Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Gilding the Mirror

I've wanted a great mirror for quite some time.  A big, round one to hang either over a console table or a fireplace mantle.  Shiny.  It seems that every mirror I found seemed to cost a fortune.  Really.  I don't want to spend $200 on a mirror.  It's a mirror... not the crown jewels.  I have a difficult time justifying such a purchase on my wee student budget.

In anticipation of moving to rural Pennsylvania, I have been frequenting my local HomeGoods store in the greater Orlando area.  It is a 30 minute drive in traffic... but since the closest HomeGoods to 1868 Pleasant is more than 70 miles away, I'm getting in as much eyecandy as I can before I leave in a few weeks.

Imagine my delight when I spied a large round wall mirror in the clearance department.  I may have squealed.    Okay; I totally squealed.  The markdown was extreme:  from $89 to $19.  NINETEEN bucks!!! I examined it for any chips or breakage... found none... and it was mine!

Alas... it was also fugly.  The shape was great, but it was an ugly, ugly shade of brown.  It attempted to mimic a shade of hardwood.. mahogany, maybe... or pecan... and it failed miserably.  One person's fug is another person's DIY adventure.  I didn't get a picture of the "before" because I really didn't ever want to see this particular shade of poo brown again.

My plan was to apply silver leaf to the mirror.  That'd fulfill my "shiny" component.  First, though, I'd have to get materials:

1- 2oz. bottle of black matte acrylic paint  $1.97 (JoAnn Fabrics)
1- 2 oz. bottle of Speedball Mona Lisa metal leaf adhesive size $4.63 (
1- 2 oz. bottle of Speedball Mona Lisa water-based sealer for metal leaf $6.61 (
2 packages of Speedball Mona Lisa Sterling Silver Genuine Metal Leaf* (25/pkg) $13.56 ea (
*there is a lower-priced composite metal leaf available

Items I had on hand:
3 packages of sterling silver genuine metal leaf
petroleum jelly
brushes; I used 3 one-inch acrylic brushes, and one fluffy makeup brush meant for blush application (for burnishing)
Lint-free soft rags (such as from an old tee shirt)

A word about working with metal leaf:  Metal leaves are extremely thin sheets of hammered or pressed metal.  It is extremely fragile and tears very easily.  It also folds up on itself when you exhale in its general direction.  Purchase an extra package, as you're bound to require much more than you'll think you need to cover whatever it is you're trying to cover.  It'll arrive placed between sheets of tissue paper, bound into a book of sorts:

You'll want to keep this book in the package until you're ready to start applying the leaf to the tacky size.

The first thing you have to do is rough up the surface with fine-grit sandpaper.  Then, apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly around the mirror edge, just to the point where it meets the wood/resin.  This'll keep the mirror free from paint and adhesive sizing.  If using silver leaf, paint the entire surface to be gilded with black matte acrylic paint.  If using gold leaf, use a red matte paint.  Leave this coat to dry thoroughly.

Once the paint is completely dry, apply the adhesive size in a thin, even coats.  It'll go on white, and when it dries, it'll be clear, shiny, and tacky to the touch.

Look at the area around the edge of the mirror (it's dry and tacky), and compare it to the four sections on the bottom that were just painted in size, which are white and still wet. 

If your item has grain, brush in the direction of the grain, so that all of the little nooks are covered with the size.  Allow the size to dry until it is clear and tacky; about 30-40 minutes.

Now, you're ready to apply the leaves.  Professionals use a wide, thin, soft paintbrush to apply leaves.  I've found that this works quite well, but I didn't have such a brush on hand.  I had a stiffer sort of brush, and was afraid the bristles would puncture the silver leaf... so I just used my hands.  I've done this several times before, and I've learned to move very slowly in order to keep the leaf from folding up on itself.

