Written By Dina Haskins
This article originally appeared in ArtTrader Magazine, Winter 2010, Issue 10
One of my favorite art projects is making matchbox shrines. By altering a thirty-two-count matchbox, I can create a personal, portable work of art. These little treasures can be hidden in a drawer or purse, or be used as an ornament by adding a hanger. Matchbox shrines make great gifts and can be personalized to match the recipient. This article will walk you through a sample ornament-style shrine called “Time Traveler.” You can modify these directions to make all kinds of collage-style matchbox shrines.
The first thing you need to do is gather all of your materials and tools. I generally go through my various stashes until something inspires me. The small metal findings that resemble gears did it for me this time. I decided to make a steampunk-themed shrine.
You will need the following tools:
- A clear multi-purpose glue (I like the UHU brand)
- An awl or something similar to make holes
- Eyelet setting tools, scissors
- Black ink pen (such as Micron)
- Small clamps
- Brad fasteners (I used brass for this project)
- Brass or gold colored paint or metallic paint pen
- Clear acrylic spray (optional)
- Papers for collage
- Assorted odds and ends for collage
You will need these specific collage materials to create the “Time Traveler” shrine:
- Clockwork themed scrapbook paper
- A “Time” themed transparency sheet (I used one from the “Narrative” series by Karen Russell)
- Black and green corrugated card stock
- Vintage photos
- Paint chip samples
- An assortment of metal charms, beads and buttons.
Try to stick to a set color scheme. I chose black, browns, dark green, burgundy and brass.
Step 1: Punching Holes
Using the awl, punch two holes in one end of the box and one hole in the opposite end, as shown in the picture. These are for the hanger and the drawer pull.
Step 2: Decorating the Inside of the Box
Cut a piece of the scrapbook paper to fit the bottom of the box. Make it long enough to cover both ends. Glue it in place, and paint all remaining surfaces with the gold or brass paint pen or acrylic paint.
Step 3: Choosing Your Photo
Decide which photo you will use for the centerpiece of your collage. I chose a vintage schoolboy. Cut out the boy’s head, and cut a “helmet” from a paint chip or other paper.
Step 4: Adding Goggles
I found small metal findings which I used for goggles (pictured). You can add a drop of clear glue or diamond glaze the in the center of the goggles to create the appearance of lenses.
Step 5: Collaging, Part I
Glue the boy and a square of the green cardstock on the top of the box, as shown. I use the small clamps to hold things in place until they are dry. This takes about 5 minutes if you are using UHU glue.
Step 6: Collaging, Part II
Cut one of the small clock faces from the transparency sheet. Place the clock face on the green background, as shown. Glue the hand charm, brass fasteners, two beads and a gold button to form his arm.
Step 7: Adding a Hanger
Loop the wire through the two top holes in the drawer. Twist the wire together on the inside as shown, and add a drop of glue to seal the connection.
Step 8: Decorating Inside of the Box
Gather everything for the inside of the box. Cut a piece of the black card stock to fit snugly in the drawer. I also decided to add a small metal stencil and some metal gears and findings. These I attached to the black backing with the brass fasteners and glue. Once everything dries, glue the whole assemblage into the drawer.
Step 9: Drawer Pull
Add a small loop of wire through the single hole for the drawer pull, as shown.
Step 10: Decorate the Back
Cut a clock face from the transparency sheet to fit the back of the outer sleeve. Make the clock hands from bent wire Use one of the brass fasteners to attach the entire piece to the back. If you like, you can spray the shrine with a thin coat of the acrylic spray to seal it.
Finishing the Shrine
Part of the fun of creating these shrines is using found items to create unique art pieces. Now I’ll describe how to make the three charms added to the Time Traveler shrine.
I made this charm (above right) out of a metal jewelry finding that resembled a tiny pocket watch. I drew the face on paper using a .01 Micron pen, cut it out, and glued it in place. The other charm (above right) was made from a small puzzle piece covered with some of the clockwork paper. I added an eyelet and sealed it with the clear glue (gel medium or acrylic sealer would also work). The third charm (see in finished image below) is a spiral shaped metal finding.
To add the charms, you can place all the charms on a short chain, wire, or thread and hang them from the bottom loop. For “Time Traveler,” I used an old luggage tag chain.
I have found inspiration for my shrines in books, songs, fortune cookies, movies, and color schemes. I once made shrines for all of my co-workers as stocking stuffers. They are a cool alternative to a greeting card if mailed in a bubble envelope. Now it’s up to you. How many different ideas can you come up with?