SHI-SHA (MIRRORWORK)

Characteristics

General embroidery designs incorporating
  • Shapes - round, square, triangular - originally from mica, mirror glass, today plastic
  • Laidwork stitches hold the mirror in place
  • Chain stitches used in the overall design
Shisha work was used in garments, wall hangings, friezes and cushions

History

Shisha work which originated in India, is thought to have been developed by the wife of the Shah Jahan who built the Taj Mahal in her honour. It gained popularity in the 17th C.

The main feature is the shapes-round, square or triangular-which are cut, originally from mica, or thin mirror glass. It has been said that the reflecting quality of the mirrors was used to scare off evil spirits.

As the mirrors cannot be pierced, each piece is sewn on with a mount, threads laid across and buttonhole stitched around the perimeter to hold it in place. The mirrors form an integral part of the overall design stitched in bright colours using chain stich and open chain.

Today, quicker techniques have evolved. Rings may be covered with thread, placed over the mirror and slip-stitched into place. Some may even be glued.

Shisha work was used in garments, wall hangings, friezes and cushions.

References

Morrell, Anne, The Techniques of Indian Embroidery, Batsford, London, 1992

© Valerie Cavill 2008

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