Through the Looking Glass

A mirror might at first strike you as something of little or no artistic interest. Well, the people at Bark New York, especially the firm's founder, Jared Bark, and his colleague, Miguel Oks, would definitely not agree. They've come up with three lines of decorative, framed mirrors that reflect rather indistinctly but have great visual appeal. These handmade mirrors may be cloudy or bubbly or so deeply beveled that they resemble big faceted gemstones. Some are also set in heavy frames whose design owes more to the world of classic architectural moldings than to current decorator concepts.

The firm's gifted team of craftsmen has produced three different "suites," or lines, of mirrors, each intimate in scale, each emphasizing different virtues of the finest mirrors of the past. The Cabinet Suite offers diptychs and triptychs incorporating convex mirrored disks in folding frames. The Urform Suite has gold-leafed frames (often oval, round, or almond-shaped), with ornamentation drawn from simple forms in the natural world. And the Cartography Suite has rear "silvering" (actually gilding) that suggests maplike topographical phenomena.

Bark, who for 28 years has been making simple, well-proportioned picture frames for the New York art world, and Oks, an architect by training, used to sit up late talking passionately about mirror- and frame-making. They wanted to make framed mirrors that would exhibit all the finest technical and aesthetic characteristics of the best Venetian and Dutch mirrors of the Renaissance and Baroque periods.

The glass itself had to be of artisanal quality, so they decided to manufacture their own, carefully controlling the solid graphite molds, the components of the material, the temperature of the floating process, and the grinding of the cooled-off product. They experimented with thickness and "meniscus" (the fanlike curvature at a handmade mirror's edge), with cloudiness and clarity, with the "seeds," or bubbles, within the mirror's depths; and they had to reckon with the haunting space, the geometrical reflections within reflections, caused by the bevels they cut along the mirrors' edges. But gradually all these problems were solved, and solved with refined simplicity. Bark New York's mirrors have been a hit with such designers as Peter Joseph, Bill Sofield, and Joyce Ma's architect, Calvin Tsao, all of whom have acquired pieces for installation.

Costing from $1,500 to $4,000, the looking glasses cause you to reflect not yourself but on the nature of reflection. Undulant in appearance, they are solids with the properties of liquids—almost with the properties of life itself.

Bark New York, 85 Grand Street, New York; 212-431-9080. By appointment only. Custom commissions by arrangement.