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Shadowboxing

March 8, 2017 , In: General
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I’ve always been a collector of miniatures, small trinkets, figurines and found objects.  Since a very young age I had the inclination to display my little collections, be it a line of small glass bottles and crystals on the windowsill, or a box full of pretty bugs, my mom was always stumbling across them. 

Nothing has changed about this habit as I have gotten older, except now I have the power to purchase for myself.  However, as an adult collector of tiny things my thoughts turn more to how the collections will be displayed – because what is the good of having all these cool things if I have to leave them packed away?  A shadowbox is one of the most appealing solutions for me! 

Back home I have an antique printer’s drawer, and another shadow box that my uncle made for me in highschool.  However, I didn’t bring either of these decor items when I moved to Tennessee almost 10 years ago.  So I’ve been just piling more and more little things on my altar (by my friend Steve Hicks), but a broad shelf is not the best way to show off lots of tiny things.  In working on this project I have realized there are many different takes on shadowboxes – you can simply have a deep frame with glass protecting a dimensional object or display.  The shadowbox may consist of many layers to create a forced perspective image.  Or, and I’m sure you have guessed this is my preference, tiny compartments to showcase  tiny items.  A shadow box is really ideal for the collector of small things, because you end up with shallow vertical storage, and each little compartment can house a single item, a small collection, or a tiny vignette.  Check out some of the inspiration I’ve collected in my Pinterest board!

Recently I found this neat shadowbox at the thrift store for a few dollars – how could I not?  I brought it home and have been staring at it for the last week.  It already has hangers, ready for the wall, but the compartments are a bit deep and dark.  Because I have so many tiny porcelain animals and other breakable items, I like to make sure they are not placed too close to the edges – I like the depth of these compartments for that, but the amount of shadow was bothering me.  I thought fleetingly about painting the whole thing white…but that would have involved a trip out to buy paint and brushes…then painting and drying, and maybe a second coat…nope. 

I ended up digging through my notebook/collage stash of papers and stickers for some other solution, and decided to cut special papers to fit and stick them in the back of each compartment, like wallpaper!  I measured out a template (the best thing about each compartment being the same size!) and just held it up to each paper to cut. 

At first I had a lot going on – every color, bold images, etc.  But when I started laying the papers in the compartments to arrange them, I found they were too much.  Pretty, but then I wouldn’t want to put something in front of the image.  I ended up weeding down my selection to a variety of large sticker sheets, handmade paper, joss paper, and some of my friend Pat’s marbled scraps.

Other than the few sticker sheets, I used roll on removable tape adhesive to stick the papers in place.  This means if I decide one of papers just isn’t working out I can easily pull it out and replace it with something better.

And here is the filling – a mixture of ceramic and stone animals, pretty things friends have made, bits and pieces from nature – all items that were cluttering up the altar.  My other half screwed some tiny eye screws into the wood of the top row so I can suspend some of my favorite art beads, because so many of them deserve a better fate than waiting in my boxes to be rediscovered.  I’m going to use sticky tack to stick cabs and stones against the back wall of some cubbies, then I can put a second item in that coordinates.  Some of my Art Elements cohorts should recognize things in here!

I think collecting small inspiring items is fairly widespread with us creative types.  Lesley wrote an awesome post recently about many different ways to display your art bead collection, so you can see how some of our members display theirs.  Adding my most special beads in with all of my other delightful debris is second nature – the best thing about letting it all live together in this shadowbox is that I get to see everything I love in one place.  Do you have a special way or place you display your small collections?  We would love to see!

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Lindsay Star

Lindsay Starr is a beadwork and mixed media artist currently based in Nashville, TN. She spent her early childhood in Alaska, and her school age and college years in Oregon. Lindsay has a great appreciation for history, science, and nature and is consistently inspired by insects, sea life, color, and the significance of beads and beadwork throughout human history. She spends her days beading, walking at the zoo, and practicing yoga. Lindsay loves to share her knowledge and passion for beads and beadwork to hobbyists of all skill levels.
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