Pick up the silver leaf gently.  See where my thumb is in that photo?  I'm barely pinching the leaf between my thumb and finger.  Slowly touch one edge of the leaf to the tacky surface, and slowly slide your fingers/brush out from beneath the leaf.  If this is done too quickly, the leaf will tear.  All is not lost, however.. since all bits of leaf will be useful.  If your leaf does tear, simply stick another edge to the tacky size and start again.  Once you've placed a few leaves next to each other, gently tamp them down with the fluffy blush brush, or a really soft, lint-free rag.  Continue applying leaves, brushing "crumbs" onto a piece of paper and storing them in a bowl.  These can be used to fill in tiny gaps that haven't been covered.

When your entire surface has been covered, it'll look something like this:

See how the whole surface looks somewhat uneven and bits of leaf are sticking up?  Once you have the surface covered, the leaves have only been tamped down.  They need to be pressed with some very gentle pressure, while being rubbed in a light circular motion.  This is the burnishing step.  It helps to adhere the leaves completely to the surface, and it polishes the leaves as well.  It'll help clean off any parts of leaf that have folded upon themselves (they don't stick to themselves) and reveals any missed spots.  Fill in the missed spots by brushing and tamping on either leftover leaves or the crumbs you have reserved.  Tamp and burnish until the whole surface is covered and shining.

Apply the sealer according to the directions (it basically consists of painting it on, but different brands may vary on this step).   Allow to dry completely.  With a paper towel, wipe the petroleum jelly off of the mirror surface and clean.  That's it!  Now it's ready to hang!

Here's the finished mirror, sitting on top of a bookcase in my hallway for now, since we're moving in a few weeks.  I still need to clean the dried sealer from the mirror and spray it with some glass cleaner.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

I... I Love You Like A Love Song, Baby

Somewhere on Pinterest I spied a painting that consisted of the song "Heaven" by Bryan Adams. I loved it. I still do. I found out it was painted by Matthew Heller, who does all sorts of lyrical paintings in his Homage to Music series. He uses large canvases and makes a grid and uses masking tape to create his letters.

I don't have that kind of time or patience, for that matter.

The inspiration stuck, though, and I decided to whip up my own Helleresque homage... my own version.

Armed with a sale-inclusive 20% off my entire purchase coupon, I made my way to Michael's, because their Artist Gallery canvases were 40% off. I balanced a 30"x 40" canvas on my youngest daughter's head, grabbed some paint, and was out of there for a mere $50 or so.

What I picked up:
30x40 Artist Gallery Canvas: $39.99 - 40% = 23.99
Liquitex Basics 4 oz acrylic paint in Titanium White: $5.99
Liquitex Basics 4.5 oz acrylic paint in Silver: $5.99
Golden Soft Gel acrylic medium: $14.99 (make sure it is soft and not hard gel)
Total less 20% = $40.77

What I had on hand:
Liquitex Basics acrylic paint in Ivory Black
drop cloth
silver leaf

So you can go about creating your own painting, you'll need to pick up peel and stick letters. I used 3" Vinyl Gothic letters by Duro Decal. Even though they state that they're permanent, the adhesive doesn't seal permanently to a dried acrylic paint base. In fact, you'll have to go over the letters before you put on the top coat of paint, to make sure that the edges are all stuck to the canvas. To have enough of each letter, I needed 8 packages of letters to paint the first stanza of "Better Together" by Jack Johnson. I had to get a bit creative when I needed a couple of extra "E"s and a "W". I cobbled an "F" and an "L" to make an "E"; and trimmed up an "M" to create the one "W" I was short. There is a listing of the quantities of letters; just make sure you have enough to finish your project. If you want to write an entire song on a canvas this size, you might want to go with the one-inch letters.  

8 packages of letters @ $6.74 each = $53.92; bringing my total up to $94.69.  Shipping was free, as I have Amazon Prime, and these letters were Prime-eligible.

