Reclaiming an Old Mirror

Auction houses are very unique places and winning auction lots can provide some surprises. This mirror was part of a seven piece lot we bought for $35. I don’t think we even knew it was there until we collected the lot items. It appeared very old and had seen plenty of use. The way the silver crumbled away was intriguing – the perfect dissolve to another layer… paper, of course!

antique mirror with shedding silver

The black paint over the old gold paint was evenly distressed and worth preserving. The only problem was a large chunk of paint that flaked off in an almost perfect square, creating an unwanted focal point. That would have to go.

cleaned and varnished mirror

Once the mirror was removed from the frame, I cleaned the wood with a mild cleaner and covered the square chip with a square of black paper to mimic the missing chip of peeling paint. White glue or wood glue (yellow) will work fine to attach the paper to the frame. A light coat of semi gloss polyurethane varnish seals in the distressing and freshens the wood a bit.

the back of the mirror with the loose silver removed

On the mirror itself… The silver on the back was separating badly so I gently brushed off the loose sections.  Then I cleaned the glass in the exposed areas to remove the residue, taking care not to loosen any more silver.

mirror placed over Japanese paper

The paper we choose to put behind the glass is a hand stenciled Japanese paper called Chiyogami. This pattern is typical of the types of traditional patterns done in this technique.  The blacks and greys in the pattern go well with the silver and black in the mirror, keeping the contrast in textures all in the same color family.

adding a layer of torn tissue to soften the edge

Once the mirror was assembled, I decided to make one last addition. The necessary clean up of the crumbling silver had left the edges sharper than our original vision. To soften the transition between the silver and the Chiyogami, I added a layer of torn edged tissue paper. The tissue I used is a black Japanese Kingin tissue which has flecks of silver and gold foil added. Although the metallic flecks are very subtle, they keep the tone of the whole piece.

the finished mirror

Here is the final piece.. both rustic and elegant at the same time. I had such a difficult time photographing this mirror in a proper way. No matter how I tried, I would get the reflection of something in the remaining silver, which would distort the texture. But I think the final result does justice to this well worn piece.

- Shelly

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