To make a Christmas shadow box, complete with holiday scene, all you need is a cardboard box and a few other supplies. The box can be any size from small to medium. For that matter, the box can be wooden, rectangular, square, tall or squat. The box should, however, have some depth to it. You also need a piece of clear glass, or a picture frame, the size of the box opening. If the frame is slightly larger than the opening, you can still make it work, but plain glass should be the size of the opening.
Remove flaps from the box. Stand the box upright with the opening facing upwards. Use spray adhesive to cover the inside bottom of the box. Take a piece of white satin or velvet and center it over the box, allowing it to fall into the box and attach to the glue. This will allow some bunching of the fabric – a better look than smoothing the fabric out flat.
On the bottom side of the box, lift the fabric, spray the adhesive, then allow the cloth to settle on the bottom of the box. Turn the box until the next side is at the bottom and perform the same operation. Continue this until the fabric is covering all four inside panels of the box. Trim the excess material around the box opening. A cheaper and easier way to line the box is to use spray adhesive and wads of cotton. Cover the inside of the box completely with the cotton pieces. There are any number of things you can use to cover the inside, be it corduroy or spray paint, but make sure the color is light.
Some shadowboxes are made with mirrors inside to add light and sparkle. Small square mirrors can be found at a crafting store but make sure the box is the right size to accommodate a certain amount of the mirrors. Measure the box panel where the mirrors will go then check the size of the mirrors to see how many you’ll need to cover it completely. You may need to leave tiny slivers where the box can be seen, in between each mirror, to make it come out right. Forego the velvet or satin fabric for the mirrors, butted together. Do this only on the rear of the inside of the box, or use it at the rear and both side panels. The only time you should use the mirrors on the bottom of the box is if you’re making a giant ice skating rink scene. Using the mirrors on the top is futile since they’re nearly impossible to see.
Paint the outside of the box or use wallpaper, shelf paper or fabric to decorate it. Navy corduroy is a nice look – you can even use thick Christmas wrapping paper. Dimensional paints are a nice touch, too, since they definitely give the box some dimension. They are applied with a paint brush but are dabbed on rather than painted on. The dimensional paint is very thick and when dry, gives a look of peaks and valleys to the paint. When the box is completely covered, inside and out, it’s time to set up the scene.
You decide what the scene will be: a manger scene with star dangling overhead, a snowy outdoors scene with pine trees, horses and buggies, or something else. Purchase the items needed to make the scene at a craft store. For a tiny shadow box use the smallest of miniatures for the scene. A larger box can hold larger statues, trees, benches and other novelties. Regardless, make sure the items you choose are in proportion to the box itself. Craft stores are full of items to make mini villages including dinky train sets, picket fences, reindeer, lamp posts and mini houses.
Hot glue the items into the box, arranging them from back to front. Add interesting enhancements like a tiny cardinal in the pine tree or bitty squirrels in the snow. You can use a small round mirror as a duck pond then attach tiny ducks or little ice skaters to it. Border it with miniature pine trees. The possibilities are endless.
After completing the scene inside the box use contact cement to affix the picture frame to the box opening. If you’re using just glass be careful not to overdo the adhesive where it will ooze onto the window section. Decorate around the glass panel with narrow lace, braided leather strips or decorative rope. Unless the picture frame is the exact size of the box opening it will cause the box to lean backwards slightly because the frame is a little longer than the box. Leave it leaning slightly to give a better view or paint and attach two soda lids, or something similar, to the back side to even up the box.
To hang the box from the ceiling use nearly-invisible fishing twine on each of the four top corners of the box to suspend it from eye hooks which are screwed into the ceiling.The great thing about shadowboxes is that they are uniquely your own since you decide on the colors, fabrics and scenery. And, they’re easy to make but very impressive when completed.