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Tools and supplies needed:

  • An IKEA 10” mirror (check for staples on the back, you want those),
  • A 10” square stiff piece of cardboard (or a 2nd IKEA mirror)
  • Craft knife,
  • Sandpaper
  • Sealer (OR use watered white glue such as Weldbond),
  • Paint brush,
  • Found objects to cover the mirror frame. You can use just about anything including old jewelry, ceramic tile, stained glass, charms, bottle caps, buttons, marbles, rocks, old watches, screws, broken plates, polymer clay tiles, beads - just about everything. I do try to stay away from plastic.
  • Craft sticks (aka popsicle sticks), or a mixing utensil,
  • Dry black tempura paint OR dry black concrete colorant,
  • Disposable plastic container with lid (such as an empty cottage cheese or butter dish),
  • Tile adhesive,
  • Disposable glove,
  • Paper towels,
  • Glue that will dry clear or silicone glue
  • Acrylic paint for edges and around the mirror opening (I usually use gold or silver)

Preparing the surface:

First open the mirror and put aside the hanging hardware included with the package. Using the craft knife carefully cut the glue holding the mirror in place. Once you are able to get the mirror out, scrape off any extra glue. Put the mirror aside with the hanging hardware. It will explain in the finishing stage why you have removed the mirror.

Note: At one time the IKEA mirrors did not have staples on the corners in the back. As a result, some of the mirrors separated at the joints. If you pick up a mirror without staples in the back, you can add your own.

Take the sandpaper and sand the frame's front and edges lightly. Wash off frame and set aside to dry.

Sealing the surface

Once the frame is dry, apply a coat of sealer to the frame's front and edges. Because wood is porous, it is important to prevent the wood from sucking the moisture out of the adhesive we will use to adhere the found objects. Sealing the wood will assure you have a good adhesive bond that will last. For this piece, I am using Level Quik Latex Primer that I acquired at Home Depot. Directions call for a 1part mix of primer to 1 part water. When dry this primer/sealer is translucent white.

There are other products you can use to seal. One of the most affordable is to mix 1 part Weldbond glue to 4 parts water as a sealer. This works just as well as many of the other sealers out there. There are also sealers that promote bonding, such as those found in your local hardware store's tile aisle. I have also used Kilz or Bin, which are usually found on your paint aisle.

Wait for the sealer/primer to dry. I usually wait overnight, but you can start adhering items when it is dry to the touch.

Laying out your goodies

Using the 10” square of stiff cardboard, mark off the portion where the mirror will rest. You can do this by tracing the frame and since you have removed the mirror you can trace through the mirror hole as well.

This stiff cardboard is your staging area. Once you have laid out your tesserae (the tile, glass, beads, jewelry, bits, bobs, stones, rocks, etc…) you will transfer it piece by piece to the mirror frame later on.

For my staging area, I use a black IKEA mirror. I like to use this because I typically use black colorants in the adhesive which will give me a good idea of what it will look like when I am finished.

I like to make sure I have enough of one type of item that there is a repetition of color or design.

So once I have collected what I think will work, I begin laying it out and don't stop until I am happy.

For this project, I am doing a Janis Joplin theme. I took a postage stamp of Janis and put it between two pieces of glass cut from an old picture frame. I used clear silicone glue on the front and back of the postage stamp and let them dry overnight. I also looked into to how she died and how she lived. She died of an overdose of heroin, so I found some copyright free pictures of heroin and put these between glass as well. I also read that she loved her Southern Comfort. Luckily, I found some little key chains on eBay with miniature Southern Comfort bottles on them. And of course Janis was all about the music.

Since Janis was a singer and musician, other items I thought would work include sheet music (again put between glass), miniature guitars from old jewelry, clef symbols made of polymer clay and funky shaped old jewelry and music charms.

I don't tend to be symmetrical when I lay out the tesserae, other than to put a piece of interest at the top and the bottom. Also the outer corners look best if there are similar pieces in each - at least the top corner pair and bottom corner pair should be similar. For this piece I placed the polymer clay clefs in the bottom corners and the images under glass in the top corner. All corners are of similar size tesserae. Generally, I wouldn't put tiny pieces in the bottom and larger pieces in the top.

The center portion around the mirror will look best with some thing framing it. I used an old necklace for this project that has red beads. I choose red bead because the stamp is predominantly red.

Once you have finished staging your mirror frame, get ready to adhere it. Even though I have what I think is a finished design, I keep “extra” bits of necklace chains, small beads, or glitter on hand. When you transfer the staged design into the adhesive, there will be gaps you will wish you filled and having the “extras” on hand is efficient. You can also drop blobs of paint into these areas later (after the adhesive is dry) to fill in the blank spaces.

Adhering your goodies

Take an old plastic container with a lid, such as an old margarine tub. Put about a cup and a half of the tile adhesive in it. Open up the dry/powdered tempura paints and mix enough into the adhesive until you have a solid black color. It may take quiet a bit of the powered paint, so just mix a couple of tablespoons at a time until it looks good. There is very little to no color change when it dries, so what you see is what you get. I mix with wooden craft sticks or other disposable spoons.

Once you have your powdered paint mixed into the adhesive, smear it all over the sealed frame. I think of it as frosting a cake. You can use the craft sticks or you can stick your gloved hand into it and get a big glob. You need about a quarter inch thick coat over the surface - it doesn't have to be perfect.

When you have finished “frosting” your frame put the lid back on the adhesive if there is any left. The colored adhesive will stay fresh and usable for weeks if you seal the tub you mixed it in with a lid.

Next, start transferring your staged design into the adhesive. You have about a 30 - 45 minute working time, but it shouldn't take that long. As I mentioned earlier, if you see an area that looks bare take some of your “extras” and push them in.

Another option you have for bare areas, is use drops of acrylic paint. This should be done on dry adhesive, so you'll have to wait.

Finishing it off

You are 90% done now.

I wait until the next day, allowing the adhesive to dry, to do the finish work on the mirror frame.

First, paint the mirror edges - outer and inner with you choice of acrylic paint. I paint over the edges so that some of the paint overlaps onto the face of the frame and on the adhesive. If you see cracks in the adhesive, and it does happen on occasion, I blob some of the paint on it to. Now is also your chance to put some paint into the bare spots. .

Then flip it over, face down, and paint the little inset where the mirror will go. If you don't paint this, when you look in the mirror you will see pinewood reflected around the edges. That is why we removed the mirror.

If any of your pieces pop off, you can glue them back on with a little Weldbond. I ALWAYS have at least one piece pop off.

Once the paint is dry, glue the mirror back in. You can use Weldbond glue or any type of clear silicone.

You can now add the hanging hardware and wire. Usually, I finish off the back with black felt before I put on the hanging hardware - but that is optional and does not affect the look of your piece.

And finally - Sign it!!


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