The Funk Files: Embroidery Frontiers – Meet Eranga Bandaranayake


The Funk Files: Embroidery Frontiers

Every year, Hand & Lock organizes a competition for the prestigious Prize for Embroidery to promote the use of hand embroidery in couture. The 2014 brief was Floral: Pattern and Geometry.

Twelve finalists were selected from nearly a thousand photographic entries. Each finalist was then paired with an industry specialist who mentored him/her throughout the design, development, and execution process.

On October 12, 2014, finished garments arrived at the Hand & Lock studios. On Friday, the 7th of November, London’s Bishopsgate Institute hosted the final of the 2014 Hand & Lock Prize for Embroidery.

Today we’ll meet the second place winner in the Student Category.

Eranga Bandaranayake

Eranga Bandaranayake, Hand & Lock 2014 Prize for Embroidery winner.
Eranga Bandaranayake, Hand & Lock 2014 Prize for Embroidery winner.

Location: Colombo, Sri Lanka

Tell us a little about yourself and how you spend your time: I studied various fields of design and specialized in Fashion and Textile design field. My passion for embroidery resulted in working under my own label, “ERA . à la mode”, designing and producing bridal and occasional wear with accessories, mainly focusing on hand-executed embroidery.

I look forward to entering into costume designing where I can get the opportunity to create costumes for storytelling with a sense of fantasy.

I take pleasure in reading fantasy and romance, also love to travel as it encourages to broaden my mind and to become more open to new experiences and ideas.

Favorite embroidery or textile medium: 3D Embroidery & Fabric Manipulation

Congratulations on your win, Eranga! Describe your Hand & Lock entry: I interpreted the brief by expressing the “Queenly Power” and related characteristics from Elizabethan era and its use of gold thread embroidery combined with crystal stone work to denote status and authority. Concept of “Perfect Balance” is achieved through complex 3D modules, spirograph and shaded colour effects. The inspirations for the embroidery is derived from the beauty of mathematics in nature, perceiving that many forms observed in flora relate to geometry. Simple two dimensional circular forms are used to create floral geometry in complex 3D structures.

Eranga Bandaranayake, 2014 Prize for Embroidery Dress
Hand & Lock 2014 Prize for Embroidery, third place, Open Category. Model: Erian O’neil. Photography: Jutta Klee. Hair & Make Up Artist: Stephie Hoyle.

What made you want to enter this competition? The main reason is that the competition encourages participants to explore embroidery in a different and unusual way. Not to mention the enticing and thought-provoking brief given by the organizers.

What motivated your choice for your entry? The passion to explore endless possibilities in the application of embroidery in fantasy costumes.

Are there any secrets you can now reveal about your entry? At one point, I was inspired by some experiments, deviated from my initial sketch and resulted totally unexpected interesting forms. Creating the part which goes parallel to the backbone was quite challenging as I preferred to have it without a fabric backing. I did my experiments straight on a dressmaker dummy and sometimes it was doubtful what form it would take to regain its balance once I withdraw it from the dummy. There were lot of trials and errors.

Dress detail, Eranga Bandaranayake, 2014 Hand & Lock Prize for Embroidery
Detail of Eranga’s winning dress.

Who was your mentor, and how did s/he help with your project? Renee Lindell. She immensely supported in improving the project. It was always encouraging as she regularly reviewed my progress, reminding me to work according to my time plan. I really appreciate that she always gave priority to my ideas and guided me accordingly. I also believe it’s really useful to receive comments from a different angle when your mind is excessively preoccupied on a single project for months.

When and how did you learn embroidery? I was influenced by both my grandmother and mother. I really enjoyed needlework even as a child and later I developed the skill by completing my Bachelor of Design degree which directed me through a creative approach and conceptual thinking.

More dress details, Eranga Bandaranayake, 2014 Hand & Lock Prize for Embroidery
More dress details, Eranga Bandaranayake.

What was your first embroidery project? It was a long-stitch tapestry kit that I completed when I was a kid. My mother still has it framed even though you can hardly call it an impressive piece of work which deserves that much notice.

She’s a mom; she gets to be the judge of that. 😉

What has been your biggest embroidery disaster or strangest project? I believe no embroidery disasters, but with great pleasure I accepted a local client’s request to create a bridal in an unusual colour. The requirement was to have emerald green coloured lace and beading. As it is quite customary for traditional Sri Lankan brides to wear beige, ivory or white, this was really an opportunity for me to create something unusual.

Eranga Bandaranayake, Wedding Dress Design
Another of Eranga’s custom wedding dresses.

What in your life influences and shapes your embroidery? The ability to appreciate nature.

I like to marry embroidery with other crafts and use embroidery in places where you don’t normally see it. What non-embroidery skills do you bring to the table that you might combine with embroidery? It would be interesting to combine embroidery together with metal printing and various metal fabrication techniques that are used in jewellery craftsmanship. I am engaged in some experiments combining needle lace embroidery with metal and semi-precious stones widely available in my country.

What would you like your embroidery to do in the world and for the world? Enlighten on appreciating nature and culture.

What would you like to be doing with your embroidery five years from now? Ten? Keep exploring!

Where can we find more of your work?
Facebook page: ERA . à la mode

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Rapid-fire Round: (Don’t think too hard about these.)


Would you rather stitch with shoelaces or strangler-fig vines? Why?
Strangler-fig vines. It’s always interesting to use natural material.

Favorite thread: Metallic

If you could embroider with just one color thread for the rest of your life, what would it be? Dull Gold

Dress by Eranga Bandaranayake, ERA . à la mode
Dress by Eranga Bandaranayake, ERA . à la mode

Favorite embroidery tool that isn’t a needle, hoop, or scissors: Tatting Shuttle

Name something edible that you can embroider: Button mushrooms

If your embroidery were cataloged with books, what genre would it be (history, thriller, children’s, mystery, romance, etc.)? Fantasy

What stitchable motif would you choose to represent you and your life? Vine-scroll

What’s your embroidery code name? Jewel

You’re being held captive on the third story of an old farm house. All you have are your embroidery supplies. What do you do? Display an embroidered Jolly Roger to get the attention!

Ha! And when authorities came to arrest you, they’d rescue you. Brilliant!

Okay, MrX readers, see all that goldwork and beadwork on Eranga’s dresses? Raise your hand if you do goldwork and beadwork (and by “raise your hand” I mean leave a comment). If you don’t already dabble in goldwork and beadwork, does this inspire you to give it a go?

I’m a dabbler, and Eranga’s beadwork is calling out to me.


Jen Funk Weber
Jen Funk Weber is Queen of Funk & Weber Designs, a cross stitch and counted-thread embroidery designer and teacher dedicated to stitchy explorations and adventures.