This year Alice Made This was pleased to sponsor the Hand & Lock Prize for Embroidery. Having worked with the London based Atelier to produce our Military Tailoring collection of hand embroidered lapel pins, Hand & Lock has become an institution whose work, history and values we both respect and admire. When our Founder and Creative Director, Alice Walsh, was asked if she would mentor a contestant for the 2015 Prize, there was no question of getting involved. Giverney Volrath, who came 3rd in the student category, is a wonderfully skilled embroiderer who utilises industrial processes and natural materials to create geometric and graphic pieces. We spoke to Giverney about her work for the prize, her inspirations and her links to Alice Made This.
How did you get involved in the Hand & Lock prize?
There were a few Hand and Lock posters dotted around the embroidery studio when I was at London College of Fashion. That was my first introduction to it. During my course we were always encouraged to take part in competitions and to expand our current projects with new briefs. Andy, my embroidery tutor, brought the H&L prize to the class’ attention and suggested that those of us particularly interested in hand embroidery have a go.
What about Hand & Lock do you most admire?
Their refined details and use of Gold Work. When I first applied to the H&L prize, I'd just learnt lots of different Gold Work techniques and was obsessed. I've always enjoyed the details of embroidery and that's something H&L is renowned for! I also admire how they maintain the traditional designs as well as taking on commissions from fashion designers doing modern pieces.
Can you tell us a bit about your piece? How long did it take you to make, how is it made and what is it made from?
My piece was part of an 8-look collection made up of menswear and womenswear. I embellished 1-2 garments per look. I chose the dress I put forward because I loved the shape and movement of it. It conveyed my inspiration from Indonesian architecture and product design perfectly in my eyes. The embellishment is made of wood with an oak varnish to compliment the fabric underlay.
I learnt to use an industrial laser cutter and the required computer software so I could laser cut the amount of pieces I needed to create my overlay wooden dress. Each piece was attached by hand with metal findings and t-pins and I think, from start to finish, it took about 3 weeks to complete.
The piece seems to have quite an architectural and almost Eastern feel. Were there any particular architects, countries or cultures that inspired you?
Indonesian architect Budi Pradono and product designer Max Lamb were my key sources of inspiration. In a previous project based on travel, I'd found my love of using diverse materials and laser cutting my own beads so I decided to refine it and focus on one place and see how far I could push using a certain material. My collaborative partner is from the Philippines, and so, the silhouettes of his garments echoed Asian shapes and in turn fitted some of my research too!
Do you look to industries and manufacturing techniques outside of fashion and embroidery for reference?
Since discovering the industrial laser cutter, I've become obsessed with industrial techniques and how they can be used in unexpected ways. I think it always adds a more exciting juxtaposition when you look to other industries for inspiration.
Your piece and the photography around it are focused on copper tones. Is this a palette you are usually drawn to?
I try to be diverse when it comes to colour but I do find I'm drawn to nature’s palettes. Mother Nature has a way of putting colours together that you just can't beat. I'm also a fan of a bit of shine so metals and gold work are always high on my list to add that streak of metallic.
When did your value for materials start and why do you think that choosing the right material matters?
It took me a long time of experimenting and getting it wrong to out which materials suited my aesthetic (it took me a long time to figure out what my aesthetic was too!), but that's the beauty of doing a design degree. You have the time to play and discover yourself. I only discovered wood in my final year and now I can't leave the stuff alone! I also enjoy working with ceramics, sheet metal and metal clay.
What parts of Alice’s mentoring did you find particularly interesting? Were there specific elements of Alice Made This that you felt resonated with your work?
Alice has been fantastic. Each time I saw her, if I had any doubt in my mind about where I was going with my project, or my life in design, she renewed my faith. Seeing someone make a successful business out of something they are passionate about is really inspiring and something I hope to achieve too. As already mentioned, having meddled in a few industrial techniques, seeing the processes that are used in Alice Made This is truly fascinating to me. It makes each of her designs that much more special and I love the fact that these small, beautiful and intricate pieces have been made by such huge machines intended for airplanes and F1 cars etc.
What have you got planned for the future? What’s next?
So far I'm bouncing around the place trying to absorb as much experience as I can from others, in the form of internships and work at Liberty. That way I'm up to date with current trends and marketing which I'm also using as research for personal projects. I'm hoping to start up my own brand continuing my love for materials and process, so watch this space!