Antique Shadowbox Collage


If you’re strapped for cash (or just want to be a little smarter about how you spend your money) but your creative juices are flowing, take a cue from these craft projects of the past!


Last week while at an antique store on the opposite side of town, my friend and I spotted a collection of shadow box collages.

The oldest of these (bottom right) dates back to the 1920s; the newest (top right), to the late 1930s.

Shadow box art can be a pretty common find inside thrift stores and antique malls, but to me, two things really set this collection apart from others that I’ve seen in those types of places:

  1. Aside from simply arranging a bunch of found objects in an aesthetically pleasing manner, the artist who created these chose to focus the subject manner on calling attention to the style and fashion of the time period in which they were created.
  2. These pieces perfectly reflect the time period in which they were created, and show the shift in style from the 1920s through the 1940s.

IMG_1024Historically, shadow boxes have been used by military sailors (if you’re interested in learning a little more, you can find a short article on their military background here), however they have also been used for artistic purposes.  The work of American modern artist Joseph Cornell (1903-1972) is one such example.

To create the shadow boxes shown here, the artist would have begun by either drawing the form of a woman freehand, or by cutting one out from a photo, magazine, or other publication.  The image would then be adhered to a dark piece of paper and embellished with decorative elements (lace, fabric, feathers, hair, beads, etc.).

IMG_1027One of the best things about a project like this is that it can be created using found materials: fabric scraps, old clothing or hair accessories, dried flowers, magazines…you name it!

The next time you’re jones-ing for a short-term project but don’t want to shell out all of your hard earned cash, look to people of the past for inspiration.  With a little creativity, a few found items, and maybe a trip to your local dollar store (if you don’t have glue, construction paper or empty frames on hand) it’s totally possible to create a beautiful piece of wall art to decorate your home.

Of course, maybe if you’re lucky, you can also hunt down some fabulous antique artwork of your own!


Sorry, right click has been disabled here.