Steampunk inspiration and resources

“Journey” 3D Diptych

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I created a travel-themed diptych for my parents as part of my Kickstarter campaign, but I didn’t get a chance to take a picture of the shadow boxes in situ before I left for Greece. My mom took a couple shots for me so now I can give you little window into how I get from start to finish. I can’t really do a tutorial exactly because there is a lot of madness and only a bit of method, but I hope anyone who is looking for tips on how to create your own work of art will find it helpful.

So here is the finished product:

Journey diptych

Journey diptych

Journey diptych panel close up 1 Journey diptych panel 2

But how did I get from point A to point B? Let’s take a look.

I start each shadow box with a canvas. This is the largest expense in each shadow box so I try to wait until Michael’s is having a sale and then stock up. I prefer the “gallery wrapped” variety of canvas for anything that is going to need to be able to be free-standing, but the cheaper varieties work fine if you composition only needs to hang on a wall. Gallery wrapped canvases are those that are not meant to be framed, so the edges are much smoother and a free-standing shadow box won’t wobble. The 18” x 22” canvases I used for this composition were about $16 a piece. It is a good idea to glue the canvas itself to the wooden frame, especially if your piece will hang on the wall.

Next, I go through my paper pads, scraps and box of metal goodies and pick out paper and objects that go with my theme and intended color scheme. Usually I am not limited by anything but my own ideas, but this time I was working on commission so I had to take the color scheme of the room into consideration as I chose my materials. The wall these pieces were to hang on was a pale grayish-green, which I first tried to match and later decided to complement instead. It is really hard to find an exact match so in the end I used hardly any green at all. Instead, I focused on the accent colors in the room, which were beige, dark red and espresso.

I knew a couple things going into this piece; I wanted a 3D element in each box and I wanted each piece to resemble a suitcase. I started by combing the local antique and thrift shops for antique suitcase handles, but I couldn’t even find a cruddy enough suitcase to justify destroying it. So in the end, I made some handles out of vinyl. The material gave me some trouble, but it was the only thing I had the looked like leather and acted like paper. I would love to try the technique again with cardstock, I think I would have gotten more cooperation. As you can see below, I had tabs that I inserted into slits, but with the vinyl I couldn’t get the tabs to stay stuck down. After burning my fingers on the the hot glue gun for the 10th time, I just decided to use ever scrap bookers friend: tape!

Diptych 016But the handles were one of the last things I did. After I chose my materials, I started to lay out paper that I liked. I usually don’t start to fold or bend any paper until I am about 2/3 of the way through a layout because there are many types of paper that will show creases, and if you change your mind you can’t always use the same piece in another place. Make sure to start with larger pieces that fold all the way over the edges so the entire border gets covered, and then you will be freer to add small accent pieces onto the front. I will often take a photo of my initial layout idea in case I forget what I was intending once everything has been moved off to start gluing.

Diptych 039I almost always start with the frame, but it is a good idea to decide ahead of time if you want to see any of the frame paper in the center or if it will all be covered by the paper in the center. (I would definitely recommend the latter, otherwise you will need to be very precise with how much of the frame paper is showing to get a consistent edge.) Pictured at left is a canvas after I finished the layout phase and started to bend and fold my paper around the frame. When possible I have a small amount of overlap from the frame to the center to make sure there are no visible gaps once the piece is mounted on a wall.

To create the 3D hot air balloon, I took a slightly different approach this time than my first balloon in the Discoveries shadow box. I wanted to get a more tear drop shaped balloon, especially because this one was about twice as big as the first. To give it extra structure I decided I needed a horizontal bar, so rather than cutting individual strips I cut out the shape below. The tabs on the sides and the long strips in the middle are how the balloon gets attached to the background paper and appears to float.

The door knob presented a whole new set of challenges. I started with an antique face plate and had to build out the knob itself. The weight of the face plate worried me, but in the end a few brads directly through the canvas held it in place very securely. Canvas is very strong and as long as you glue it to the frame it shouldn’t have much give. The knob was made just like one of my Christmas cage ornaments, but with the brad pointing out instead of up.

Have a great weekend and happy Steampunking!


2 responses

  1. Reblogged this on STEAMPUNKAPOTAMUS.


    June 20, 2014 at 6:28 pm

  2. Pingback: “B is for Bird” 3D Birdcage Shadow Box | For Whom the Gear Turns

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