I registered for classes a few days ago, and suddenly the totality of my college career was laid out before me. In less than two years I will graduate, and be staring down the barrel of my future. Should I continue to graduate school? Should I attempt to seize a job in this market? Should I be thinking about a car and apartment? Will I need to think about relational long-term commitments? When I ask for advice, most people regurgitate the common saying:
“Follow your heart.”
Follow my heart? Please! Mine must have been born mute. I can see the attractiveness in any plan, and, honestly, am terrified to pick any one. And that’s when I started researching the mythology-epistemology-theology-ideology-psychology behind a “heart’s desire.”
My father is fond of quoting George Bernard Shaw. Something about the old Irish playwright must appeal to him, the man certainly had a way with words. Shaw once wrote, “There are two tragedies in life. One is not to get your heart's desire. The other is to get it.” I feel that man was on to something. Alexander Bogomoletz, a scientist who worked on a “life prolonging serum,” would likely have agreed with Shaw. He once commented, “One must not lose desires. They are mighty stimulants to creativeness, to love, and to long life.” Inspirational, no?
Lately the idea of a “heart’s desire” has popped up numerously in popular fiction, songs, advertisements, and movies. In the Pirates of the Caribbean movie series, the notorious Jack Sparrow (“I believe there should be a ‘captain’ in there somewhere, mate.”) possessed a compass that would guide him to his heart’s desire. Naturally, this caused moments of confusion, hilarity, and surprising depth. Musician Kane’s song, My Heart’s Desire, talks of the two-sided coin that a heart’s desire can be; on one, you have the bliss of possession and love, on the other, the pain and torment of longing. Advertisements use the powerful emotional plea of satisfaction of desire to sell numerous products, from lotion to pottery. One of my absolute favorite authors, Lois McMaster Bujold, wrote of the issue in her book, Memory, saying, “Some prices are just too high, no matter how much you may want the prize. The one thing you can't trade for your heart's desire is your heart.”
The woman is an artist with phrasing. *dreamy sigh*
And yet, a heart’s desire so often leads to pain. Asian philosopher Lao-Tzu endorsed avoiding unreasonable desires. “Manifest plainness, embrace simplicity, reduce selfishness, have few desires,” he counseled. Aristotle wrote, “I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who overcomes his enemies.” “We desire nothing so much as what we ought not to have,” opined Publilius Syrus.
Perhaps no more beautiful an example of these thoughts has been broken into simple concepts than in the work of J.K. Rowling. Her first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, contained a beautiful prop called “The Mirror of Erised.” This mirror had the magical ability to display “the deepest desires of your heart.” Can you imagine being able to look into the mirror and see your dreams and goals laid out neatly? A week ago I would gladly have gazed upon the image in order to determine just what I truly want. The mirror held a special allure for the orphaned main character, Harry Potter, as well. When Harry discovered the device, he would spend countless hours staring into the mirror to see his parents he could not remember.
"Men have wasted away before it, not knowing if what they have seen is real, or even possible,” Albus Dumbledore told Harry in one notable conversation.
Humor me, and think about that for a moment. Is the magic of “experiencing” your heart’s desire in a reflection powerful enough to paralyze a person?
Did you think about it? Good. I am still mulling this concept over. Rowling, merely the latest in a string of thinkers and writers, certainly offers an interesting visualization for theory. For this reason, I thought making a model of the “Mirror of Erised” might offer me my own chance to glimpse my inner motivations.
I know what you’re thinking “ON WITH IT!” So here we go!
The Monstrous “Mirror of Erised” Tutorial
(For the Antiqued Mirror Surface)
Spray Bottle of Paint Stripper
Hydrochloric Acid (Muriatic Acid)
Box (to set your mirror on)
Paint Brush (just get a cheapie)
Old Milk Gallon
Metal Scrubbing Pad
(For the Mirror Trim)
Black Foam Core Board
Hot Glue Gun (are you surprised?)
Gold Spray Paint
Concentrated Bubble Elixir (Bubble Juice from a child’s bubble bottle for anyone confused out there…)
LOTS of Newspaper
Various Colored Paints to Embellish
***A Note Before We Begin***
Crafting this mirror seriously kicked my @$$. I owe MAJOR credit to my father who sacrificed his weekend and Monday night to making this sucker possible. For anyone who is going to attempt to antique a mirror after seeing what I have done, please, please, PLEASE, think about the time of year you are going to attempt this. I did this in the cold. My acid and hose froze over at one point. I think everything would go MUCH faster in the summer. And you will not risk the light case of frostbite on your fingers I got. Trust me, heat is a crafter’s friend. If you are going to mess with acid, take due precautions and cover your mouth, nose, eyes, hands, and feet with protective gear. I got the acid on one of my rubber gloves and it started to bubble and boil up. You do NOT want this on your skin. Read the directions of ANY product you use. No craft is worth your health. Also, throwing scissors at mirrors, even by accident, will break them. I learned from experience. >_< My goal with the aging of the back of the mirror was to make it able to both reflect your image back at you and be seen through. (So you can place the image of your heart’s desire behind it.)
