Posted by: ktzefr | July 8, 2013

5 Favorite Folk Art Mirrors

Frog mirror, St. Croix, USVI; Photo:KFawcett

Frog mirror, St. Croix, USVI; Photo:KFawcett


I like mirrors, but not because I enjoy looking at myself.  I like the part of the mirror that is outside the looking glass.  The wood or metal or ceramic frame.  Mirrors with carvings or intricate metal work.  Painted mirrors.  They can be round, square, rectangular, or oddly shaped.  Huge or tiny enough to fit in a pocket.

I once knew a woman who collected mirrors and she had lined one long hallway of her house with them in every size and shape and design.  You could stand in her hallway and see your reflection a whole bunch of times, like walking into a department store and seeing 50 televisions playing the same program.

There are many superstitions about mirrors, but the two biggies are these:  they bring bad luck and they help tell the future.  Before mirrors were invented any reflective surface was considered magical.  Various gods and goddesses in ancient mythology looked into mirrors to glimpse their fate.  Magicians and alchemists used mirrors to tell fortunes, and it was bad luck to break one and thus shatter your own future.

I often buy mirrors when I travel.  Cheap mirrors.  Mirrors made by local artisans and sold on the street.  I’ve also picked up a few interesting ones at fair trade shops.  These are some of my favorites:

Mermaid, Haitian Steel Drum Metal Art; Photo:KFawcett

Mermaid, Haitian Steel Drum Metal Art; Photo:KFawcett

Haitian steel drum metal art began in the 1950s and is recognized worldwide.  Metal drums that were once used for transporting oil become mermaids and fish and smiling suns.  Check out other images HERE and at Haitian Steel Drum Metal Art


Bolivian mirror; Photo:KFawcett

Bolivian mirror; Photo:KFawcett

I love this little mirror with its rainforest of trees full of musicians and squirrels and birds.  Check out these amazing, otherworldly pictures of Bolivia’s “natural” mirror at Environmental Graffiti’sBolivia’s Interminable Mirror to the Sky”

Tin mirror from Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

Tin mirror from Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

Mirrors of black obsidian (a shiny volcanic glass) played a central role in the mythology and religious rituals of the Aztecs, aka Mexica. The name of the Aztec god of rulership and sorcery, Tezcatlipoca, means “the smoking mirror.” He was often portrayed with a smoking mirror in place of the right foot lost while battling the Earth Monster. Aztec magicians would divine the future while looking into the black obsidian reflections.

 Today, every vendor stall and expensive artisan gallery in Mexico has a selection of mirrors.  They can be made from beautiful Talavera tiles, copper, or tin and can range in price from a few pesos to hundreds of dollars.  I picked up this one at a small shop in the central mountains.  The walls from floor to ceiling were covered with tin art.  This one was cheap and full of imperfections, but I like folk art and enjoy meeting and talking with street artisans  who may not be as gifted as the artists whose work they copy, but who have found a way to earn a living under difficult circumstances. 

Lizard mirror, Indonesia; Photo:KFawcett

Lizard mirror, Indonesia; Photo:KFawcett


I like round mirrors and I especially liked the wood carvings on this one from Indonesia.  There are four lizards circling the mirror.  In Indonesia the lizard’s sun-seeking habit symbolizes the soul’s search for awareness.  It was once believed that to see your reflection in a mirror was to see your own soul (this is why a vampire, who is without a soul, has no reflection).


Other popular superstitions about mirrors

  • If a couple first catches sight of each other in a mirror, they will have a happy marriage.
  • It is bad luck to see your face in a mirror when sitting by candlelight.
  • Before mirrors, in ancient societies, if you caught sight of your reflection or dreamt of it, you would soon die.
  • Babies should not look into a mirror for the first year of their lives.
  • To see an image of her future husband, a woman is told to eat an apple while sitting in front of a mirror and then brush her hair. An image of the man will appear behind her shoulder.

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