A Meaningful Color Palette: Adrienne McKenzie and the Hand & Lock Prize

By Teal Lepley

When lockdown began in the spring, NC State University Theatre’s Adrienne McKenzie had just taken up a new project and was ready to get started. 

McKenzie is a Costume Technician for University Theatre and an Arts + Design lecturer for the College of Design. In her spare time, she further pursues her design passions with an eye for embroidery and beading. “It’s fun to have theater’s fast pace during the day and then to come home and enjoy the same area of expertise I love but in a slower, more detailed way,” McKenzie explained.

This year she challenged herself to enter the prestigious Hand & Lock Prize for Embroidery. Showcasing new designers’ work, the annual competition garners hundreds of entries, but only 24 were selected as finalists and invited to send in completed work, Adrienne McKenzie among them.

The 2020 theme put a focus on color: “Create a color palette meaningful to you at this moment in time, celebratory, and reflective of culture and history or your current or wished for environment.”

After the isolation of lockdown, childhood memories came to mind: “I started to think about where was I happiest in my life, and I thought of growing up in Florida, going to the beach with my friends.” Inspired by the ocean floor and waves, she created a dress with intricate tambour embroidery, flowing fabrics, and hand-woven panels. 

Although she didn’t place in the competition this year, McKenzie looks forward to sharing what she learned with students. “There’s something really valuable about these techniques,” she said.  “They’re more accessible than they were, but they’re still rare. They’re history, old technology, so you want to preserve them and pass them on.” With plans to enter again in the future, she hopes to see some of her students do the same.


You can learn more about Hand and Lock and see Adrienne’s Open / Fashion submission by visiting the link below.

Adrienne McKenzie

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