Hawthorne and Heaney Interview

We’re delighted to bring you an interview with Natasha Searls-Punter of Hawthorne and Heaney, the UK’s premier hand embroidery supplier. Read on for a fascinating glimpse into the world of bespoke embroidery design, The London Embroidery School and Natasha’s thoughts on the future for this re-popularised craft.



  Tell us a little about Hawthorne and Heaney and The London Embroidery School.

  We are a central London based bespoke embroidery company where we offer design, consultation, management and production services. We work on couture fashion embroidery, costume,monogramming, embroidery for interiors and art projects as well as our specialty, which is military and ceremonial gold work.

  We also run the London Embroidery School where we teach some of the techniques we use weekly. Classes range from our traditional technique classes, tambour beading and gold work, to seasonal classes such as silk flower and lace jewellery making. We believe in teaching the art of hand embroidery and it is our mission to impart these skills and supply professional equipment to anyone who has the will and the patience to learn. Our skilled tutors are all professionally trained, so you can learn at the highest level. All the equipment we use, we sell on the LES website too so you can continue to practice at home.


  Embroidery is one of the oldest crafts, just think of all those amazing, huge tapestries in castles and country houses! Why is embroidery such an enduring art form?

  With embroidery you can’t really short cut the process and naturally these processes take time, so when people appreciate a piece of embroidery, they appreciate it not only for the finished piece but the skill, effort and time it has taken to create it. There is always something very luxurious about embroidery that people seem to respond to no matter how old it is. When you see a fine piece of embroidery you always want to reach out and touch it, perhaps just to be sure that it is made of stitches because it looks too perfect or because it is likely to be soft (although I wouldn’t advise that of the old pieces in castles and museums as I’m sure the owners won’t appreciate it).



  Embroidery is enjoying quite a renaissance at the moment, and it’s taking on new and exciting forms - we’re thinking of the work of Jamie Chalmers, aka Mr X. Stitch, Karen Grenfell, aka MimiLove Forever, and movements such as that of the Craftivist Collective. Why do you think it’s so popular again at the moment?

  I think in the past embroidery used to be passed down within families so although the effects were widely appreciated, the knowledge was quite exclusive. This meant that the uses of embroidery were very specific and restricted, always using the same type of embroidery for the same type of piece. However with the rise of blogging and social media over the last few years, we are communicating more and so we are all more aware of what interests other people and might interest us. Creative people all over will
learn a plethora of skills and then delight in mixing them together to make an unexpected effect, like Mimi Loves forever and Carne Griffiths for whom, we have recently been embroidering into a series of his works.

this image as belonging to Carne Griffiths with this trackable link: http://bit.ly/1kYyOu8
this image as belonging to Carne Griffiths with this trackable link: http://bit.ly/1kYyOu8

  Has there been a project you have particularly loved being involved with?


  Being a bespoke company we never know what we are going to be working on next. This keeps it all very exciting and incredibly varied so putting a name to just one is difficult. With the school its always fun when we get to take the teaching on the road to a new audience like the Somerset House Valentino roses class and Gold work course at the Bowes Museum


  Is there a demand for fine detail in embroidery in costume design now that more of us are watching film and tv in high definition?

  Absolutely! With the way that cameras have developed, there has been a much greater call for fine detail and in turn, a much greater appreciation of costume. The public is becoming more aware of the processes that go on behind the screen and appreciating the subtleties.


Where do you think the future lies for embroidery?

  I can confidently say I think there will always be a place for embroidery. It’s such an old art and has continually developed in so many ways that I think it will always survive so long as people have the interest, which currently is growing. As for the future of embroidery, the more interest that is created around embroidery the better as Made in England products and services are ever increasing in popularity.


  Natasha Searls-Punter @ Hawthorne and Heaney

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