Our original vision for Mirror Mirrored was straightforward: to visually reimagine the Brothers Grimm by pairing contemporary art with classic stories.
To see how other publishers and artists visually represented the Brothers Grimm from the early 19th century onward, Corwin began combing through old editions of the tales. After discovering the stunning depth and variety of illustrations that have been created through the centuries, he couldn’t bring himself to close these dusty volumes and return them to the shelves where few people would ever see these visual gems.
Remixing has a long tradition from Andy Warhol and Picasso to hip-hop and dance music. The idea of taking existing artworks, transforming them into new pieces, and sharing them with our readers was an exciting idea—one that had the potential to enliven the numerous pages of text in between our contemporary artworks and make the process of reading fairy tales extraordinary once again, just as it was when we were children. After all, to compare endless variations of Snow White’s stepmother, Rapunzel, or Red Riding Hood is to appreciate how fluid and exciting old fairy tales can be.
An example of the layering process used to create a single collage for Mirror Mirrored. One collage can take days to complete (Image by Corwin Levi)
Ultimately, Corwin combed through more than 300 illustrated Grimms’ books—all in the public domain here in the United States—on a quest for images we could remix and weave through the text of our 25 tales. In the process, he fell under the spell of some remarkably diverse wolves, dwarfs, and wicked stepmothers, everything from gilded Art Nouveau masterpieces, to simple line drawings, to exquisite illustrations by obscure, unknown artists. (You can look at some of his favorite books in a selected bibliography here.)
After collecting more than a thousand illustrations, Corwin embarked on the collage process. The resulting remixes, visual compendiums of the history of fairy tale illustration, stretch across time and space. A collage may combine two striking vintage images, or it may be comprised of dozens of depictions from various sources.
A single collage can take days to complete because each illustration—collected from a book purchased for the project or from helpful librarians at institutions like Dartmouth or Stanford—must be scanned, meticulously cleaned in Photoshop, cut with exacting precision, and then layered with other images to create compelling remixes and page layouts. (You can see an example of the layering process in the “Rapunzel” animated gif on this page.)
What really excites us about this part of the project is that such a massive undertaking has never been attempted before. Artists continue to create new works inspired by Grimms’ fairy tales, and editors will occasionally comb through old fairy tale books for illustrations and republish them, but to specifically search for vintage illustrations of these tales and remix them together into brand new collages is a singular, unprecedented project.
Mirror Mirrored: An Artists’ Edition of 25 Grimms’ Tales is going to be something special. Not only will the limited-edition book be beautiful, it will also be a scholarly tome tracking and comparing the visual history of the most popular collection of fairy tales in the Western tradition.