Hand & Lock Prize for Embroidery.

The Hand and Lock Prize for Embroidery is a prestigious annual event celebrating the best in the intricate craft of embroidery. It is held at the Bishopsgate Institute in London and attended by both the public and industry professionals who wish to see the latest embroidery art.

In 2019 I applied. The brief was:

“Fool the Senses. Consider the texture and feel of your embroidery, to create embellishments with a sumptuous surface that intrigues and surprises”.

Along with many others from the UK and the rest of the world, I submitted images of my latest project, an artist statement and my concept. To my absolute shock and delight, I became a finalist and was asked to submit 2-3 mood boards and the final piece ready for the awards evening on Thursday 21st November. All finalists were also informed of their mentor who would support and guide the final submission pieces. My mentor was Diana Springall.

(I submitted images of my latest project, an artist statement, my concept and why I entered. To my absolute shock and delight, I was chosen as a finalist. All finalists were asked to submit two or three mood boards and their final piece, with the support and guidance of a specially allocated mentor. My mentor was Diana Springall.)

Diana Springall knew my work having previously purchased ‘A Bar of Drinking Chocolate, 2016’ for her large collection of textile art. We used our time to discuss the importance of embroidery being recognised as art and what I should put on my mood boards to support my entry. I had never made one before because I work according to a concept as opposed to a design. Diana said that she wanted to know how I made my work and that this should be shown to the judges.


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Bishopsgate Institute, London.

The finals were a two day event. On Wednesday 20 November, for the first time, we were able to see how our work was being displayed and meet the other finalists. We had the chance to get to know each other, discuss our projects and discover the ideas and processes behind each beautiful piece. The public visited, and were able to meet the makers and cast a vote for their favourite piece (this was combined with the judges’ vote).

Thursday 21 November was the awards evening. The event was incredibly busy with lots of conversations between makers and industry professionals and the live judging for the four categories:  Fashion: Open Category, Fashion: Student Category, Textile: Open Category, and Textile Art: Student Open. There were also four winners for the associate awards: Wilcom Award for Digital Embroidery: Textile Art and Fashion, The Worshipful Company of Gold and Silver Wyre Drawers Award and The Worshipful Company of Broderers Award.

Here are some images from the evening courtesy of each artist:

Sheila Ramsey: Winner of Fashion: Open Category.

Sheila flew over from Canada for the prize and presented a beautiful garment made from common milkweed fluffs, candy wrappers, up cycled piping and washers, creating a wedding jacket that was luxurious, innovative and sustainable.

Sophie Reynolds: second Place, Fashion: Student Category.

Sophie created a sensual garment that suggests a connection with nature by emulating repetition in design and behaviours to improve wellbeing. Sophie explored fringing, beading, and hand embroidery using recycled plastic sequins, wood, leather and acrylics.

Hannah Mansfield: Winner of the Textile Open Category.

Hannah created four seasonly inspired, stunning gold work flower structures in gold and silver. The beautiful floral arrangements were made with metal threads and imitation pearls with an underside of self made fabric formed from metal leaf and organza.

Samantha Trevis: 2nd Place, Open Category: Textile Art.

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Samantha Trevis

Samantha’s radiant work reflects the beautiful personality of her mother who has Alzheimers. Sam say

(Samantha’s radiant work reflects the beautiful personality of her mother who has Alzheimer’s. It is made with unwanted, unfashionable and broken items. Samantha says:)

“Through the darkness we find our light. I share hers, it’s too bright to be contained.”

Sam’s amazing work is made with unwanted, unfashionable and broken items.

Finally, my piece won: Third Place, Open Category: Textile Art.

The process of making my art challenges me every time I stitch. This drawing proved challenging throughout with the complex manipulation of thread in an endeavour to create textures including glass, metal, transparent plastic, ceramic tiles, corduroy, knit, crumpled fabric and leather. I never knew if I would actually be able to finish it alone entering and succeeding in one of the worlds most prestigious competitions for embroidery.

I have made some lovely new friends, seen some wonderful work and enjoyed celebrating the beautiful art of stitch. Thank you to Hand and Lock for this amazing opportunity.

For a complete view of all the finalists work, please visit Hand & Lock.




Designer Crafts 2018 at Chelsea College of Art

After over 2 years of stitching, I am now making final preparations to get my drawing ‘A Couple on the Tube’ to Chelsea College of Art, London. On 12th July the Society of Designer Craftsmen’s exhibition ‘The Hand of the Maker’ opens and runs for 9 days to celebrate 130 years of the society.

The Society has a large membership made up of selected makers and designers from a wide range of craft disciplines including ceramics, textiles, wood, glass and metal. It is the largest multi-craft society in the country and has a vibrant creative space in London’s Shoreditch.


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This week my large free machine embroidered drawing will be collected by courier and transported to London ready for the hang. Before that, I will hand my work over to some very skilled professionals. David Gould will photograph the drawing before I attach it to a sheet of perspex and then Edge 2 Edge in Staple Hill, Bristol, will frame it. This is a very difficult job because the frame will contain museum grade glass and both this material and the perspex collect any fibre of fluff that happens to be in close proximity.


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A Couple on the Tube‘, 2014, free machine embroidery


I am really excited about the exhibition because there will be two firsts. It is my first time to exhibit with the Society and the first time that ‘A Couple on the Tube’ will be exhibited. I do hope you will get time to visit.

Drawing people

I have had some pretty rubbish attempts at drawing people on paper and whilst at uni, it was suggested that I should avoid it altogether. Also, I am not a painter so the thought of attempting to make images of people in a painterly way with threads is daunting. Realising that I am taking  a new and difficult direction with my work, I have spent some time researching other artists who use thread as their medium for portraits.

Cayce Zavaglia (online image)

Photorealistic hand embroidered drawings by Cayce Zavaglia, a textile artist who originally trained as a painter. Zavaglia moved to embroidery when she wanted to make work that reflected an embroidered piece from her childhood. Over the years she has developed a very difficult technique that enables her to blend colours in thread as if they were paint, allowing for tonal qualities usually seen in classical oil paintings.

Emily Tul (online image)

Tul works with thread, fabric and paint and focuses on faces because she is  intrigued with what they show us about a person (or what they don’t). Tul works large and then crops the work suggesting an element of confrontation.

Julie Sarloutte (online image)

Sarloutte is a French artist whose work is a mixture of traditional and pop culture. I love her use of bold colour which resembles a pixilated version of oil paint. Her inspiration come from her life, cinema and the media.

These artists have different approaches to their subjects and use thread in very different ways. One makes very intricate photo realistic portraits, another works very large and interrupts the image to encourage deeper questions and the final one uses intense colour to add to the emotion portrayed. But in each work, the thread is successfully used to lead us in to the soul of the sitter and allows for further engagement with the viewer.

I am also fascinated by people and their relationship with the world around them; a relationship that only they know and we can only guess at or wonder through our interpretation of any emotion shown. This is why I felt so compelled to photograph and draw the couple sat opposite me on the tube in London. Whilst my picture is being drawn with the machine, I do hope that I can share some of that wonder with the viewer and if that does happen, then perhaps I will know I was right to have another attempt at drawing people, but this time with sewing machine and thread rather than marks made on paper.

‘A couple on the tube’ (work in progress, free machine embroidery, Julie Heaton)