Monthly Archives: June 2013

Jewels Of The Desert – Shisha Embroidery

A post on Shisha or Abhla bharat, the name given to the mirrorwork embroidery from Gujarat, Pakistan and Afghanistan, today.  It’s a style of indigenous embroidery which has been used for generations.  Tiny pieces of abhla, or mirrored glass, are sewn into the overall embroidery design, using a sickle stitch, creating a sparkly, jewel-like effect.  The use of these mirrors in traditional dress, wall hangings and coverlets isn’t purely a decorative device,  it has a practical purpose too.  Mirrors were used in Islamic architecture to reflect the light and in the same way mirrors on fabrics within the home are used to reflect sunlight and candlelight at night. Sheesh-Mahal

Ceiling detail from the Sheesh Mahal or Mirror Palace, Amer Fort, Jaipur, Rajasthan, built in the sixteenth century



Interior of a Bhunga, a traditional mud hut, which I visited in a village near Bhuj, Gujarat.  The furniture, constructed from mud, and the storage jars are  studded with mirrors in different sizes to reflect the light.  In some Bhungas the walls are also adorned with mirrors.


Details from some of the vintage shisha embroidery we have in our store:

Shisha embroidery in geometric designs

Geometric 4



Shisha embroidery in floral designs




Check out our range of beautiful,vintage, cushions and wall art containing shisha embroidery,

Ardingly Antiques Fair

A short post from me this morning on Ardingly Antiques Fair, held at the South of England showground near Ardingly, west Sussex, which starts tomorrow, 18th June, for two days.  It’s the largest antiques market in the south east of England  and there is something for everyone, from the serious antique collector to the vintage furniture and textiles enthusiast.  If you are looking for something different for your home, or just enjoy rummaging at markets it’s worth a visit.    A few snapshots (taken on my iPhone so please excuse the quality) from my last visit below:


You can usually find a range of antique and vintage European linens and old grain sacks.


Vintage European hemp and linen

Welsh-blanketsA selection of vintage Welsh tapestry and traditional check blankets


If you are interested in textiles, look out for  Wayward, which is also at Portobello Road market on Fridays, selling vintage haberdashery, trimmings, ribbons, suiting and shirting, and old pattern books.


Unusual Finds

I’m not keen on taxidermy but it seems to be popular at the moment and there was a stall with everything from a stoat and a peacock, to a stuffed alsatian and the alligator below.



Old Containers And Agricultural Equipment

I’m always on the look out for something other than boring, conventional, pots for the garden and there were lots of interesting old containers at Ardingly: old milk churns, slightly battered round tin containers with handles, glass bottles and jars, all of which make great plant holders.  I found these lovely old ceramic jars on one of the Hungarian stalls.  They aren’t watertight but are perfect for the garden.



 Hungarian ceramic jars

More information on the fair can be found at:

PET lamps from Studio Alvaro Catalan de Ocon

PET lamps from Studio Alvaro Catalan de Ocon in a cafe in Ibiza


These fabulous lamps, made from reused polyethylene teraphthalate (PET) plastic bottles, from Studio Alvaro Catalan de Ocon are on my wishlist.  I came across this clever contemporary design project, which combines the reuse of PET bottles with the traditional weaving skills of Columbia’s displaced artisans to create these amazing light installations, in a roundup of Milan’s furniture fair in World of Interiors.  I love the way that these lamps not only help tackle the problem of plastic bottles contaminating the Colombian Amazon but also utilise the traditional handicraft skills of displaced local weavers and provide them with an income.

Lamp Design And Production

Alvaro Catalan de Ocon, the Spanish product designer behind the project says,”We took advantage of the bottle top to join the electrical components to the lamp shade, the neck as the structure and the body of the bottle as a surface on which to weave. The principle of weaving is reinterpreted and the surface of the bottle is converted into the warp through which the artisan weaves the weft.


Weaving the plastic bottles into lampshades

In the same way that the tracking number printed on the bottles neck tells us of its production, where it was bottled and its destined market, the weaving created by the artisan tells us of their tradition by way of its fibres, colours and motifs.”

Alvaro and his team worked with two groups of artisans from the Cauca region of Columbia who had recently been displaced by guerrilla war and were living in difficult circumstances in Bogota.  Both groups are known for their weaving skills, the Eperara-Siapidara use the fibres from the Paja Tetera palm tree for traditional crafts which they then die with natural pigments and the Guambianos from the central mountain range of the Andes weave wool and cotton using symbols and motifs which date back to the Incas.

The Final Product

Weaver-with-light1 Weaver2

Domingo Ullurie and Maria Stella Cuchillo with their finished lamps.

As you can see the lamps take on the patterns and colours of the traditional clothing and each piece is unique.

The-designer-with-lampsThe designer, Alvaro Catalan de Ocon, with a selection of lamps in a range of styles, colours and patterns

PET-lamp-in-situA PET lamp installation in the Eperara Siapidara Courtyard.

If you are in London and want to see the lights, there is an installation on the ground floor of the Conran Shop in Marylebone High Street.  The lamps can be purchased individually or in sets of 3, 6, 12 and 21 and you can choose the individual lamps.  I have my eye on a set as I like the visual mix of colours, styles and patterns and think they would create a real focal point in a room.  The PET lamps website is

Photographs and background information for this blog have been taken from PET lamps press information.

Jewels of the Desert – Indigenous Embroidery Styles

A snapshot of four different embroidery styles from the  region comprising the barren, desert lands of Kutch and Saurashtra in Gujarat to western Rajasthan and the Thar Parkar district of Sind in Pakistan, which has been described as the world’s richest source of indigenous embroidery.  From the bold flamboyant style of the nomadic Rabaris, to the delicate geometric patterns of the Rajput, to the intricate embroidery of the Jats, to the figurative style of the Kanbi, each tribal group passes on its own style, colours, range of stitches and motifs from generation to generation yet each piece is unique.   Each piece was painstakingly embroidered by a prospective bride for her dowry or a mother or wife for her family or her home and each piece reflects not only tribal traditions but also the individual artistic interpretation and abilities of the embroiderer.


Detail from Nagina in the Maud collection, originally part of a Rabari saddle bag, Kutch, Gujarat

Exotic patterns from the nomadic Rabari camel breeders, cattle herders and shepherds.  Bold, vibrant, designs in pink, orange, blue and green thread featuring abstract motifs, like the stylised parrots in hot pink in the centre.


Detail from a Rajput chakla (a square wall hanging), Saurashtra, Gujarat

A subtle geometric style from the Rajputs a ruling cast of farmers and herders.  Their work is characterised by square and diamond patterns, open chain stitch and shisha or abla (pieces of mirrored glass).  I love the mix of colours in this piece which will be available in our store soon.


Detail from the bodice of a Jat choli (traditional backless blouse), Kutch, Gujarat

Abstract florals and geometric patterns are characteristic of Jat embroidery, known for its intricacy and density.  The embroidery is set out in a grid like structure with rows of round or pear shaped shisha or abla (mirrored glass work) and the pattern will typically cover the fabric.


Detail from a Kanbi chakla (wall hanging), Saurashtra, Gujarat

Figurative embroidery from the Kanbi, a farming caste.  The Kanbi is known for its wall hangings depicting images of Ganesh, the elephant- headed God, the remover of obstacles to happiness.  This piece will be available in the Maud collection soon.

We would love to hear what you think about these different styles.