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Mirrored Reality

"I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.
What ever you see I swallow immediately
Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike.
I am not cruel, only truthful –
The eye of a little god, four-cornered."

    – Sylvia Plath’s "Mirror"

When people think of mirrors, they usually think of a looking-glass, but a mirror is any surface that reflects. In fact, the first artificial mirrors, according to Mark Pendergrast’s Mirror Mirror: A History of the Human Love Affair with Reflection, were not glass but polished pieces of obsidian, discovered by archaeologists in Çatal Hüyük, modern-day Turkey, dating from approximately 6200 BCE. The next mirrors were fabricated from highly polished disks of metal, such as copper, tin, bronze, silver or even gold.

Modern plate glass mirrors, popularized in 16th-century Venice, consist of a piece of glass coated with a thin layer of liquid metal. Venetian glassmakers used a mixture of tin and mercury, but due to its toxic properties, mercury has been replaced by liquid silver or aluminium. The DIY instructions on how to make a modern looking-glass read like one of Harry Potter’s Potions textbooks: “…drop ammonia into [the silver nitrate]…at first it will turn dark; keep dropping until it becomes clear again…If it does not clear, stir the solution slowly with your left hand and continue dropping the ammonia, one drop at a time, until it does clear…” (www.make-stuff.com/formulas/mirrors.html).

Though humans have adored looking at themselves in mirrors for millennia, children don’t recognize themselves in mirrors until around 18-months old. The only other creatures that pass the “mirror test,” according to Wikipedia, are the great apes, bottlenose dolphins, Orcas, Asian elephants and European magpies. Other animals believe they see an enemy or friend in the glass but not themselves.

 

One of the best uses of a mirror is to reflect the outdoors. With the stunning seascapes and landscapes of the BVI, this is a perfect way to employ mirrors here. For example, a friend has a gorgeous view of Cane Garden Bay through the window above her bed. So, if she’s lying on the bed and wants to see the view, she has to turn around and peek over the headboard. A properly positioned mirror on the opposite wall would show the view no matter which way she faced.

Mirrors can also transport light to a dim room. Or a dim town. The November 12, 2006 edition of The Sunday Times reported on Viganella, a tiny, mountain-shadowed valley town in the Italian Alps that uses a heliostatic mirror to reflect sun into their town square. Before utilizing the mirror, the town experienced a complete absence of sunlight for 83 days of the year. If a mirror can light up a town square, a strategically placed reflector can certainly brighten some of the darker corners in your home.

Arawak Interiors’ selection of mirrors does not disappoint. Some are framed in reclaimed teak, in both contemporary styles and classic Balinese-inspired designs. Stepping in front of a full-length cheval mirror and seeing oneself framed by the ancient Balinese carvings, the idea of passing through into a world on the other side seems plausible.

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Several other mirror frames appear to be painted with contemporary abstract designs—circles, swirls and rings, but Arawak’s Roy Keegan mentions that the designs are, in fact, laminates made from cross-sections of bamboo shoots, seashells, coconuts or cinnamon sticks set in resin. The cinnamon ones even give off the faint, comforting scent of French toast. He acquires the mirrors in Bali, along with most of his inventory. The craftspeople utilize the laminates not only for mirror frames but also for lamps, tissue boxes, coasters, placemats, trivets, salt cellars and planters in resin colours such as red, black, brown or pink, all available at Arawak Interiors.

Mirrors are used in cameras, magic tricks, sculpture, televisions, funhouses and security systems. But their most common use is as a looking-glass, inspiring poems, fairytales, myths, comic books and films.

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