First, I’ll explore many shadow box ideas that turn a simple box into a treasury of tales. Whether you’re a vintage lover, travel enthusiast, or family historian, there’s a shadowbox theme to match every narrative.
Then I’ll walk through a tutorial on crafting your shadow box using the beautiful vintage images from Pictureboxblue. You’ll have a stunning shadowbox and a new love for this versatile craft by this end.
The Captivating World of Shadow Boxes
So, what is a shadow box? Simply put, it’s a framed box, often enclosed with a glass front, designed to display and preserve three-dimensional objects. These objects can be anything that sparks joy or holds sentimental value. The list is endless, from old tickets, postcards, and family photos to miniature artefacts, trinkets, and even a feather or seashell you’ve collected.
The Inspiration: Joseph Cornell
My interest in shadow boxes sparked after a visit to a Joseph Cornell exhibition in London. Known for his intricate shadow boxes filled with trinkets, prints, and photographs, Cornell’s skill in turning ordinary objects into realms of mystery and nostalgia was truly inspiring.
His work, dubbed Cornell Boxes, encapsulated memories, dreams, and surreal landscapes within a box, driving me to experiment with shadow box crafting and capture similar depth and emotion in my pieces.
Diverse Shadow Box Ideas
The beauty of shadow boxes lies in their limitless themes. You can create displays that showcase your hobbies, personal milestones, or anything that resonates with you. The choices are endless, from travel mementoes to gardening memories, vintage themes, or personalised ‘Memory Boxes’.
Shadowboxes also make meaningful gifts, encapsulating moments like wedding anniversaries or a baby’s first year. Each box tells a unique story, deeply personal to the creator.
After this list, Inspired by Cornell’s magical world, let’s embark on a shadowbox crafting journey.
Creating Your Personal Shadow Box Joseph Cornell Style
You’ll first need a few materials, which can easily be found around the house or at your local craft store. Choose a theme that resonates with you and start arranging your objects within the box. I’ll guide you through the entire process, ensuring you have a splendid time crafting your shadowbox.
What you need
- Cardboard packaging for the shadow box frame. You can also buy ready-made boxes at craft stores.
- Old newspapers or books for decoupage
- Decoupage glue and glue dots
- Assortment of knick-knacks and old junk such as keys, shells, feathers, postage stamps and cotton reels. Just hunt around your home or local thrift store and see what you can find to fit the theme of your shadow box.
- Paper cutting knife and mat.
Using Vintage Images & Maps
To add a touch of nostalgia to your shadow box, we’ll incorporate some vintage images. You’ll find a treasure trove of vintage graphics on Pictureboxblue, perfect for adding that old-world charm. Whether you choose an old map, a vintage postcard, or an antique photograph, these images will undoubtedly enrich your shadowbox.
Making The Frame
Step 1: I wanted the shadow box split into four compartments, creating mini rooms for my cherished curios. For this, cut pieces of cardboard to fit and glued them in place.
Step 2: I decoupaged the inside with an old newspaper to add the vintage Joseph Cornell vibe to the shadow box. You can use old books as well for the decoupage.
If you don’t have any old ones, it’s possible to age them by brushing the paper with tea once it’s been decoupaged.
Decorating the Shadow Box
My shadow box’s theme was four places special to me, one for each compartment.
The first one begins in Hong Kong, my birth and childhood city. A vibrant fusion of Eastern and Western influences, the city has shaped my identity more profoundly than a good cup of Hong Kong milk tea.
Next up is the city of London. Not far from my current home and my favourite city to explore. I visit it most weeks and have yet to tire of the place; I love the history and energy of the city.
The next compartment is an ode to Tavira, Portugal, a charming location where my parents chose to settle. We gather there every summer for a sun-kissed family vacation. Amidst its historical ruins and pristine beaches, Tavira offers a pace of life that’s refreshingly unhurried.
The last space on the box focuses on the stunning landscapes of Norway. Home to my in-laws and the most breathtaking fjords you’ll ever see, Norway’s beauty is the icing on the cake of this shadowbox journey.
Step 3: To start the decoration of each compartment, I stuck a vintage map to the back of each section. The maps were cut from an old map calendar or printed from the vast collection of vintage maps on the site.
Step 4: I found old postage stamps for some destinations and used them to decorate the compartments.
Step 5: I used other images to decorate the compartments; these included a sulphur-crested cockatoo, a bird common to Hong Kong: other vintage birds and some entomology illustrations. To prepare the images for the shadow box, I first printed them onto watercolour paper. Then I stuck the printed form to cardstock before cutting out the images carefully with a craft knife.
Finishing the Shadow Box
Step 6: Play around with the placement of your objects and images before fixing them permanently to the shadow box. I stuck the cardboard-reinforced pictures to the frame with paper glue. For the 3-D objects, I used glue dots.
My completed shadow box is a cherished tribute to the places I hold dear. Nestled on the mantlepiece of my travel-inspired home office, it never fails to spark a conversation whenever guests stumble upon it.
Now, the question remains, which destinations would feature in your shadow box? Or perhaps one of the other shadow box ideas from the previous list has caught your fancy? The world (or box, in this case) is your oyster!
Other Related Ideas
The thematic possibilities are practically endless with the vast array of shadow box ideas.
Joseph Cornell, for instance, employed a vibrant parrot theme in one of his boxes, similar to the vintage images I used for my parrot decor cloche.
Consider expanding the circus diorama on Pictureboxblue with a wealth of vintage circus images for a lively and engaging shadow box. Many Index of American Design images would be great for a shadow box.
And for those familiar with the site, you know how popular vintage Japanese images are. I’m personally drawn to the idea of a Japanese-themed shadow box. As I’m headed to Japan this year, I’ll be hunting for some unique trinkets to incorporate into my creation.