Hand crafted in Yorkshire by highly skilled craftsmen trained in traditional Victorian techniques, antique mirrors and frames have been perfected through 20 years, of research and development resulting in unique techniques, and provide masterpieces from an era of sheer opulence. Our customer satisfaction rating is 100% and our objective is to totally delight you with our wonderful product range.
These fabulous mirrors are exact copies of valuable and exquisite period pieces, mostly Georgian and Victorian. As far as possible they are made using traditional materials and are ostensibly, replica pine and gesso swept plaster mirrors, which are then finished using age old gilding and paint finishing techniques.
Wherever possible we use contemporary environmentally friendly materials, particularly in the place of some of the more shall we say, less environmentally enlightened options available to the Victorians!
All our “gold” and “silver gilt” finishes are achieved using the traditional Victorian technique of Dutch leaf gilding which is then painstakingly distressed lacquered and aged to replicate the look of a 130 year old period piece as authentically as possible, where the appearance of water gilding is required such as in the highlights of the pearl motif on the profile of the Georgian Overmantle we use 23 and a quarter carrot gold leaf
SWEPT PLASTER FRAMES, A BRIEF HISTORY
Swept plaster work is largely synonymous with the Victorian era. As the demand and appreciation of the decorative arts began to grow in line with the newly created wealth resultant from the boom of the industrial revolution, it became apparent that there was to be a significant shortfall of the kind of highly skilled craftsmen, required to service the growing demand and volume of fabulous, opulent, picture and mirror frames previously made using the traditional techniques of hand carving and gilding to create what was known as a “gilt wood” frame.
The preceding Georgian and Regency periods, had been a mini golden age of opulence throughout Europe. The highly skilled craftsmen designing and making at that time were tied to techniques, which themselves had been little altered from as far back as the times of the Romans Greeks and even the Egyptians. The kind of hand carving and elaborate gilding required to produce a gilt wood frame demanded skill levels equivalent to a ten year apprenticeship, and the subsequent cost implication of this meant a level of exclusivity was automatically maintained
Ironically it was not a lack of money available at the time, or a more low budget attitude that led to the ever ingenious Victorians inventing the first ever semi-volume production techniques which produced frames that became known as “swept plaster” or “compo” frames, on the contrary it was the pressure of the burdegioning new money at the disposal of the freshly created middle class that did the job. The old order of the aristocracy, with all its heritage and tradition was about to give way to a tidal wave of the neuvau rich, who in a bid to express their newly found wealth were more concerned about the appearance of the work than the mechanics and tradition of its manufacture.
These factors led to a great demand and a profitable market niche for anyone who could come up with an alternative method of production. Enter the ever ingenious Victorian entrepreneur, mechanisation and factory production was the order of the day, so why not apply this ethic to the making of Objet D’art. All that was required was a simply replicated moulding process to eliminate the requirement for skilled carvers, and a willing but only semi skilled workforce who could adopt a more mechanised volume approach to manufacture, then you had an opportunity to supply the demand, and an ability to replicate the opulence of pieces made using the traditional techniques of the time, without a significant depreciation in the aesthetic value of the end result. So was born the Swept plaster frame.
In order to produce a swept plaster frame the Victorians started experimenting with a material known as “Compo”, a mixture of Whiting ( ground chalk ), linseed oil, wood resin, rabbit skin glue, turpentine and water, gently warmed and kneaded into a putty.
This mixture was then pressed into waxed wooden block moulds that were carved in the reverse of the pattern required so that when released the compo would be formed in the moulded shape required. When fully dry compo is rock hard and the pre-formed designs made with this technique can be brought together to create elaborate designs in the form of crests and scrolls adorning mirror frame profiles that when gilded look like very elaborate carvings.
An irony about swept plaster work is that, at the time the elitist upper class frowned upon swept plaster frames considering them a cheap and nasty low art alternative to the standard gilt wood mirrors of the day.
Although much swept plaster work required a lower standard of overall levels of craftsmanship to achieve, it is undeniable that the composite nature of swept plaster work facilitated a liberation from the constraints of “beginning to end” carving of a gilt wood frame and helped create an environment where the sky was the limit in terms of design. With a willing and cheap labour force at there disposal the only constraint upon the designers of the time need be ambition, and as we know the Victorians never lacked ambition.
It is my opinion that it was this liberating factor that enabled the production of some of the most elaborate and beautiful work ever made, and at its best represents a high point in design and production and if you want evidence to back this up all you have to do is examine some of the most Baroque work produced at this time, I love the stuff but sometimes struggle to come to terms with the fact that what I am viewing may be the most beautiful or the most ugly thing I have ever seen, at the same time. Now that takes ambition
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