Hand & Lock, an embroidery atelier located in Oxford Circus, London, is celebrating its 250th anniversary this year.
I am writing a feature on the company for Workshop on the Web, being published in March but I was very excited to be invited to the start of their anniversary celebrations at the V&A last week. I had visited the Hand & Lock offices a few weeks before and met their Communications Director, Sasha Danker who filled me with great enthusiasm for what they do. These are some of the samples I was lucky enough to get within touching distance of.
This event was The Embellished Bag and in keeping with the embroidery and design that H&L are so famous for, it was an amazing example of the work and skill their team have. Thirteen different designers provided bag piece templates for the embroiderers to embellish and the resulting bags were on display in the entrance hallway of the V&A. I managed to take some pictures before it really filled up.
It was quite magical there. Beautifully lit and the bags were on plinths to the sides so you could look at a selection of bags without it getting overcrowded. The bags ranged from very traditional, such as Asprey's 1781 handbag adorned with Goldworked oak leaves and beautifully worked acorns to the larger-than-life Vivienne Westwood Tiger Bag, recreated with traditional goldwork, tambour beading and sequins. It was difficult to fit it all in when taking a photo.
Here are a selection of detail shots of the bags on display. You can see professional photos of the bags on the Hand & Lock website but my photos are getting in close and looking at some of the detail. The majority of the embroidery was done in the traditional techniques that Hand & Lock specialise in so it was a real achievement to see how vastly different the styles of bags ended up.
The agnes B. bag was inspired by a photo of Paris at night in a car. As many of the agnes B. 'photoprints' are incorporated into their fashion collections, this was a perfect fit for how the bag design would be interpreted. It was stitched in silk using shading techniques.
The Cambridge Satchel Company Poppy bag used beautiful bullion threads in pink and bordeaux and was exquisitely finished.
The Aspinal of London bag was equally covetable. Using the Mayfair Bag as its base, it also incorporated a poppy motif adorning the base of the bag whilst hand embroidered butterflies lay gently, almost fluttering as they were so delicate. This was one of the bags that showed off the detail and craftmanship of the embroiderers and merited more than one examination.
The aforementioned Asprey 1781 bag was striking in its traditional use of the goldwork techniques of oak leaves and acorns which fit with Asprey's woodland themes as used in the current jewellery collections. The 1781 motif was also hand embroidered goldwork.
Another eye-catching bag had to be the Lulu Guinness Lips Wristlet which you couldn't help but be drawn to. Finished in leather, this allowed the gold metal work on the front and traditional goldwork 'love Lulu' on the back. Such vivid colours created a magnetic effect on the handbag connoisseur.
Jill Haber's bag was striking and colourful. Using her signature 'Charles' bag shape, this was entitled 'The Guardian' and emblazoned with the Hamsa amulet. The silk embroidery and goldwork was stunning and exquisite.
The Patrick Cox tote bag featured the brand's trademark fleur-de-lys logo and it was created using the traditional Or Nue technique. Fitting for it's exhibition at the V&A where Opus Anglicanum was in its final week. The Or Nue technique was a particularly time-consuming technique used by the Medieval embroiderers and was also adopted by Anthea Godfrey to embroider her motif of Pope Innocent III for Cornelia Parker's Magna Carta - An Embroidery. It was also a technique her mother Margaret Nicholson championed in her stunning embroideries.
Here are a few other pictures of other bags included in the showcase - a marbled effect created for the alfie douglas bag; the cheetah claws in goldwork on the BVS Design bag; a particularly glitzy flamingo patch from the Globe-Trotter overnight bag and Vivienne Westwood's Tiger Bag goldwork tiger's eye.
This was a showcase of the bags just there for the night but as part of the 250th Anniversary of Hand & Lock, they are going on a tour with the company to Sydney, onto Chicago and then back to London when in July they will be exhibited as part of a larger exhibition at Bishopsgate Institute on 16 and 17 July. The London exhibition will be more extensive than those in the travelling exhibition because there are pieces too delicate to travel that can only be seen in London.
The Hand & Lock website has extensive information about what they do, the services they offer and what the 250th anniversary celebrations will be but please look out for my feature in the March issue of Workshop on the Web for a more in-depth look at this fascinating company.