Compact Mirrors & Powder Compacts

Jane Vanroe on collecting vintage powder compacts and compact mirrors. You can find Jane's designs at www.vanroe.com and on Amazon in the EU & USA

Taking inspiration from Gwenda Butterfly Wing Compacts – foiled Kimono Silk under glass

My favourite decorative technique used by the early compact manufacturers is foiling. This is the use of silver or other high-shine metal foils to coat the under side of translucent materials. When mounted under glass this gives a jewel-like glow to the material. It’s particularly effective in the faux ‘butterfly wing’ compacts made by companies like Gwenda and Coty in the 1930s.

1930s faux butterfly wing foil compact by Gwenda (image Antiques Atlas)

I wanted to reproduce a jewelled effect like this in my own Vanroe compacts, so began experimenting with foiling techniques. I sandwich materials under tempered glass with resin – and use different foils and textures to silver the underside. My favourite material so far is 1950s kimono silk I imported from a Japanese antique dealer. The resin penetrates into the silk and its weave – bonding the delicate fabric to the foil to produce a sparkling surface. The silk and foil glows under the light.

foiled kimono silk mirror compact

Foiled kimono silk under tempered glass, mounted on a simple mirror compact

The vintage kimono silk is hand-printed. This makes each foiled piece slightly different. I love how modern the design, called ‘Plum blossom’, still seems. It feels right to frame such beautiful craftmanship under glass – like a framed museum piece .

Pink Kimono Silk compact in its velvet-lined box

Pink Kimono Silk compact in its velvet-lined box

Another section of the silk creates a very different effect.

Another section of the silk creates a very different effect.

I’ve made ten foiled silk compacts using simple, silver-plated mirrors. You’ll find them soon at Vanroe.co.uk. Each is a limited edition as once my piece of vintage silk runs out it can’t be replaced. My next experiments will be with antique laces and celluloids, just like Gwenda used in the thirties, so I’ll post more pictures soon! Looking forward to finding out what you think :)

Update – you can find these compacts on my page of Compact Mirrors here, and on Amazon here. I’m still not happy with the photos, so I’ll try and improve my camera skills for the next compacts…

My ten foiled kimono silk mirrors.

My first ten foiled kimono silk mirrors. Lace and celluloid resin experiments next.

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Jane Johnston Vanroe Powder Compact Mirrors

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