Portrait of Norman Willis

Object name



Date made

Circa 1999-2002

Place made


Blackwork portrait of Norman Willis embroidered by Royal School of Needlework Apprentice Hannah MacDonald, who was part of the RSN between 1999 and 2003.

Content description

This blackwork portrait of General Secretary of Trade Union Congress, Norman Willis, was completed by Hannah MacDonald during her time training as a Royal School of Needlework Apprentice between 1999 and 2002. MacDonald worked at the RSN for an additional year after her apprenticeship.

The piece, which is done on white linen using a range of black cotton threads, predominantly uses small diamond shapes, which are sometimes worked in their whole form or fragmented, to capture the difference in light and tonality. Larger diagonal stitches are used for his hair and eyebrows, whilst vertical straight stitches have been used for his jacket. A series of hexagonal shapes have been used for his tie and freeform stitches help to depict details such as his watch face. Stitches involved include seeding and straight.

Norman Willis (1933-2014) was the General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress in the UK from 1984 until 1993 and President of the European Trade Union Confederation from 1991 to 1993. He was a keen embroiderer who was known to have stitched during tense union negotiations. He became a Trustee of the RSN when he retired.


width: 34.5cm
height: 40.5cm






Credit line

Gift of Hannah Macdonald.

Catalogue number

© Royal School of Needlework