Needle Exchange: Mad For Mirrors


Hello everybody! Last time we looked at the history of mirror work, this week I’d like to share some amazing contemporary examples. I found quite a few of these pieces in the Flickr Shisha Embroidery Pool. I highly recommend checking it out!

First up we have the lovely and talented Arlee Barr, mastermind behind the ARTeries series here on MrXStitch.

Anger Management, detail, by Arlee Bar

Notice the shisha eyes? So striking, the way they peer out from all that lush material. According to her flickr page, Arlee said “… the idea is when you actually see the quilt in person, your are looking back at yourself.” See the entire piece HERE.

Week 35 Shisha #2 by reneoregon

Holy Cow! This block really knocks my socks off. The lovely mix of stitches, applique, shisha, and contrasting materials really pulls the eye. Click the link under the photo to see more amazing quilts. This piece seems to fall into the crazy quilt tradition, but the following pieces are an absolute riot.

Detail Paisley and Shisha 3 by Karen Cattoire

Shisha 5 by Karen Cattoire

It’s really hard to type with my jaw on the floor. These pieces are like a joyous scavenger hunt of needle work techniques. I see beadwork, sequins, machine and hand embroidery, metallics, not to mention the mirrors. After looking through the rest of her photostream , I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if some of the fabric was also hand tinted and dyed. Someone make me a pillow fort out of these pieces, quick.

But I also love pieces where the mirrors are the focal point of the piece. This sampler by Erratic Needle really shows off the various stitches that can be used in mirror work.

WIP Shisha Sampler by Erratic Needle

I’m crazy for shisha, and I’ve never seen such an amazing collection of stitches. Luckily, Erratic Needle is super sweet, and directed me to a tutorial for one of the more unusual stitches on her sampler.

What? Tutorials? I knew you’d be interested. Here’s a pretty basic one from The Joyful Abode. It’s the one I learned from. Here’s one of the fancy stitches that Erratic Needle sent me to, I haven’t tried it out yet but the directions look pretty clear. It’s from The Pakistani Embroidery blog.

So, last time we learned that mirror work is secret magic, and this time we get to see the magical pieces these contemporary artists have created! See what I did there? Har!

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Penny Nickels is a printmaker that started playing with needles with tremendous effect. She and her husband, Johnny Murder, have been described as The Bonnie and Clyde of Contemporary Embroidery and you can discover the power of her creativity at her blog.

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All photos used in this article are property of the artist as listed. Please click the link below each photo to see more of their work.


Penny Nickels
Penny Nickels is a print maker, a former book binder, currently a fiber artist and fledgling writer.
Penny Nickels

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8 thoughts on “Needle Exchange: Mad For Mirrors

  • Here in Dubai we get a lot of exposure to Indian and Pakistani embroidery, so I am used to seeing it being used in the traditional way. The more contemporary and western use of it is new to me, and very exciting. I bought a whole box of shisha mirrors a while back to experiment with it but have not got around to it yet. These tutorials will surely help to get me going. Can you please give a link to The Pakistani Embroidery blog?

  • Here you go Ansie!
    http://thepakembart.blogspot.com/2009/08/mirror-work-tutorial.html
    I haven’t tried it yet, but it’s the tutorial Erratic Needle used for the pinwheel shaped shisha on the left side of the piece. I can’t wait to try it too! Also, check out this link for a whole bunch of contemporary pieces.
    http://www.flickr.com/groups/shishaembroidery/

  • Hey Penny Nickels, thanks a ton for all the research, examples and even tutorials! I feel like I am constantly on the web searching through embroidery, but sometimes in a wasteland of the same old same old. I love the posts and this one was pretty inspiring, I’m excited to try my hand at it now.

  • Thanks for the feature, Pen 🙂

  • I’m glad you guys like the post! Arlee, anytime I get to delve into your work, it’s a pleasure!

    Shauna- I was always kind of intimidated by shisha work, but then I tried it and found it to be pretty easy. It end up being one of those things that makes you go, “Der! Why didn’t I try this sooner?” I’m addicted now.

  • Thanks for featuring my sampler, Penny 🙂
    The other pieces are amazing!

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