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How winning Hand & Lock changed my life, by David Morrish

Follow Your Dreams

How winning a design competition changed my life!

by David Morrish

2019 was a milestone year that changed my career direction and subsequently changed my life altogether.  Studying for a master’s degree in fashion & textiles at Nottingham Trent University, my focus was on men’s tailoring. 

I looked at alternative ways to personalize and customize men’s suits beyond what was already available.

Digital embroidery was one of several techniques I considered. Investigating how it could be applied to the internal canvas of the tailored jacket. I experimented and several samples later, I created an embroidered canvas that had potential. Something was endearing about it, and it was something I had never seen before in tailoring.

My samples were shown to selected tailors on Savile Row, who were fascinated by what I was doing.  At this point, the Hand & Lock competition appeared on my radar!

The Hand & Lock Prize for Embroidery

Firstly, I created an inspiring story to contextual and explain what my work was about. I didn’t have any expectations of doing well in the competition. Mostly, I was keen to see what people thought. Surprisingly, I was shortlisted for 2 awards – The Student Textile category and the Wilcom Digital Award, Textiles. 

I had a few months to refine and develop my work, focusing on expanding the original sample and building a large upcycled frame, inspired by a traditional weaving loom in Huddersfield. Once submitted, it was a waiting game.

Winning Entry Wilcom Digital Embroidery, Textile 
“Natural Order of Things.”

The awards evening in London was an incredible networking event. I had wonderful conversations with other finalists, members of the public, and industry members who attended the exhibition.

I took the opportunity to meet with key people in the embroidery scene, including some big named and established embroiderers.  This was the first time I won the Wilcom Digital Award!

With Wilcom support, I have become highly competent with the world’s best embroidery digitizing software, Wilcom’s EmbroideryStudio Designing

Life Takes A Different Path

Part of the “Windermere Am I Still Beautiful?” – presented on Stitcher Stories

Now, my MA work takes a different path, and I realize my passion lies more in embroidery than in men’s tailoring.  My final MA piece was a 26.2ft embroidered art based on the litter I spotted while running the Windermere Marathon. I collaborated with 20 members of the Sheffield Branch of the embroiderers guild to create a Bayeaux 

Tapestry inspired hybrid design, mixing hand and digital embroidery. It is indeed my wow piece!

Where else could I take digital embroidery?

Build My Portfolio

I gave myself a 2-year “experimentation and portfolio building” period where I approached a range of arts and designers from a multitude of disciplines, in the hope of forming a collaboration or seeing if I could reproduce their work in stitches. I contacted tattooists, graffiti artists, street artists, make-up artists, illustrators, fashion designers, textile designers, interior designs, fine artists, and more… the response was incredible, and like me, they were curious to see what digital embroidery could offer.

Over time I embroidered a range of subject matters in a variety of sizes and replicated different styles and textures… It was all new to me and it helped me realize the limitations of my machine, myself, and my craft. 

“Old Centuries of Darkness” – Matty Bovan (Fashion Designer)

The Hand & Lock Winner Again

In 2021, I entered the Hand & Lock again, this time in the open category and focusing on the Wilcom Digital Award. The brief was perfect for me, “create an art piece that represents your physical and digital identities.” I spend half of my embroidery life on technology designing and digitizing and the other half embroidering.

Inspired by the composition of MC Esher’s Drawings Hands. I adopted and adapted this concept to create one arm digitizing as the other embroiders. The piece pushes all limits, and comprises over 2.5 million stitches, measuring 1.5 meters in length and 55 cm in height.  Once again, I win the Wilcom Digital Embroidery Award – Textiles category and secured another year of support and access to Wilcom’s industry-standard embroidery software, complete with all extra add-on features.

Winning Entry – Wilcom Digital Embroidery Award – Textiles – 2022
 “Digital and Physical Identity”

As a double award winner with a portfolio of different embroidered art pieces under my belt, I started approaching celebrities for collaborations.


My first big named celebrity collaboration was with Interior designer Linda Barker, re-upholstering one of her lounge chairs in an all-over floral design. This was a very challenging first project, but I was thrilled with the result.

My next big commission was for the pop star and winner of the Masked Singer UK

Natalie Imbruglia, designing and embroidering the Firebird for the back of her denim jacket, which she wore on her first single video, “On My Way,” released from her comeback album. 

Dannii Minogue and Siobhan Murphy soon followed, both requesting a personalized denim jacket.

Media Opportunity

In late 2021, I applied to a TV call out, asking for craft hobbyists keen to turn their hobby into a business. I entered with digital embroidery but was not expecting much. After several interviews and castings, I was chosen to appear on the new show along with 31 other artists/crafters/designers. 

As I write this in July 2022, filming has finished and is due to air in late 2022 on BBC 1.

Make it at Market – BBC 1 – Autumn 2022

Where To Now

I have appeared in several magazines, podcasts, and books, speaking to university students, presented at conferences, and filmed for television. I have signed a book deal and currently have several commissions in a queue, including the back of a coat for Sophie Ellis- Bextor, a dress for Le Fil, a collaboration with a leading tattoo artist, and art pieces for a luxury lodge park.

My website and Instagram accounts have been busy, and I am in the process of making customized denim jackets made to order via my online shop.

Third Time Lucky!

…Oh, I have entered The Hand & Lock Prize again. This time in the Open Fashion category, where I am proposing to create a look that combines digital and hand embroidery, inspired by nature 😊

If you told me two years ago that I would be working with big brands and celebrities, appearing on TV, and signing a book deal. I would have thought you were crazy.

Kingfly made-to-order Peacock Women’s Jacket. Available on the website.

"Winning the Wilcom Digital Award has changed my life, opened doors, presented exciting opportunities, and taken me to places I never could imagine."
David Morrish

Follow your dreams. They know the way.

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