WHAT HAPPENS IF? An interview with Hanny Newton

The Embroiderers’ Guild NSW is very lucky to have Hanny as a guest tutor this year, and she has shared something of her journey with The Record (The Embroiderers’ Guild NSW monthly members newsletter).

Hanny Newton is a hand embroidery artist specialising in contemporary goldwork who believes that embroidery, as with all art, should be about following your passion, not just following the rules. She loves the immediacy and accessibility of stitch and the way that you can take stitching with you on the bus, to the park, or even to the pub.

Growing up, Hanny was encouraged to play and experiment – whether choosing her own theme for birthday parties and then making the decorations, costumes and cakes, or doing finger painting on the kitchen table with shaving foam.

And when it came to stitching, her maternal Grandma was also a keen embroiderer who encouraged all of her grandchildren to sew. This early experience was something Hanny came back to when later in life, she found that stitching provided much needed ‘me time’. With the encouragement of a friend, Hanny studied art and design, then enrolled in the Royal School of Needlecraft (RSN) where she ‘discovered the magic of seeing something from your head and your heart take form in the world with your own hands’. Following the RSN, Hanny then studied at Falmouth University to further explore the possibilities of stitch and has become particularly accomplished in goldwork.

Hanny’s approach is very much about exploring what metal threads can do, without worrying if she is ‘doing it right’ and this also involves balancing technical accuracy with exploration. Her work is contemporary and largely abstract, drawing on the diversity of effects that can be achieved to convey an idea. ‘I love to take inspiration from the rich heritage of embroidery and find my own personal take on this.’

When asked about the role of experimentation in her work Hanny describes being relaxed seeing new results. ‘Experimentation is really important in my work. I am really interested in questioning how I use stitch, and am always looking to push my work by finding new ways, and things I hadn’t thought of doing before. I like to give myself space to experiment, without focusing too much on the outcome, and just see where it takes me. Limiting myself to just one or two materials means I can push what I do with those, how I can vary my stitches, following the bits that feel right as I go, and just see where I end up!’

This experimentation also means there can be some interesting a-ha moments, when a creative breakthrough emerges. Hanny recalls a recent project working with a poet to respond to the rhythm of his words through stitch. ‘As I started to draw out an embroidery design, I realised that limiting myself to one medium meant I was not allowing the work to naturally develop. I am currently working on a pen drawing that is 86cm across. Something that stitch would not allow me to so easily do. It was a great reminder to stay open and keep trying new ways of working. Stitch has a very specific set of 'charms' and I don't always have to fit the work I want make around these.

And for fellow embroiderers Hanny offers some sage advice. ‘Play. Experiment. Don't worry immediately where the work is going. Ask yourself 'what happens if...?' Allow yourself to be led down a path. Follow your instinct and jump on the discoveries that excite you along the way.’

Catherine Lees

Find out more about Hanny Newton
Instagram: @hannyembroidery 

Written by Catherine Lees, this article was first published in June 2019 by The Embroiderers’ Guild NSW in The Record

Hanny Newton will be teaching workshops at both The Embroiderers’ Guild NSW and Australian Design Centre. Book now:

Adventures in Goldwork, Saturday 12 and Sunday 13 October at The Embroiderers’ Guild NSW
Adventures in Goldwork, Tuesday 15 October at Australian Design Centre

Images: Hanny Newtown and Adventures in Goldwork. Photos courtesy Hanny Newton