First, you're going to have to paint the background for the letters. This can be any color of your choosing, but I do recommend blending the color with another tone, so you have a light/dark effect. Dilute some of the background paint with water; I used a half-tube of silver with about 3-5 Tablespoons of water. You want the consistency to be runny, but not liquid. Work quickly, covering the canvas, blending in some darker color as you go. Don't be neat about it, because the next step negates any neatness. I would've taken photos of this bit, but my camera battery was charging. C'est la vie.

Once your canvas is covered, wet a clean rag and wring most of the water out of it. You want it moist, but not soaked. Rub the rag over the paint, removing quite a lot of it, until your canvas looks stained, rather than painted. Put a few dollops of paint (both light and dark) on the rag, then swirl it around the canvas, to add a bit more paint to the stain. If desired, touch the wet paint with bits of silver leaf, and pat it down with a dry brush. Don't use very much at all; I'll show you why in a bit. Allow the paint to dry completely.

If you want to be neat about this bit, get a yardstick and lightly draw some pencil lines on which to place your letters. As I said before, I'm not patient, so I just winged it. Get a copy of the lyrics and put it someplace you'll see it easily. Start sticking your letters to the canvas. This takes a while....

Once that part is done, tilt your canvas to just below eye-level. Check for any letters that have lifted and press them down. Mix almost the entire tube of Titanium White with about 3 Tbsp of the gel medium. Reserve about 2 Tbsp of the Titanium White for touch ups later on. The gel medium slows down the drying process a bit, but it also creates a lovely texture by showing brush strokes. Cover the letters and exposed canvas with the white paint. You want to make sure all of the background color is covered in an opaque, but light coat. If the paint is applied too thickly, some of it will peel off as you peel the lettering off. This isn't a huge deal, since you'll be touching up any major issues afterward. It should look something like this:

Let it dry completely. Aim a fan at it, have a cup of coffee, and find a pin. Once the top coat is dry, slowly begin to peel the letters from the canvas. It is easiest if you slide the pin under an edge to lift it, grasp the edge, and peel slowly. Follow the contours of the letters if you can, to get crisp edges.

Below, you can see the brushstrokes left by the soft gel medium.

Once all of your letters are peeled, go over any spots where the top coat peeled away from between the letters, if it is noticeable.  My larger areas of silver leaf had this issue in a big way:

I touched up the spots between the letters with a very small brush and the remaining Titanium White paint:

When all of your touch-ups are completely dry, go over the entire canvas with a coat of gel medium.  Not only will it give your finished work a slight shine, it'll also protect the silver leaf and the top coat from peeling off.  I like to apply a medium-thick coat of soft gel medium.   Let this dry completely; it may take a day or two to fully dry, even with a fan on it; depending on thickness.  I like to put it out of the way and aim the fan at it overnight.  Once dry, hang your painting and revel in the creative genius that you are.

Friday, June 8, 2012


I've been planning my garden for next year.  Since I won't arrive until the height of growing season, it'd be a little late to start annual veggies like tomatoes, but I might try for a few container gems.  Moving plants, in my experience, doesn't work very well.  I will be taking my fig trees, and I will, of course, pick up a Meyer lemon tree before I trek north.  The one thing that I have had really great results with, no matter what time of year, is mushrooms.  Once a year, I order a mushroom growing kit.

All these really take to get going is a cold dousing of water, then a good soak.  A bag provides humidity and in about three weeks, you have fresh mushrooms.  When it first arrives, after initially soaking and covering it, it'll look like this:

But then, about a week later, you'll see little nubs start to grow:

And before you know it, you'll have full-fledged 'shrooms:

If your "log" dries out or stops producing... shock it with a cold water bath, and a good soak.  It should recharge it and start producing delicious mushrooms once again!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Heading North

In just under a month, we'll be in Pennsylvania.  So far, the list consists of simply getting utility turn-ons arranged.

Oh, and picking out paint colors for the girls' rooms.

And getting mentally prepared to deal with ice and snow again.
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