1) Make a list of everything you need and go to the store. Just to speed you up, I recommend going straight to a large home improvement store. You will get everything in the matter of a half hour. Much faster and better than confusing the whole staff of Wal-Mart on a fruitless hunt for Hydrochloric acid. Hard-won wisdom, that is. Bear it in mind.
2) Disassemble the mirror. You need to get to the back, so whatever screws, papers, etc you need to yank off the back of that sucker, DO IT!
3) Select and set up your area for acidifying your mirror. Lay your mirror on a box face down and make sure it is level.
4) Spray on/apply your paint stripper. Allow it to sit until the gray sealant on the back of the mirror bubbles up. That’s the theory, anyway. Mine froze over…So I rinsed it off and went straight for the heavy-stuff.
5) Cut your empty milk gallon in half. Fill it with your Muriatic Acid. I went through a series of traumatizing stages of water mixed with the acid in various concentrations. My (again, hard-won) wisdom is that the concentrations with water were useless. Just paint on the acid, nothing is getting through that gray sealant except the strongest sh*t you can get.
6) Wait. And Wait. And Wait. I let the acid sit on the mirror outside all night. (Did you know acid can freeze? I didn’t!) You can check on your mirror’s progess by sticking your phone underneath and snapping a picture. DO NOT TURN IT OVER!
7) Rinse off the acid. If the reflective surface only comes out in tiny flakes, feel free to reapply acid and wait some more. Then rinse off the back. I had to move my mirror to my shower (my hose froze >_<).
8) The mirror in the movie had a cloudy look to it, so I took out one of those crinkled metal scrubby pads and put some elbow grease into scraping the back of the mirror.
9) Now, print out a picture of how you want your version of the “Mirror of Erised” to look like. Take out your black foam-core board and start sketching out the frame shape. Then cut it out with your handy-dandy Exacto Knife (same thing as a box-cutter). Add whatever depth/extra layers of foam-core you need to build up your design.
10) Hot glue the foam-core down.
11) And this is where it all went wrong for me. I was cutting foam-core and my scissors went flying off the table and straight into my mirror. Can you imagine the colorful language? Trust me, it was the most powerful cursing a muggle has done. If you wind up with cracks, too, you can trace them with hot glue on the back. It heals it right up, and adds to the effect of age. (Or so I am telling myself)… The mirror shattered in the movie, right?
12) Start spackling. You just build up the spackle-gunk in areas you want higher and more detailed. You can carve/paint in the detail later. Allow it to dry thoroughly. (Overnight, for the impatient pokers like me.)
13) Take out a thick piece of sandpaper and start smoothing down your sides and edges. You don’t want to obliterate your details, they add to the glamour later, you just want it more contrived looking.
14) Cover the glass areas with painters’ tape and wax paper.
15) Lay out a section of newspaper outside. Place the mirror in the center. Spray paint that sucker gold! Try not to breath the fumes, they make you a little silly.
16) Once the paint has dried, cover the frame in wood varnish. Allow to dry.
17) Mix black ink (paint would work too) with the previously explained bubble elixir. Coat the mirror’s frame with it. Allow to dry. (Are you seeing a pattern?) I hit the mirror frame with a second coat of the black ink. I dabbed off any excess wells I didn’t want in any certain areas.
18) To make the cracks on your mirror (if you dropped/broke it) stand out, you can dab some black ink across the crack and wipe it off just the surface. I also ran the black ink around the edges of the frame to hide any spot I may have missed with the other layers of paint.
19) The mirror in the movie had more of s smoky-ghostly effect. I frosted the glass on my mirror with a little “frosted glass” spray paint. I also spattered some champagne and bronze paint specks onto the surface of the mirror. Don’t forget to write the Mirror’s language on the top!
20) If you have a distinct image of your heart’s desire, be it socks, a car, etcetera, you can place it in the back of the mirror. Find a suitably Hogwarts-y place to hang your mirror. Or just hang it on your wall. Either way. Now, whenever you check your reflection you can muse on your “heart’s desire.”