urgency and passion while delivering tactile pleasure.

Consider the emotion your piece can convey: calm tranquillity, vibrant exaggeration, or the blended middle ground. Find your own expression of optimism. Imbue your object with layers that aspire to hope, joy and celebration.

Embrace up-cycling as a metaphor for historical revisionism. Investigate the act of embroidery as a healing process. Recognise and highlight the transformation in you, and the objects you embroider.

Your final work should reflect a complex and personal multi-layered engagement with your inspirations. Dig deep and explore your thoughts and feelings: your submission should provoke, communicate and articulate a strong sense of emotion.


Click on the images to explore the 2024 Visual Brief’s themes on Pinterest.

Van Gogh 2

Vincent van Gogh

Screenshot 2023-11-06 213129Gwyther Irwin


Charlotte Bailey

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