My Art: Handmade Boxes

Over the past month-and-a-half, I’ve been taking one of the most exciting studio classes of my college career so far: Bookmaking. We did indeed learn to actually sew books. Although, today I’m going to spotlight the equally thrilling paste-paper covered boxes we made at the same time.

Above you can see the fruits of my labor in all their glory. Allow me to explain them to you. Each piece starts with a cardboard under skeleton. I measured and cut all the cardboard for everything you see here. The cardboard used is a special kind with a denser quality than regular corrugated cardboard. (If you’re interested in exactly what kind of board I used, click here.)

Starting in the bottom left hand corner of the photo, the stack of green and yellow covered prisms are bookweights. “Bookweight” is a gloriously fancy term for a cardboard box filled with 4 rolls of pennies and covered with a lid. They are remarkably useful for holding pieces together while waiting for glue to dry. The escapade of obtaining those pennies was hilarious. You’d be surprised how hard is actually is to get your hands on $8 worth of pennies in rolls. You’d think they were solid gold the way no one wants to give them up. I went on a hunt for them with two other girls from my class and at one of the banks we visited, the teller informed us she wasn’t allowed to give away that many rolls of pennies without her manager’s permission. Since he was on the phone and we were late for class, we decided to just leave empty handed with nothing but tired, exasperated faces for our trouble. Wal-Mart was the friendliest place we found in our search, but they would not exchange pennies for all of us, because they understandably needed to keep some for the registers. The banks had no excuse, though. In the end, I collected half of my needed pennies from my brother’s change box and my own penny collection. The rest were a gift from Wal-Mart. Anyway….

Moving clockwise in the photograph, we next come to the deep red clamshell box. It is exactly the same kind of box as the black and green one in the foreground. I found the clamshell boxes to be difficult to get right, so that is why I’ve made two. :) A little practice never hurt anyone! The clamshells are meant to be protective cases for special books. I haven’t finished the matching books yet, but they are in the works. The book for the red case is going to have oyster colored resume paper for the interior pages. (I found an old box of it in my stash, so it’s rather like recycling!) Here’s an inside view of the red clamshell.

Up next are the Japanese boxes. These are crafted in a special way. Each side piece is laid end to end on the pastepaper and covered. The button and string are sewn on next. Then the box gets folded up and the right and left sides are covered and glued in separately. Getting those final sides just right is tricky, so I’ve made four of these to make sure I could master it. :) Here are some closeups of the Japanese Boxes:

The large blue and yellow Japanese box is a 5 sided box and has two lids. It looks so neat when opened:

The final collection of boxes in the top photo are basic lidded containers. They are covered in paste paper inside and out. These are constructed completely different than the Japanese boxes. The cardboard skeleton is assembled first, 4 sides and bottom all glued together in box shape. Then, it gets covered in paper through a series of intricate snips and cuts. They are still easier than the Japanese boxes, though!

As for the pastepaper, it started life as regular sketchbook paper from those large drawing pads (if you’re an artist, you probably still have one of those Strathmore pads around somewhere!). By applying a mixture of acrylic paint and gel painting medium, the paper becomes something special. The designs are created by swirling afro picks, combs, plastic forks and plastic milk jug templates through the wet paint. The dual color effect is achieved by painting the paper a single color first and allowing it to dry before creating the design over it in a contrasting color.

So, I hope this is some kind of explanation for my absence of late. It is tremendous fun, and I foresee myself making books and boxes for eternity! And if you enjoyed this peek into the art in my life, remember to stay tuned for the handmade book unveiling. :D


Filed under My Art, School

12 responses to “My Art: Handmade Boxes

  1. Jen

    These are so gorgeous!! I would love to learn to make these, they would make such pretty gifts…

  2. Very cool! I very much like the Japanese boxes.

  3. wow these are unbelievable! how neat that you actually made them from scratch!

  4. Thanks so much guys!

    Jen– All in all, creating them is not hard. You just need a little patience. The wonderful aspect of them is how the sizes can be adjusted to fit specific items.
    Raquelle– The Japanese boxes are a favorite of mine, too. :)
    Kate– Creating them from scratch truly is the fun part. :) Start out with some little pieces of cardboard and paper, and you end up with a stunning box!

  5. Those are beautiful, Casey! I’ve done covering of boxes before, but not actually making from scratch like that…very neat. Can’t wait for your next installment on bookbinding…somethings I’ve always wanted to try! Happy Day, my friend ((HUGS))

  6. wow! These are great. Is it the start of a new trend (or at least a new word) – boxbinding? xx

  7. Thanks, Tracy! I’ve covered boxes before, too, but these methods are so much more professional than my usual one. :) I’m hoping to have the bookbinding post up soon. I’m getting pretty good at it – I just made a book the other night and it only took me about 3 hours!

    Hi Louise! Thanks for stopping by! Boxbinding is a terrific term. I think I’ll say that now instead of “making boxes.” :) I hope Boxbinding is a new trend – it’s an amazing technique!

  8. I love all kinds of artistic boxes and yours look wonderful, congratulations!!

  9. Casey these are absolutely gorgeous! Im learning to make boxes myself and can only hope my skills will get there as yours obviously have. Would love to know where to take a class since teaching myself via booklet is painstaking and slow. Also, love this site design and photography – any tips on who to contact should I decide to re-do my site? Keep up the great work! Looking forward to your next endeavor!

  10. Tany– Thanks so much! Boxes are a great favorite of mine, too. I have tons of them everywhere with little treasures inside. :)

    Connie Hi! Thanks so much for visiting my blog and for your kind words. I’m so happy you like the boxes. I’m gathering up some information about bookmaking for you and will be emailing you soon. I’ll also include some links for my favorite web designers. Talk to you soon,


  11. I’m officially in love with your Japanese boxes! Can I run into the sunset with them?

  12. Ha! :) Sure, get the suitcases packed! The happy ending is yours. :)

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