A few weeks ago my mom passed away after a 12 year battle with Alzheimers Disease. My father preceded her in death from this same horrible disease in 2003. At that time, in the last days of his life, I began a mirror/altarpiece as a tribute to him. I had purchased two identical mirrors twelve years ago from TJ Maxx and had hung on to the second mirror to create a companion piece when my mom passed away. The symbolism of using a mirror appealed to me as we are truly reflections of our parents in so many ways. Also creating a mosaic has so much meaning with all the pieces coming together to create a whole…..
I just recently finished my mom’s mirror and wanted to share the process of its creation. It was truly a cathartic experience to make tiles and embed them with bits and pieces of my mom’s jewelry and doodads, all representing her. She was a very kind and generous women with an adventurous spirit that took her around the world to the most remote places. (I think she passed on that love of travel to many in the family!) This is an early picture of her looking very Judy Garlandish! Always a smile on her face!
When I first began my mom’s mirror, I began with a similar title to my dad’s mirror. His piece is called “The Long Goodbye” and anyone who has had a love one suffer from dementia or Alzheimers knows what this means. You begin to lose that person long before they physically pass. My mom’s mirror is titled “Another Long Goodbye”. Using alphabet stamps, I was able to stamp out the title onto a clay slab. Then I used Rub n Buff to highlight the letters.An interesting thing began to happen along this artistic journey. While my father’s mirror tended to be on the dark side (images below) with an emphasis on death and disease, my mom’s mirror became all about life and living….I didn’t intend this at the beginning, especially with the title I started with. But as the piece unfolded, I think it reflected my mom and her optimistic outlook and I think I must have already sorted out a lot of feelings when I did my dad’s mirror that did not need revisiting!!
Next I began working on the top portion of the frame. Being a companion piece, I did want there to be some continuity and added the glass tile along the top edge. These days a crown shows up in just about everything I do and so it was fitting it was front and center. Below the crown is a band of vintage pearls that I glued on with Weldbond glue. I added a tin and glass nicho from Mexico which now holds my mom’s obituary. I also did the same thing on my father’s mirror and it is so nice to always know right where his obit is and that it has a place for safe-keeping for the future. I collaged a map into the interior with a detail of Ireland which is where her family was from. (Her maiden name is Harp-like the beer!) On the top part of the nicho is a small compass, very fitting for my mom the adventurer!
I will share a few of the other tiles I created.
I had an old box and inside of it I put a picture of my mom and in front of it is a globe that actually has room to spin. (I like this kinetic part of this mirror!) The door can be left opened or can close.
The above picture shows progress in a few areas! I made lots of random tiles at different times, not knowing exactly how they would all fit together. I incorporated pieces of her jewelry like this elephant (below) that was her earring. My mom earned a nickname after taking all of her kids and grandkids on a safari to East Africa; she became known as Mama Tembo which means mother elephant. There are quite a few references to ‘Ma Tembo” in this mirror. It was the journey of a lifetime!
I ran out of room on the frame of the mirror for her name which I thought should be in the center so I actually glued it onto the mirror portion! This mirror is over 3 feet tall by 16 inches wide.
My mom was always wearing a gold frog that was a reproduction of a Pre-Columbian gold frog she had seen on one of her travels to south America. I had to add a gold frog to my mirror. The frog’s mouth is open and that is where I am placing a small vial of her ashes.
I also added a band of small glass tile creating a black and white border around the mirror itself. This has the effect of repeating the look of the black and white words around my dad’s mirror. I later added Quin gold paint to the white tiles to tone them down a bit and make them look more vintage.
It was fun placing all the tiles on the frame and arranging all the pieces to fit. Through the years I have been drawn to rubber stamps with map themes and quotes about travel….and I finally had a place to use them! In the end, the mirror was done just in time to be displayed at her “Fiesta of Life” party!