Interview with Mirrix Looms

I was thrilled to have the opportunity to interview Claudia Chase, President of Mirrix Looms. You may be aware that I am quite taken by the tapestry looms available from Mirrix and have one on my Wishlist, as I discussed in this post.

                                              Photo credit Williams-Prior Art + Design

When did you first become interested in weaving? How did you learn? What attracted you to it?

I became interested in weaving when I was nine or ten. I saw a rigid heddle loom in the home goods department of Macy’s! My parents bought it for me for Christmas. I was hooked. But that was cloth weaving and it would take me many years to realize my passion was actually tapestry weaving. That happened when I was pregnant with my daughter Elena. There was a tapestry course being offered in San Francisco, CA (United States) where I was living at the time. The class seemed more like a gathering of women who wanted to weave together and not a lot of instruction seemed to be happening. They were also doing some natural dyeing and it struck me that although the onion skins were cool maybe the heavy metal they were using to fix it was not the best thing for my pregnant self. I attended two classes. I learned only one thing: I loved tapestry and I was going to master it on my own. 

When did you decide to start a business and how did you settle on a name?

I designed the loom with a friend because I wanted a high-end very portable metal tapestry loom. A metal loom existed called the Hagen but the smallest size was 24 inches and I wanted something really small that I could throw in a bag and haul wherever I might go. I didn’t want to miss any opportunity to get in a few weft passes. I also wanted a loom with a more sophisticated shedding device along with excellent tension. Our prototype was ten inches wide. Sometimes life just happens and the next thing I knew I  was in business manufacturing portable metal looms. The name came from the joining of a Greek and Italian verb to mirror or to wonder. I just added “ix" at the end and Mirrix was born!

                                            Photo credit Williams-Prior Art + Design

Mirrix looms are quite unique in design and aesthetics. What influenced your decisions on materials and style for your looms?

I wanted to use metal because it is much stronger than wood and one of the biggest failures for small wooden tapestry looms is they cannot withstand the stress of tension and in any case most of them don’t even have a tensioning device. There were a couple of other metal tapestry looms out there and folks were making their own out of copper pipes. I wanted a loom with an easy to use shedding device, perfect tension and portability. We took some old ideas and some new ideas and came up with what we think is the perfect portable tapestry and bead loom.
How many looms do you personally own and which is your favourite?

There are fourteen looms in my studio at this very moment with various stages of tapestries on them. I am always experimenting for new kits, new products and new ways to weave so I need a lot of looms. My favorite size changes over time. For a while I was weaving tiny tapestries on the 5 inch loom. I guess I was looking for intimacy. Currently I am working with all the smaller looms. But I have a lovely piece temporarily in repose on a twenty-two inch loom, which at times has been my favorite size for tapestry. It’s small enough to easily move from space to space and it’s large enough to make a rather substantial tapestry. In the past I have stated that if I could have only one Mirrix Loom it would most likely be the 22 inch loom. But then again, I really do love those smaller looms that peopled my original vision. I would also want one of the smaller looms. Gosh, deciding which one would be quite the dilemma. There is a reason why folks collect multiple Mirrix Looms!

What are your favourite fibre/threads to use and why?

I use wool and silk almost exclusively. I am fascinated with weaving with our hand-painted silk yarn and ribbon. Combining it with wool is magical. For warp I use wool, linen and cotton depending on the project. For about ten years I dyed fleece and the spun it in to yarn. I do hope to get back to that someday because it made my tapestries totally mine.

What items do you love to weave the most?

Lately, I’ve been obsessed with working on smaller pieces. They are little, tiny comments on life and happen quickly so I can move through one a day. In the past I have woven large pieces which take weeks or months to complete. That requires an entirely different mind set. I find lately that I find myself more attracted to the smaller pieces because I can move through a design or color problem much more quickly with small format. I know I will be ready to go back and do a large piece very soon. 

What did you do before your weaving business?

                                         Photo credit Williams-Prior Art + Design

I wove tapestry before I began the loom business. Before that I wrote and published poetry and worked as an editor. I had founded a poetry magazine back in the day. My interests range from verbal to visual. I believe I have a healthy dose of ability in each.

I love that your looms are manufactured local to you and at Sunshine House. Can you tell us a little about Sunshine House and how this wonderful collaboration came to be?

Sunshine House provides supported employment for people with physical and mental disabilities. Making a loom is a complex process and the managers there do a fantastic job matching tasks to people’s abilities and setting up work stations to help people with different abilities be successful. It’s a wonderful place and allows people who may not be able to get employment elsewhere to work and to be a part of something truly good. 

What are your plans for the future of your business?

We want to continue doing what we’ve been doing all along. We have created a rhythm for doing business whether it’s finding a new audience to developing new looms, accessories and projects. It’s careful and determined. We don’t rush into anything because we want to make sure we are always taking Mirrix in the right direction. Thus far, we have been so lucky with our choices. We do have a new product on the horizon which will allow lightening quick warping of the Mirrix which will both accommodate new weavers but also assist seasoned weavers who want to instantly throw on a warp for sampling or otherwise. We have been working on this new accessory for a year now. It has just survived market testing with flying colors so we are ready to launch!

What advice would you give to someone who is interested in learning weaving?

Start slowly. Sometimes people get into their heads that they want to weave something very complex or very specific and they get frustrated when their skill level doesn’t match their expectations. Weaving is a skill that can take many years to develop. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself and start with the basics and you’ll be way more successful. Giving yourself a strong foundation of weaving skills is very important! 

Thanks to the Mirrix team for a marvellous insight into your looms and business!

I wanted to add that another thing that really appeals to me about the company is all of the excellent instructions and tutorials you can access on their blog and Youtube. These are people who really want you to succeed in your weaving and I just love that.

To find out more about Mirrix, you can visit them at the following places:


Bianca said...

Hi Kelly,

thanks a lot for this fascinating interview. I must admit I didn't know Mirrix looms until you wrote about it. They're not common in Germany...yet 😂
I hope your wish comes true soon!!!

Hugs, Bianca

Kelly Casanova said...

Thanks for reading, Bianca!

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