Chinoiserie Mirror From a Cheapie

by Thea
4 Materials
5 Hours

Here is a delicate upgrade to a cheap, thrifted mirror.

Mirrors are expensive, even second hand ones! And if you manage to find a cheap new one it is often so distorted that you can’t recognize yourself in it. But one of my girls needed a dressing mirror, so I had to make a plan. Fortunately my favorite thrift shop had this one, half price because it was only half the mirror- with half of the cardboard backing ripped off - but at least it wouldn’t induce body dysmorphia.

So I took it home very carefully and after cleaning it, masked it with newspaper.

I also had these plastic planter drip trays, the shape of which is bang on trend and which, fortunately, were vaguely the same size as the mirror.

I had great plans to sculpt branches from wire but sitting at the table, staring at the pliers and wire, I realized it's a very, very long artistic way from a roll of wire to a cute, weight bearing tree branch! And one that I was sure to get lost on.

Enter the creeper vines from the garden, the woody ones from deep inside the hedge where scary things live. Still, I’d rather face a rat than my own deficient sculpting skills. I chose a couple of gnarly, woody ones that would hopefully be strong enough to support a bit of weight.

They had to spend an hour or so in the warming oven to dry out. Obviously you could also use a normal oven or just leave them in a warm, dry place for a couple of days.

Then they spent another 30 minutes being stripped of their bark and any fragile bits, then scrubbed with brush before being lightly rinsed and returned to the warming oven. They were dried at the setting you would use to heat plates, not dry meringues. Watch out that they don't get too hot.

In the meantime, all plastic bits first received a coat of plastic primer.

And then later everything including the twigs were painted green with chalk paint. I’m trying to avoid spray cans where possible these days so I used a brush. It would help to seal everything but I had a bit of a problem when I was sealing the mirror and had to sand some parts down again and repaint. I’m still not quite sure why my specific combination of products didn’t like each other. Varnishing the twigs should also make them stronger.

I’ve had my eyes open for some type of little birds for over a year now and last week I found these cute little things at a charity shop. They look like unglazed pottery or porcelain. You could also make your own with clay, the tutorials I’ve seen actually look doable, more so than making branches from wire.

The holes underneath each came in really handy when it was time to spray them.

After a false start with wrapping paper and podge (those wrinkles!) I cut some craft paper shapes...

And stuck them to the drip trays. It would be wise to seal them as well, preferably even before sticking them if, like me, you no longer trust your particular combination of chalk paint and varnish.

The twigs were arranged to be stuck primarily to the frame of the drip trays and not just to the backing paper. You will see that both rest on the bottom of the frames when held up vertically. This is just a bit of redundancy that would possibly save some tears later.

Next, I stuck the birds onto the twigs and backing paper. The combination of the holes, gnarly bits on the twigs and gel-type glue worked really well but it did take some time to dry so some parts had to be propped up.

The most exciting part came with sticking the birdy frames to the mirror frame. I used a no more nails-type of glue that I trust to carry the weight.

Unfortunately, mirrors are really hard to photograph!

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  3 questions
  • N. G. Londonderry N. G. Londonderry on Jun 16, 2021

    I thought you only had 1/2 of the mirror?

  • April April on Jun 16, 2021

    Very creative! Beautiful!

  • Celia Celia on Jul 17, 2021

    You got really lucky with that bag of birdies! So cute ☺️

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  • Kris Kris on Jun 17, 2022

    Cute idea.

  • Mary Njus Mary Njus on Jun 19, 2022

    Very cute idea. I might do this to my plain bathroom mirror. I’m too cheap to buy a fancy full length mirror for my recent remodeled bathroom but this is a way to upcycle mine to one more custom. Thanks for the inspiration