Saturday, May 26, 2012

DIY: Shadow Box Memories

My shadow boxes full of photos of my grandmother Marilyn, her friends and family with the ceramic paper doll dresses I created.
Ya'll might remember these ceramic doll dresses I created while back. Looking at old family photos, I based the design of the dresses on clothing that my maternal grandmother wore in the early 1950's. The dresses were modeled on a vintage paper doll from my kinda-too-big collection, and glazed and fired in colors popular during that era.
The first shadow box I worked on, without the glass top. The reflection of the glass was a pinch too difficult to deal with when snapping photos.
And while I was pretty excited by the result of most of the dresses (I hate that glaze sometimes does the ugly and unexpected), I was then stuck with "okay, now what?" syndrome. I had some thoughts rolling around in my head but each seemed to take away from the idea behind the dresses: my grandmother.
I have a very limited number of photos of my grandma. In family, pictures of her are like gold. She was/is very much loved.
When an art teacher buddy suggested I use shadow boxes, it was like a slap-to-the-forehead-why-didn't-I-think-of-that moment. I rushed out to a craft shop and scooped up these vintage-y looking boxes along with a die cutter that created the labels and a super fine-tipped marker.
Because my grandmother has since past, taking with her many memories, I had to rely on what was written on the back of the photo for my information.
Putting these boxes together proved to be difficult for me as I have just a slight problem with showing restraint (see any outfit post and you'll see what I mean). Working in collage for me is more of a matter of subtraction rather than addition. What didn't make the cut: vintage stamps, buttons and an old letter. With everything competing for attention, my grandmother and her dresses seemed to get a little lost.
I love this buttery yellow glaze. Satin glaze by Duncan is my favorite.
So I decided to use vintage variegated linen for the background which I adhered to the masonite board with 3M Spray Adhesive (the best spray adhesive there is).  I had some of these vintage photo corners and glued the photos to the background with my hot glue gun.
In true can't-leave-well-enough-alone fashion, I immediately added another photo to this box after snapping these picks. I filled that blank area on the bottom left with another photo of my grandma.
To add some three-dimensional quality to the photos, I used 3M double sided sticky tape to lift the photos up a bit. It's hard to tell in these photos but in real life, you can see that some photos pop out.
My grandma was a majorette. Sadly, I don't have many photos of her in her outfit, but plenty of her friends, as seen above.
The last thing added to the frame were the dresses. I used that stinky but very sticky E-6000 glue. You might remember that I've actually got more dresses created than just these, like a prom dress and one that looks suited for a debutante's ball, but I thought these worked the best.
Love that curly hair and strong calf muscle.
And that was it. I'm pretty excited with how they turned out. Right now they are being hung in my school district's central office along with the incredible pieces created by the art teachers that I work with. If I manage to get over there, I'll have to snap a couple photos and share it with you.
My grandmother with her siblings. My grandma is the one in the suit, second from the right.

My mom noticed how my grandmother was standing: no hands on her hips or pose, but arms by her sides and feet planted, looking strong and determined.

My only regret...not having a paper doll that looked a little more like my grandma. I made color copies of the original paper doll so I would have multiples and not damage the original.

My grandma's high school graduation photo.
I really can't wait to get them home. I have yet to decide where I'll hang them...maybe in my very crowded sewing room or my rather bare bonus room. Regardless, I know I want to create more dedicated to my grandma and other wonderful women in my life. Thank you so much for your suggestions and encouragement on the first installment of this project. They motivated and inspired me to complete these pieces!


  1. These are just amazing- the absolute perfect use of your outfits. I love them.

  2. Your shadowboxes are really great! So creative!

    1. Thank you, Susan, they were so much fun to create.

  3. Omw. This is the cutest. I would TOTALLY buy something like this if I saw it whilst out and about. Seriously, the sweetest thing ever.

  4. This is utterly brilliant! I love how you have brought the clothing to life in such a unique and creative way.

    Just discovered your blog! It is so fantastic and inspirational!


  5. I saw your boxes on little red squirrel.
    What a sensitive way to display family treasures. Beautiful.
    Thanks for sharing.


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