The Perpetual Maker

Hannah Mansfield is an embroidery designer from Bristol specialising in tambour beading and goldwork.

How did you get into embroidery and what made you specialise in tambour beading and goldwork?

I’ve been creative from a young age and tried out a lot of different crafts as I grew up and embroidery just kind of stuck with me. I studied textile design at university and decided to specialise in embroidery. I especially wanted to focus on hand embroidery techniques so I went to day classes at the Royal School of Needlework and Hand & Lock to learn goldwork and tambour beading. Tambour beading is such a useful technique because it speeds up the process of applying beads and sequins. I tend to use a lot of beading so this technique has become very important in my work. Goldwork is perfect for my style of work which has always been quite delicate and detailed. Gradually the majority of my designs began to centre around these two techniques and over the past year I have tried to perfect my skills and experiment with them.

Do you sew for fun or is it a job?

Embroidery is a job for me but a very enjoyable one! I work as a freelance embroiderer  for fashion or accessories companies and designers and I also embroider my own designs. Later this year I will be launching an online shop selling a range of products featuring my goldwork bees and beetles. I specialise in hand embroidery for fashion. Recently I have worked with Joe Richards, a Bath based designer and knitwear company John Smedley, embellishing  sample garments and production orders of knitwear. I use my own work as an opportunity to develop my skills, last year I created a collection of goldwork insects and bees and beaded animal prints. I entered this project into the 2017 Hand & Lock Prize and was awarded third place in the open fashion category.

Who would you like to collaborate with and why? 

I really admire the work of Jamie Beck, an American photographer based in Provence who creates beautiful still life photographs and self portraits. Her inspirations and aesthetic are quite similar to mine so I think our work styles would suit each other well. It would be wonderful to collaborate with her to create an embroidered garment that she could wear in a self portrait. I would also love to embroider for Alexander McQueen, they always have stunning embroidery in their collections and I would love to say I had embroidered one of them!  

What other textiles would you like to do, screen printing, weaving etc?

I would like to improve my pattern cutting and dressmaking skills. I think it’s very useful when you are working with garments to understand how they are constructed, especially when you are embroidering flat pattern pieces.

Where do you buy your materials from?

I buy nearly all my materials online as a lot of the materials I use are quite specialist. For tambour embroidery I buy strung beads and sequins from two French websites called Paillettes et Broderie and Brodely. My goldwork supplies come from London Embroidery School and Golden Hinde. The latter also sells in wholesale quantities, which is useful as I get through goldwork threads very quickly.

Do you have any textiles or art books you look at for inspiration?

The V&A publication which accompanied the Savage Beauty exhibition titled Alexander McQueen is one of my favourite books. I didn’t know a lot about McQueen before seeing the exhibition but afterwards I became completely in awe of his work, the book was a  fantastic accompaniment to the exhibition. I have two miniature sized books called Myth and Romance and The Pre-Raphaelite Vision. I’m fascinated by the narratives of Pre-Raphaelite artworks as much as the paintings themselves and these books offer an explanation of each painting.  Goddess: The Classical Mode is such a beautiful book published to accompany an exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. It is filled with images of stunning Grecian style draped garments by designers past and present. Manus x Machina: Fashion in an age of technology is another Metropolitan Museum of Art publication which is about hand and machine processes in fashion, how they are used together and how hand processes can survive as technology becomes more advanced. There are also fascinating interviews with designers about their views on hand and machine techniques. Goldwork by Hazel Everett is a really useful reference book and I always recommend it to people who want to learn goldwork. 

Who are some of your favourite embroidery designers you follow on Instagram?

There are so many embroidery designers whose work I admire. The wonderful thing about Instagram is that many embroiderers are very supportive of each other and really value community over competition. I’m a big fan of Georgina Bellamy’s work she creates stunning 3D goldwork and beaded animals, I especially love how she uses goldwork in such a modern and inventive way. Hanny Newton is another embroiderer using goldwork in a completely modern and unique way. Claire Edwards was a fellow prize winner in the Hand & Lock Prize, she created a stunning dress featuring a Phoenix with so many amazing goldwork details. Atelier Voluptatem is a talented embroiderer whose most recent work features beautiful silk shaded birds. 

What do you love about embroidery?

I really value using my hands to create something, especially in the digital world we live in. I love that I am able to continue to use techniques such as tambour beading and goldwork that have been used for hundreds of years and have so much history. With goldwork I love how you can use padding to create relief in a design and use goldwork purl to create texture and reflect light. With tambour beading you can embroider an entire glittering beaded design relatively quickly. Both of these techniques are so versatile, once you have mastered the techniques the possibilities of what you can create are endless.

Follow Hannah on Instagram here



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