Silver star for Masha Reprintseva – Hand and Lock


Each year for the last 20 years, the renowned House Hand and Lock (London) organises a prestigious competition. On this very special year, Masha Reprintseva won the silver medal with here wonderful dress The Song of the Thistle. This young Russian artist has agreed to share with us her unique journey.

Texte by Masha Reprintseva, questions by Claire de Pourtalès

All pictures are protected ©Masha Reprintseva

The creative journey
Sometimes projects you create can bring you interesting acquaintances and make discoveries. Even though, sometimes these discoveries might appear to be a bit controversial. You get to understand people, their weak and strong sides, and sometimes acquire the art of endurance, learning how to face difficulties, overcome them, achieving something you may have dreamt about. Sometimes, an interesting bespoke task bring you a new understanding about the human character. Some aspects of it may even cause you pain. But he who has never tasted bitterness, has never really tasted sweetness.

The story of the Thistle started in 2018 when I met and got acquainted with an extremely talented lady, an architect from Moscow.
She wanted a very special dress. I worked hard to understand her tastes and create something unique for her.
I used floral poetics and the meaningfulness of flora. I worked hard on the colours. Some of them were hard to find, that is why I did a lot of experiments with organic dyeing of threads by myself – it was the best solution.

The customer was delighted by the idea, the making of the dress, the result itself, the “inside” and the “outside” of the dress (it is important to me to make the inside of the dress so it can be worn being turned inside out). This takes a lot of time, a lot of hand-sewn techniques, but in the end, you get a luxury piece that shows the skills of the maker. In total it took me about 6 500 working hours to make the dress, though it was worthy, and it made an effect!

However, sometimes we meet compulsive customers, who do some window-shopping and then never come back. It was the case with this dress. I couldn’t get a hold on her. The lady had completely disappeared.
I spent much of my personal resources, money, time, actually my life … it was really painful, but I had a feeling that all those things were not in vain.

I noticed then, in autumn of 2019, that H&L published a brief for 2020.

In some ways, I wanted to enter the competition to relieve a desire of “revenge”! That my work was actually worth something!

For years, I had watched the works of finalists and winners and thought that I wasn’t good enough, that I needed to improve my skills. One was to be patient! But this time, in 2019, I felt I had something that might work. I submitted my Dress and, on July 31st, I received the message I had dreamt about: “You are a finalist”! Gosh! Then I realized that my mentor would be Hazel McDonald!!! She was my first choice, my hope!
We had nice talks, she gave some good pieces of advice and I felt at that time that I was worthy.

Shipping the dress and its reception
Pandemic has made our lives quite stressful this year. So, the shipping was a kind of a challenge, due to the huge overdue in the delivery, the dress arrived quite late, but I appreciated the understanding and assistance of Hand & Lock team. We kept in touch while the local post was quite un-helpful in this issue.

I am thankful for the chance to participate in such a competition. It is an honor for me and a huge boost for my personal perception of my skills and abilities. I am thankful for everything the organizers did, especially during this crisis year.
I appreciate the support given by my foreign friends and followers and simply by strangers! It was a beautiful journey that opened many aspects of humanity to me.

The “ceremony” was not what I had expected – but coping with such a challenge that Covid created, everything had to be different. Judges couldn’t estimate the real work – they had to do it via photos only.
I felt sorry that the Kimono was given with only 3rd prize. Personally, it was my favorite. It has a huge story in the background, personal drama, the heritage, the effort made to revive a tradition.
I am a bit sad that I only won silver, but at the same time, I feel that there is some message here, that I have to continue, and I will do, because being on a “journey” is fascinating. It keeps me feeling secure in our unstable life, it gives me the matter to investigate and the spheres, tools and techniques to learn. I am quite an avid learner!
I am very much into the conceptual approach. Not all beautiful things have their meaning. Sometimes the meaning and the picture exist separately. Sometimes the picture and the meaning need to be processed and improved.

And from now…
What I feel now is emptiness. As you reach the goal you dreamt about, you need some time to realize, reappraise, recharge your batteries, to think over and to look around searching for a new goal.
Now I can go back to my projects. I have some orders (not many, but still!). One is a long-term loom-weaving idea… There are also some textile-conceptual pieces I love working on. They are my remedies for my personal difficulties.

Now I just remember that in the end of July earlier this year, returning from a long forest walk I noticed a big, bright falling meteor in the sky. My daughter and I were amazed. I had never seen anything like that before, like a meteor shower, typical for mid-August. I told my husband that was a “fantastic signal” from space. It was a joke of course, because I am not into any magical, metaphysical things, signs from the Universe or whatever. I know the star that I won is the star for my hard-work and the “journey” I made. But anyway, it felt like a symbolic story.
In Russia, there is a proverb that can be translated this way: “If a bride leaves you and goes to another man, nobody knows who is luckier”.
When one door closes, many more can open!

My thanks:
As Nietzsche said: “The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude”.
I am grateful for the chance to take Silver, being under the expertise of the jury — remarkably talented people, with a deep understanding of the subject and skills.

You know, to be at such competition is a big challenge and to succeed is an achievement especially for a self-taught artist.
From time to time we need to get the feedback from people who know the way with art and design, to feel that pieces we create and the ideas that we have are worthy.
I am thankful for all the kindness I was given, the prominent professional ”nourishment” and advice given by my mentor Hazel McDonald. Dear Hazel, thank you so much, I treasure our talks and your support!
The wonderful team of Hand & Lock, keeping the tradition and the heritage, arranging the competition — you do a big job with the highest ethics, enthusiasm and understanding.
We have met for the celebration of the beauty of embroidery, despite the challenges brought by 2020, being quite far from each other. It is sad that we cannot have a physical exhibition/meeting, but I still hope to meet next year.

It is an honor for me to showcase my work in London among the works made by such talented artists from all over the world. You are brilliant, your embroidery represents high skills, scrupulous thinking and pure love for the art of making.

Patterns by Masha / Two can be found in French here – Visit her website for some wonderful patterns in English.

Fleurs de pommier  (Apple Blossom- In English on Etsy) and Blanche antiquité (Marble Stitches- In English on Etsy)

The content of this site is free and is not damaged by un-welcomed publicity. I do this work with love and passion but it requires a lot of time. I would like to continue to offer a wider market to our artists, to show how embroidery is a wonderful art. But I do need a little bit of help. If you feel like it, you can participate with a little donation to help me continue. I will be so grateful! Thank you! Claire