Durga Shanthakumar is a Bespoke Hand Embroiderer from London, specialising in haute couture, costume, and interiors. The work she creates is centred around experimental embroidery, which makes use of bold, striking, and vibrant colour combinations that capture aspects of her personality and expression. Durga’s work mostly celebrates different points of her life; her approach involves using materials and techniques that allow her to portray the chosen theme that enable the viewer to recognise, connect and experience the emotions related to the inspiration. What makes her work unique is how she uses colours in different ways, the way it flows and mingles together to create something abstract and new.
Through the use and experimentation of traditional and modern embroidery techniques, Durga has proven herself to be a contemporary practitioner who embraces all techniques available to her. She recently graduated from the Royal School of Needlework with a BA (Hons) in Hand Embroidery for Fashion, Interiors, Textile Art, where she learnt traditional hand embroidery techniques. Having learnt about the RSN’s Degree through a friend, she applied and joined the course to learn specifically how to practice traditional hand embroidery techniques as she wanted to go into haute couture…studying in a Palace is also plus point! She was very nervous on her first day at the RSN; however, she enjoyed herself throughout the day and was excited about her Degree and the three years to come.
Durga’s current project, ‘Celebrate with me’, centres around exploring celebrations and festivities from across the globe; in particular, she was inspired by the holidays celebrated within her own cultural background, including Diwali and Christmas, intrigued by the festivals through their use of colour and how they represent love, joy, and unity. Restrictions from the Covid-19 pandemic have caused widespread isolation, depression, and a sincere lack of human connection and Durga wanted to create an embroidery statement piece to spread joy and happiness throughout the world, to look to the future, to a time when we can all begin to celebrate together again.
The outcome of Durga’s Final Major Project involved making fifteen bespoke hand-embroidered diamond shapes that can be used in a wide range of contexts. They are single elements that come together to form a bespoke piece for couture. The culmination of this work is a showpiece/embroidery installation that demonstrates and shows her skill with the use of apposing colour combinations, recreating light using materials, experimental embroidery combinations and use of materials. The techniques she used were Tambour Beading, Goldwork, 3D Beading, Raised Work and Crewelwork; as she associates the use of materials and colours throughout these techniques with ‘celebration’. She hopes that when people look at her piece, they will be reminded of the little moments, positive memories and the happier times that will return soon.
The year 2020 was when Durga established who she was as an Embroider; her second year at the RSN was the highlight for her when she was a Finalist for the Hand & Lock Prize for Embroidery (2020). On top of that, she was awarded the Most Developing Second Year Student (2020). She loved the location of her university and the friends she has met; it was unfortunate that much of her Degree was spent at home due to the pandemic and being in lockdown. She has, however, learnt many skills and a great deal about herself and who she is as an Embroider. Three years into her Degree, Durga learnt that embroidery can be applied to anything she wants and, looking to the future, she wants to try any opportunity that is offered to her. She pictures her embroidery in haute couture, fashion, accessories, interiors, and costume.