Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Thinking inside the box.

It's been a busy winter.

Our group show "Home to Roost" at the Centre for Craft and Design was/is a success. People really responded to our bird theme. I had a unexpectedly enthusiastic response to my 4' x 14' cut paper instalment Murder in the North End (the show was jam packed with amazing work). I attribute the popularity of this piece to our collective fascination with crows as much as to the artistry.

Flying with the crow theme, I decided to use the motif again for my submissions to Little Gems, a fundraiser for the Centre on June 8. The deadline fast approaching, I, of course, decided to try making something completely outside of my skill set. Why not? And worse. Something requiring math. And accurate measuring. Neither of them my strong points.

Box making is an allied skill often grouped with bookbinding as these boxes are made using book board (a heavy cardboard), along with paper and glue and fabric. They can be exquisite. Or disastrous. I had 3 to make and 4 days to do it. First stop Michaels.

Disclaimer: The urchin did not come from Michaels.

I decided to stamp the crow motifs. After impaling myself with the linoleum cutting tool a few times I decided to cut my images out of that soft foamy rubber stuff. I found a kid's sun visor and used that.

Fun fun fun. I got out my old stamp pads (crusty and dry) and my glitter (every girl should have some on hand) and this stuff that you could use to "emboss" a stamped design. I came perilously close to scrapbooking. Embossing stole my heart. What, by the way, has happened to the rubber stamping craze? As usual, I'm so behind the times I'm almost ahead. In my own mind.

embossing makes everything shiny shiny shiny

I embossed until I had an accident. I needed an embossing intervention.

embossing the floor and my right foot

I also had a minor glitter disaster. Glitter persists like a uranium half life.
 I had some on my face when I went to renegotiate our mortgage.

I identified with those crows who steal shiny things because they shine. Shiny makes me happy. Moving along.

With my papers all embossed with many shiny crows I then set to work acquiring the skill of box making. The first step is to cut out your box sides and lids using directions that read: "Make the left side 6 3/16 inches minus the thickness of your board times 2.5 and then subtract the width of the opposite end blah blah blah fraction blah blah blah". Something like that.

*Cue the sound of wind blowing in one of my ears and out the other ear*

I quickly dumped the imperial measure for metric. Could there be anything more stupefying than "measure 6 and 3/16 inches and subtract 4 and 9/12ths of an inch"? Well, yeah, maybe not for you. For me it feels like I'm swimming through jello.

Despite this handicap I eyeballed my way towards a fairly square book board box:

At least 3 of the corners are right angles. Good 'nuff for me.

I am now going to speed you through the process of making a box. If I haven't already lost you. I just really need for you to see how this is done. It puts me in mind of lace making with bobbins or hand felting or embroidery or counting angels on the head of a pin. It's a craft only for those with the luxury of a lot of time on their hands, such as the idle rich or people with loads of frozen dinners.

So, here we go. Whee!

Measure out your paper. Cut it. Roll the box over it to measure how much you'll need. Brush the box sides with glue and roll it over the paper like a jellyroll until all 4 sides are papered. If you've measured properly it should be completely covered with paper. IF.

Burnish burnish burnish with a bone folder to get bubbles out. You may now exhale if the paper was indeed long enough to fit around it.

breathe breathe

Mitre the corners for the bottom

Paste'em and fold them under. Burnish burnish breathe breathe

Take this big old funnel of paper and cut down the sides. All that paper is going to fold into the box and become the lining. Theoretically.

Exhale. Hope it's going to work. Paste the flaps and fold them down into the box.

Holy Crow. It worked.
Glue up and add the embossed crow frieze. Put it on. Then remind yourself that the next time you should measure where it goes first. Or not. You're clearly gifted.

Cut a lid and paste paper onto it. At this point you can have an alcoholic beverage as the worst is over.

Get all fancy- pantsy- I'm-a-natural and make a smaller panel to fit inside the top for extra snugness.

Or smugness.

Paste a panel on the bottom to finish it.

Put the top panel into the press to dry a bit.

Make a panel to fit inside the interior bottom of the box. Put a bird on it because you can.

Paint up some wee feet for your fey little box.

Glue them on to the base and one on the top...

And low and behold. An actual box. With a lid. And it opens. And it doesn't fall over or list to the side. It's a box!
And I am a GENIUS.

In fact, I managed to replicate the task twice over and made 2 more boxes for Little Gems. They all stand up and are somewhat square and true.

3 wee twee boxes.

they actually open and close!

Is that "caw" with a "c" or a "k"?
I do hope I'm not sued by the canadian auto workers.
That box will hold a number of these cutesy little crow cards.

All of these boxes are available for the amazingly low price of $40 if you come to 
and have your number drawn in time to grab one before they fly away!

As a reward for the 3 of you who endured the vicarious stress (and boredom) of the box-making experience here is a short video of waves at our back beach. It's been an exceptionally calm ocean this week but for some reason these rollers have been coming in strong n' steady. 
They will calm your frazzled boxed-in spirit.


  1. those are so lovely, thanks for the vicarious crafty experience, all the fun and no sweating or swearing or glue stuck in odd places, I like it.