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

Arriving in the USA, our first compact mirrors in Birmingham enamel

Butterfly compact mirror vanroe

We’ve our first USA launch next week, with our new compact mirrors in enamel arriving at Amazon.com. The five compacts in this collection are enamelled with jewel-like colours in Birmingham, England’s famous ‘Jewellery Quarter‘. This has been a national centre for fine metal manufacture since the Georgian era, so it’s exiting to be working as part of that history.

orchid compact mirror vanroe UK

The boxed enamel compact, with my initial sketches and colour swatches for the design.

I’m delighted with the depth of colour and translucent effects I can create with enamel. Each colour is poured individually into the pressed metal, pooling into the areas walled by the lines in my design. By combining opaque and translucent enamels, together with subtle patterns on the underlying metal, I can produce effects that seem to glow in the light.

Each enamel design is polished by hand to produce a mirror-like quality to the lines separating each colour. It’s this finish which traditional Birmingham enamel is famous for.

butterfly enamel compact mirror uk

My Butterfly compact mirror, on my notes and colour samples. You can see I’ve used a translucent red for the piece, so the underlying metal shimmers on the butterfly’s wings

The hardest job was to choose enamel colours without an industrial “Pantone” colour swatch book. I’ve learned design from a digital perspective, using software on a screen – creating good colour combinations for off-screen is an entirely new skill to learn. Manufacturers need each colour as a Pantone number, a specific code for the colours they can mix with their specific materials. There are also ‘coated’ and ‘uncoated’ versions of each colour. Enamel colours correspond to approximately to ‘coated’, but there’s still some variation as it’s a hand mixed and poured material (the thicker the layer the deeper the colour!).

My Magpie compact mirror - the two initial samples I received from my Birmingham enameller, with my many colour ideas and initial sketches. You can see that the end result in enamel is a far greener-blue than I'd planned on screen.

My Magpie compact mirror – the two initial samples I received from my Birmingham enameller, with my many colour ideas and initial sketches. You can see that the end result in enamel is a far greener-blue than I’d planned on screen.

I’ve since invested in a Pantone book to make my end colours more predictable… But I’m entirely happy with my first collection of hope-for-the-best-on-that-blue results! My pinks could maybe have been prettier, but the stronger results have lent a modern edge to quite traditional butterfly and orchid designs.

Here are a few more insider shots of my notebooks and colour samples….

Magpie compact mirror

The final “Magpie in Black and Red” compact mirror. The design was inspired by English folklore around magpies; that seeing ‘two for joy’ may bring luck and happiness.

orchid compact mirror with sketches

Our sketch book pages and colour samples for the Orchid compact mirror. This was the hardest design to finish in the Birmingham enamel collection. You can see the background went through many changes. The finished compact is now one of my favourites.

orchid initial sketches

Orchid in Black compact mirror

The final Orchid in Black compact mirror, inspired by vintage compacts from the 1920s and ’30s.

And here's the Orchid in Pink, on a palest lilac background

And here’s the Orchid in Pink, on a palest lilac background

My sketchbook pages for the butterfly design

My sketchbook pages for the butterfly design

The butterfly is a European Peacock Butterfly (Inachis Io), found in woods and pastures across most of Europe and as far east as Japan. Inachis Io is one of the few butterfly species to mate for life. Here's my design in black and red.

The butterfly is a European Peacock Butterfly (Inachis Io), found in woods and pastures across most of Europe and as far east as Japan. Inachis Io is one of the few butterfly species to mate for life. Here’s my design in black and red.

butterfly compact mirror vanroe

And here in pinks, dusky peach and pale lilac.

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4 comments on “Arriving in the USA, our first compact mirrors in Birmingham enamel

  1. These are just lovely! Beautiful work! I think the pink orchid is my favorite – I just love the color combination.

    • Jane Johnston
      April 26, 2014

      Thank you for your lovely comment! :) So glad that you like the designs, especially the pink orchid!

  2. tessie hemming
    August 3, 2014

    I have an old stratton compact.opal in the middle.

    • Jane Vanroe
      August 4, 2014

      Wow, that sounds beautiful!

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Jane Johnston Vanroe Powder Compact Mirrors

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