There is something thrilling about taking items meant for the recycling bin and turning them into a work of art. Recently our recycling company changed its policies, and we can no longer recycle cardboard that is not corrugated. While this was initially frustrating, I soon saw it as an opportunity. Cardboard is perfect for building shrines. I love projects like these, as I typically have the items on hand, and the finished piece often keeps the viewer guessing as to what it’s made of. These artful shrines are truly the perfect place to nestle items that have special meaning.
- Craft knife
- Metal-edge ruler
- Bone folder
- Masking tape
- Acrylic paint (I use Golden® Artist Colors or Liquitex® in white and off-white.)
- Dust mask and gloves
- Plaster wrap
- Non-stick craft mat
- Cookie sheet
- Bowl with water
- Paintbrush, flat (I used a ½″ paintbrush.)
- Fabric, 3 different weights in neutral tones (I used one lightweight, one medium weight, and felt.)
- TIP: Use scraps from your stash. I used neutral tones, but create your own look.
- Crochet or heavyweight thread
- Embroidery needle
- Ephemera, including vintage papers
- Fabric and paper adhesive (I used Beacon Adhesives™ Fabri-Tac® and Aleene’s® Tacky Glue®.)
- Buttons, 3 small
- Beaded trim
- Crochet trim, a few inches
- Book text
- Colored pencil (I used a Prismacolor® Premier® colored pencil in Dark Umber.)
- Watercolor crayon (I used a Caran d’Ache® Neocolor® II water-soluble crayon.)
- 20-gauge wire
- Wire cutters
- Aggressive adhesive (plaster safe), such as E6000®
- Sewing machine and thread
Create the shrine bases
1. Cut one 5″ x 7″ piece of cardboard and two 4½″ x 5½″ pieces. These sizes allow ample room for folding.
2. Measure and mark 1″ in from the edge along the length of all sides of the large piece of cardboard and draw lines. (FIGURE 1) Repeat for the 2 smaller pieces of cardboard. Mark and cut a 1″ square out of each corner of all 3 pieces.
3. Score the cardboard on the drawn lines with a bone folder. Fold in all 4 sides and tape the corners with masking tape to create 3 boxes. If the cardboard is thin, reinforce the corners with tape on the inside as well. (FIGURE 2)
4. Cut 3 more pieces of cardboard for the center canvases: Two small 1½″ x 2¼″ pieces and one larger 2″ x 3½″ piece. (FIGURE 3)
NOTE: If the cardboard is multi-colored or a dark color, apply a coat of white acrylic paint prior to adding the plaster, and allow to dry thoroughly.
Wrap and paint the boxes
NOTE: Wearing gloves and a dust mask is advised when working with the dry plaster wrap.
1. Wearing a dust mask and gloves, cut the plaster wrap into various lengths using scissors. The number of strips you need will depend on the size of the box and the type of plaster strips you use. It’s best to cut some extra strips. You may need to reinforce the corners and other areas.
2. Place the boxes on a non-stick surface. I used a non-stick craft mat on a cookie sheet, which helped to keep the work flat. Working quickly, dip a strip of plaster wrap into the water. Do not saturate the strips, as this will release too much of the plaster. Apply the strip to the box, starting on the back of the box and overlapping the strips. Smooth the strip in place with wet fingers, and continue to add strips until the box is completely covered and smooth. If it is not smooth, the plaster won’t permeate the open spots in the gauze and will come undone.
Cover the small boxes and the 3 canvases with plaster wrap in the same manner. (FIGURE 4) Set the pieces aside in a warm, safe place to dry. Turn them every few hours to ensure all surfaces dry adequately. Drying time depends on weather. Allow a minimum of 24 hours.
TIP: Use a wet bone folder to smooth the boxes inside and out, paying extra attention to the corners.
3. Paint all of the boxes and canvases with one coat of white paint. Let dry. Add a second coat of paint. I used off-white for the second coat. Adding a second coat allows spots that may not have filled in with plaster to become neutral. Allow to air dry.
Create the layers
1. Cut 4 pieces from the medium-weight fabric: one 3¼″ x 4″ piece, two 1″ x 2″ pieces, and one 1½″ x 3″ piece. In addition, cut two ½″ squares and one 1¼″ x 2¼″ piece from the lightweight fabric.
2. Cut 1 large freehand heart from the medium-weight fabric to fit on top of the large fabric rectangle, and cut 1 smaller heart from felt to fit on top of the fabric heart.
3. Hand stitch a running stitch around the perimeter of the 2 small and 1 large medium-weight fabric rectangles, using crochet thread and an embroidery needle. (FIGURE 5) Allow the thread tails to show to add texture and movement to the pieces.
4. Add vintage paper or other ephemera and the fabric pieces prepared in step 3 to the center back of the boxes, using paper-safe adhesive. Glue the plaster canvases on top of the prepared backgrounds in each of the shrines with Tacky Glue, being sure to center the canvases in the boxes. (FIGURE 6)
1. Place a lightweight fabric square on top of one of the remaining small fabric rectangles and, using crochet thread and an embroidery needle, stitch a button to the center of the square, going through both fabric layers. (FIGURE 7) Adhere the fabric rectangle to one of the small plaster canvases with Fabri-Tac or paper-safe glue. Repeat for the remaining small canvas.
2. Use a sewing machine or a needle and thread to stitch the remaining swatch of lightweight fabric on top of the remaining rectangle. Glue the beaded trim to the top center of the rectangle. Allow the glue to dry before moving on to the next layer.
3. Lay the felt heart on top of the fabric heart. Create a cross-stitch in the center of the hearts using crochet thread and embroidery needle, attaching the 2 hearts. Glue the layered hearts to the lightweight fabric prepared in step 2, being sure the trim piece is centered over the heart. (FIGURE 8) Add embellishments to the bottom of the rectangle. I glued a piece of crochet trim and stitched a button in the center. (SEE OPENING IMAGE.)
4. Add book text to the bottom center of the two small shrines. I added “love” and “grace.” Complete the layering with a small scrap of crochet trim, adding it to the bottom of each canvas. Glue the 3 boxes together using E6000, placing the large box in the center. Allow to dry.
5. Add shading around all of the edges of the shrines, inside and out, with colored pencils and watercolor crayons. I used shades of brown.
6. Cut 3″ of wire with the wire cutters, and create a loop, twisting the wire where the ends meet. Trim the wire ends and glue the loop to the center on the back of the shrine with E6000. Cover the bottom of the loop with a scrap of fabric to protect the hanging surface. (FIGURE 9)
This project can be altered to fit any artistic style or color palette. Bits and baubles you already have can be used along with collage created with paper scraps, layers of fabric, or even cardboard in its natural state. This medium lends itself to all creative voices. Allow yourself to think outside the box, being sure not to overlook anything that could become part of your personal shrine.
Kristen Robinson is a mixed-media artist, teacher, and the author of Explore Mixed Media Collage, Making Etched Metal Jewelry, and Tales of Adornment, all with North Light Books. She has an array of DVDs and online classes available from Interweave. To read more about Kristen’s art and life, visit her on Instagram: @kristenarobinson.
This Paperology article also appears in our Fall 2018 edition of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine.