Feb 212011

My father, who used to be the plant supervisor for a company that manufactured holiday tree stands, was accustomed to dealing with procrastination. “I’ll get around to it,” someone would tell him. His response was to reach into his desk drawer and hand that person a red wooden checker, embossed with the phrase, ROUND TO IT. “There you go,” he’d say. “Now you have one, and now you can get the job done.”

Obviously, I needed a ROUND TO IT back in September 2009, when I asked readers to modify a tin, following the rules of the Convert-a-Tin Challenge, and share their results. I’m afraid I procrastinated . . . and so did everyone else.

Let’s try this again, and make it easy. Modify any kind of tin container you prefer (cookie, candy, coffee, whatever). You can embellish the tin, connect it to something else, make it larger (or smaller), use part of it, substitute it for something else . . . in other words, do whatever you want. Just make sure your end product is different than your beginning product. Then, photograph your results, and come back to this post. Add your link to your photo to the comments in this post by April 30, 2011.

Meanwhile, here is my embellished box, an Altoids® candy tin that has been converted to a little treasure box for flash drive storage or postage stamps. The quote on the inside, by Anaïs Nin, suggests that this converted tin is a gift for a writer. “The role of a writer,” she clarifies, “is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say.”

Here  are the steps I followed to embellish the box.

1. Identify the tin container you will modify.

2. Gather decorating supplies: papers, trims, and ephemera.

3. Rough up the bottom and top of the tin with sandpaper to make it easier for adhesive to stick.

4. Trace the bottom half of the tin 3 times onto card stock, and cut out the pieces. One piece fits inside the lid, the other fits the outside box bottom, and the third fits the inside bottom (although you will have to trim it slightly). Use tape runner adhesive to stick the paper to the inside of the box, and Golden® Gel Medium (you could also use Mod Podge®) to adhere paper to the outside of the box. On the outside, sand off any paper extending beyond the box edges.

5. Measure the interior height of the box bottom, and cut a strip of card stock (you could also use fashion trim) to fit inside the box. Use tape runner adhesive to stick the paper to the inside edge of the tin.

6. Measure the exterior height of the box bottom, as well as the height of the lid, and cut 2 lengths of card stock and/or fashion trim to fit the outside edges. Use your choice of adhesive to stick these items to the edges. Depending on what I’m working with, I like to use a tape runner adhesive, Golden® Gel Medium, or Scotch® Quick-Dry Tacky Adhesive.

7. Trace the box lid onto card stock, and cut it out.  Adhere the card stock onto the lid with Golden® Gel Medium (you can also use Mod Podge®). On the outside, sand off any paper that extends beyond the lid.

8. Finally, embellish the inside and outside of the box.

How did I make the 3-D  flower on the lid? I crafted the blossom using McGill® Paper Blossoms punches, craft molding mat, tweezers and stylus. Then I shaped, pinched, bent, cupped and assembled the pieces. You can visit McGill®’s site here to learn about all of their tools, or click on the photo below.


McGill® Paper Blossoms Tools

The McGill® Paper Blossoms video below provides step-by-step instructions.

Are you participating in the Convert-a-Tin Challenge? Add a link to your photo in the comments below.

© 2011 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Oct 072009

Okay. Confession time. I love boxes. Whether they’re made of wood, metal, corrugated cardboard, paper, fabric, clay, glass, or pretty much anything else, I want to look at them. Touch them. Walk around them. Walk inside them. Climb on top of them. Put things inside them. Modify them. And I want to make them, too.

While many people salivate over the idea of a Caribbean cruise, I’d rather muck about in museums, looking at box collections. Since I’m not likely to convince my husband this is how we should spend our next vacation, I will have to be satisfied with viewing online box tutorials, admiring boxes created by Etsy sellers, and visiting virtual galleries such as Tony Hyman’s cigar box collection in the National Cigar Museum, the Lunch Box Museum in Columbus, Georgia, or the Porter Music Box Museum in Randolph, Vermont. Of course, no true box lover travels alone, so I hope you’ll accompany me on my box tour.

We’ll begin in my sewing room, where I have stored sewing notions in simple paper boxes, folded Origami-style. I found the instructions for these boxes in a book called Origami Boxes: For Gifts, Treasures & Trifles, by Alexandra Dirk.

Since we’re already in Iowa, we’ll drive about 45 minutes north to visit Brett of VanFleetStreetDesign, who specializes in creating boxes called nichos, which are objects of Latino folk art. “Nichos are made from mixed media and traditionally combine elements from Roman Catholicism, mestizo spirituality, and other cultural items of significance to the owner such as skeletons, small photos and the like,” explains Brett. “It is common to see decorative boxes called ‘nichos’ set upon tables and pedestals to display icons. These boxes may serve as a religious altar (to mark a significant religious event) or to honor a patron saint or to house calaveras (skeletons) of special significance for Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead).”

(Day of the Dead Shadow Box)


After visiting Brett, it’s time to hit I-80 East to visit Zuda of ZudaGay in Illinois. Zuda makes all of her own cardboard shipping boxes for the beautiful polymer clay flowers she creates. Her pattern can be adapted for boxes of all sizes.


Box Tutorial, by ZudaGay

Our box tour takes us north, after visiting Zuda, to the Wisconsin Dells, where another polymer clay artist, Berit of ClayCenter, makes “canes” and clay-covered tin boxes, among other items. Berit explains that her work reflects the millefiori tradition, a technique used by Venetian glass blowers that has been adapted for polymer clay. Millefiori means “one thousand flowers,” and floral influences are evident in Berit’s work.

We travel to the Eastern part of the U.S. next, on our journey to find beautiful and interesting boxes. In Massachusetts we discover photographer Beth of BethPeardonProds, whose love of the sea is reflected in her photos. Since I lived on the West coast for more than a dozen years, I can relate to the feelings she evokes in her shadow box that includes sea shells and one of her sandscape photos.

From Massachusetts it’s a relatively short drive to Pennsylvania, where we meet Barb of blazingneedles, who is in her third career as a fiber artist (after teaching and software engineering). She shares with us her knitting loom, which is an amazing piece of equipment. Although Barb’s specialty is machine knitting, she also does hand knitting and crocheting. I am in love with her knitted lace boxes!


Also residing in Pennsylvania is Nonnie of Stained Glass by Nonnie. She is a stained glass artist whose Etsy shop showcases her stained glass candle lanterns, lamps, ACEOs (Art Cards, Editions and Originals), and much more. I especially like her Rosewood Box.



From Pennsylvania, we proceed south to North Carolina, where we encounter the studios of Kate of HeronsTreasures, and Judy of artsyclay. Both women share a love of painting and polymer clay, although Kate splits her interests between painting, clay and vintage collectibles, while Judy primarily works with clay.


for sale by HeronsTreasures


Another Etsy artist who loves both painting and working with clay is Jill of JillsTreasureChest. To reach her, however, we need to drive to the far South to visit her Mississippi studio, which is a shed she has had built specifically for her creative ventures. Although much of her work is whimsical, including cat and frog angels, Jill also paints ceramic boxes. I especially like her Southwest Heart Treasure Box, which would be perfect for jewelry.

Our next stop is a fun-filled one as we journey to the Southwest, where Joon of joonE lives. You never quite know what to expect of Joon, whose creative engine is stoked at all times with products that are original, unexpected and fun, as well as earth-friendly. Her sewing and craft goodies box is exactly as she describes it: fun!

by joonE

Our final stop on our box-exploring journey is in Colorado, where Judi of VintageLegacyStudio welcomes us into her home, which is filled with authentic vintage treasures. Among them is a wonderful old sewing machine cabinet drawer that includes a handmade sewing chatelaine, to which are attached sewing notions.

After visiting all of these Etsy artists, I feel inspired to make my own boxes for the thread flower brooches I crochet.

If you’d like to learn more about creating different kinds of boxes, you may wish to check out these books:

© 2009 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved. Please note that the images in this post are owned by the artists and may not be used without permission. Simultaneously published at http://boomersandbeyond.blogspot.com.

Sep 142009

One of my Etsy friends, Ani of CoffeePotPeople, recently challenged herself to modify some tin containers and convert them into works of art. Inspired by a tutorial posted by Kym of kimbuktu (another Etsy friend), she produced some wonderful examples of how art, imagination and upcycling can work together to create something new and attractive.

A Coffee Hallelujah (Celestial Seasonings tin container),

Ani and Kym’s work has inspired me, in turn, to challenge my readers and/or Etsy friends to participate in a group Convert-a-Tin Challenge. The purpose of this activity is simply to have fun, and to share with others what we are able to accomplish. So, here are the rules:

  1. Deadline for completing this challenge: October 31, 2009.
  2. Using any kind of tin container you prefer (cookie, candy, coffee, whatever), modify it. You can embellish the tin, connect it to something else, make it larger (or smaller), use part of it, substitute it for something else . . . in other words, do whatever you want. Just make sure that your end product is different than your beginning product!
  3. Take “before” and “after” photos, and post them on your blog. Tell us anything you would like about your process. If your inspiration is a tutorial you found in a book, magazine or online, please provide that information.
  4. Send me an e-mail by October 31, 2009 at judynolan@aol.com with your blog address so that I can post a list of all participants, and so that we can all see what everyone has achieved.

Four simple rules . . . I hope everyone has a lot of fun with this activity. I can’t wait to see the results!

© 2009 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.