I am so excited to start blogging again! We have quite a lot of changes going on the past six months with starting Amy Howard At Home and releasing the new product line this past January. The Amy Howard At Home line is a variety of DIY products including One Step Paint (No prep and No Sealer! In 34 colors), an Antique Mirror Kit, Zinc Solution, Powder Paints, High Performance Lacquer Spray paints, and more!
I have decided to release this product line after being in the furniture industry for the past 22 years. With the way the market is these days, people are no longer selling as much of the high-end pieces so I wanted to be able to share my finishes in a different way. After researching, I found that over ten million pieces of American made furniture are thrown away each year. I have trademarked the phrase “Rescue. Restore. Redecorate.” The idea behind being that you can easily rescue a piece, restore the piece using the At Home products, and redecorate using the piece you have saved.
I cannot believe it but already this year we have signed up over 150 retailers worldwide that are selling the products. Each retailer is required to come and attend a 3-day workshop with me to learn how to use all of the products in the line. We just returned last week from NY NOW market and are updating the website with all of the current retailers who are offering the products. They are also available at www.amyhowardathome.com.
I have reorganized and decided to have more of a regular blogging schedule focusing each week on a specific topic with emphasis on “Rescue. Restore. Redecorate.” This week I will be talking about Antique Mirror.
Today, mirrors are located everywhere…being functional or purely for decoration. Throughout history, mirrors have been valued as precious items especially with their ornate decorative qualities. Both King Henry VIII and Francis I were mirror collectors. The mirror was once worth its weight in gold. For example in 1683, a mirror 3” x 4” in size was sold for three times the amount of a Rubens painting! Many French noblemen were known to sell off their estates to buy a single mirror! What we find so common today was so very precious.
In the ancient beginnings, the ancient Mexicans were the first people to value mirrors around 4000 B.C. By 3000 B.C., the Greeks and Romans were using gold, silver, and bronze to create small handheld mirrors with beautiful embellished details.
A Roman Bronze Mirror with Hercules club-shaped handle from the 1st-2nd century AD
The Romans first introduced mirrors made of glass with a metal backing in the First Century. Not everyone favored mirrors though- the early Church saw the mirror as a symbol of sin and vanity. It was forbidden for anyone in the priesthood to own a mirror up until the 14th century. Throughout the early Middle Ages, glass mirrors really disappeared.
In the 14th century, the excitement about mirrors returned with the invention of glass blowing techniques. During this time, many paintings include mirrors as a sign of status. Glassblowing really had a huge impact with advancements in the making of mirrors. Venice was the center of glass making and by the 16th century, Venetians had become more focused on mirror making with inventing the way to make flat glass mirrors with a reflective backing made of bronze and gold. The Venetians were very secretive with their mirror making methods. A council was even developed to protect their ways. The most talented craftsmen were sent to the island of Murano to be isolated from the world. It was a dangerous craft with the materials and amount of heat they were working with at the time. The backings were later replaced with a mixture of mercury and tin, which ended up killing many workers in Venetian factories. This dangerous backing method was continued for about four hundred years across Europe. The monarchs began spying and espionage to unveil the Venetian’s secrets. The Spanish and French used mirrors to code and decode messages. The system had been developed da Vinci who wrote in code. Mirrors were even used in the 30 Years War to blind the enemy as well as to spy. Up until 1687, the Venetian craftsmen were able to keep their secret methods but they were bribed and taken to France where they revealed the methods. The French were then able to better the methods and created a way to cast glass in large sheets. Soon after, work began on the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles.
The mirror method spread throughout Europe yet France remained the key place for mirror making. Well-known designers and cabinetmakers like Thomas Chippendale and John Linnell bought large quantities of French glass to use for their English clients. The process of mirror making was so dangerous and delicate that the mirrors were very valuable.
Late 18th century Russian Mirror from The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg
When looking at actual antique mirrors, an antique mirror glass should not be perfect. The silvering of the mirror is most commonly worn and chips may be present. I like that antique mirrors give a sense of mystery when looking into one. Antique mirrors take away that perfection that modern mirrors have.
As an insight, mirrors will instantly make a small room feel much larger.
With the way mirrors are now mass-produced, it is so easy to forget how precious mirrors used to be. Today, I feel that antique mirrors offer a sense of beauty and allure to a room!
*Excited to add that the Antique Mirror Kit was featured in House Beautiful's September 2013 issue!