I’ve been shadow-boxing a lot lately.  No, not in the literal sense of throwing punches and imaginary sparring…(although my arms do need a little toning), but I have taken a “jab” at getting something up on a few of my blank walls by using shadow box frames.  Shadow boxes are a great way to display cherished mementos, souvenirs and personal treasures as an object of art.  

I can’t really call myself a “scrapbooker”…as much as I love journals, handmade books and scrapbooks…I have yet to complete a single scrapbook of anything. Believe me, I have lots of $$$ worth of scrapbooking materials, kits, and embellishments. I have boxes and boxes of photos and all the little mementos and keepsakes that I would like to preserve in a scrapbook.  What I don’t have is the time to actually sit down and work on the pages.  That’s why I love shadow boxes.  It’s like a three dimensional scrapbook page that I can see every day.  I don’t have to find an album or open a box or take something off a bookshelf in order to enjoy a glimpse of a happy memory, a trip, or a collection of objects.  And they’re relatively quick and easy to do.  

My wedding shadow box created by my friend, Allison Miller.
It all started with my first introduction to a shadow box….a wedding gift from our dear friend, Allison.  I’ve known Allison since high school and she was always really creative and crafty.  When I saw her gift, it brought tears to my eyes.  She had framed our wedding invitation in a shadow box using the same handmade papers and embellishments from our invitation ensemble and the tropical/Asian theme of our wedding.  I’m always making things for others….this was the first time someone had made something for me.  It was so thoughtful and beautifully done.  Instead of just putting my invitation in an album, I have it on display and look at it every day.

Allison’s gift inspired me to create some shadow boxes of my own…so I’ve dabbled here and there with a few to decorate our walls.  I love how much of my family’s personalities, interests/activities and events can be expressed in such a such a simple way…it’s like a memory at a glance.

An arrowhead replica that Aaron picked up as a souvenir back in high school.

This was a keepsake kit from my mother-in-law.  I didn’t get around to actually doing the hand/foot imprints until Mason was 9 months, hence the number “9”.

Keepsake kit from Allison.  To remain consistent with Mason’s (since they’re displayed in the same hallway), I waited until Isaac was 9 months old to do his foot imprint.

Shadow box in Mason’s “vintage transportation” themed room.

These vintage, hand-painted glass slides from the early 1900s…depicting tall ships and locomotives…were a gift from my friend, Tiffany Heon, who is an interior designer and antiques collector.  The slides were projected as images for educational purposes, similar to the Magic Lantern projectors (used in schools and nurseries) of the 18th century.
The other shadow box in Mason’s room, using the same type of shadow box frame, contains his ID band and knit cap from the hospital, one of his tiniest onesies, and both versions of his birth announcement.

Shadow boxes in Isaac’s “vintage circus” themed room.
My sister, Julie, bought these vintage circus animal figurines for Isaac’s room on ebay.  I found a bunch of really old circus poster images online and printed mini versions to display with the circus animals.
They’re growing so fast, but they’ll always be my babies.  I love seeing the tiny onesie / teeny knit cap and remembering how little they were.  I have both versions of Isaac’s birth announcement on display here as well.
Proud accomplishment: completing two marathons!  Here are our bib numbers, finishers medals, times/stats, and some photos from our races.  I’m working on a shadow box with a couple of Mason’s medals/bib numbers from some kids’ runs he did when he was just a toddler!
This is a shadow box that I found at Marshall’s on clearance for $8.
I changed the background by using some embossed metallic gold paper and put a slight buff glaze over the white frame  so it’s more of a cream (hard to tell from the previous pic, but it was actually a bright white before).  I have this one near my vanity in my bathroom, to hold all my hair decorations:  the white orchid I wore at my wedding;  the chartreuse feather comb I wore for my New Year’s card photo shoot with Lot116 Photography; the hot pink flower I wore in my boudoir shoot with Desiree Hayes Photography; and the little butterfly pins, I’ve had forever….I collected them during my “butterfly/dragonfly” phase of the late 90’s and use to wear them when I had a very short hair-do.

You can put almost anything in a shadow box and it makes the most interesting display.  Use them to exhibit your family treasures, a collection of shells from a day at the beach, leaves or rocks from a hike.  Everything looks better framed…and a shadow box provides a concise, neat way to hold things that might otherwise be thrown into a box and forgotten for years.  I love the idea of putting old skeleton keys, small vintage spice jars, antique silverware, etc.  in a shadow box to decorate a space in the kitchen.  And it’s all the more meaningful and sentimental if the display is of something you have been collecting for years, or has been passed down in your family from generation to generation….certainly a reason to showcase it in your home.

For more inspiration on shadow-boxing….you must see the work of Darcy Miller, Martha Stewart Weddings Editorial Director.  She was featured on Martha’s show and magazine in February and had her own gallery showing called “Family”.  Her collection of personal shadow boxes or scrap boxes is wonderful!  I love her creative approach at displaying her families memories….from important events and milestones…to the simple, day-to-day occurrences in the lives of her children.  She captures moments in childhood that we can all relate to….a favorite, well-worn storybook, a lock of hair from a first haircut, old crayons from budding artistic moments.  Here are some of my favorite Darcy Miller shadow box ideas:


  1. EITAKdesign says:

    Most of the shadow boxes I did use tiny pins or push pins because the lining covers a foam or cork backing. I have the ones with the little pearl at the end. For the glass slides, because of their delicate nature, I made photo corners out of ribbon as well as used the pins to secure it. For the larger, heavier items (such as the silverware) you can use a heavy duty adhesive, foam adhesive squares, museum wax/tack, or glue sticks/gun. If the backing is fabric covered, you can actually sew with thin thread or clear fishing line to attach it to the backing.

  2. Tina says:

    Hey Katie…sooo how do you secure the items to the back drop so that when you stand them up they don't move? Probably a stupid question but I don't know.