Mirror-work is a type of embroidery that involves attaching lightweight pieces of specially made mirrors to fabric with intricate embroidery. Extremely popular in various parts of India, mirror-work is also known as shisha embroidery. The word shisha stands for glass in Persian. Mirror-work is thought to have been introduced to India in the 13th century by the Mughal dynasty. Shisha embroidery is very popular in the states of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Orissa, and Haryana, who have evolved their own subtle styles over time.
Craftspeople attach mirrors to fabric to add extra dimension to their designs. The small pieces of reflective mirrors add a dazzling appearance to any material it is attached to. Mirrors are normally used to make churdhidars, which are sets of trousers with tops, blouses, and skirts. They may also be attached to wall hangings and curtains or found on cloth purses and footwear. Mirror-work is typically found on strongly colored, bright clothes and is used with many different types of embroidery to accentuate the beauty of the design.
The mirrors, or shisha, come in varying shapes and sizes and are mostly mass produced. There is some handblown shisha, which is referred to as antique shisha, that may have slightly more irregular shapes as they are hand cut. For the most part, commercially available mirrors have thin layers of glass on top of silver backing and are machine cut. They may be square, polygonal, or triangular in shape and vary from very tiny pieces to large bits of glass. They typically have no holes and are attached to the fabric with the aid of various decorative embroidery stitches.
Mirrors may be used within designs to represent the eyes of birds and animals or be the centers of flowers. Used with a variety of different-colored threads, these designs may contain mirrors of different sizes as embellishments. Pillow cases, cushion covers, and bed spreads augmented with mirror-work make for very intriguing home accessories and are much in demand. It is possible to buy shisha rings, which are pieces of mirror contained within embroidered stitches.
Using mirror-work results in giving a design or pattern a three-dimensional feel. Artists employ the herringbone stitch, chain stitch, and the satin stitch to hold the mirrors in place. Embroiderers may also use the stem stitch, the detached chain stitch, and the blanket stitch. They attach mirrors initially to the fabric with a set of structural stitches that hold them in place. Then, they use intricate embroidery stitches over the top with vibrantly colored thread until the mirrors are secured in place.