Friday, February 8, 2013

Making Little Boxes

When I sell a piece of my jewelry on Etsy or elsewhere, I send it off in a cute little pouch-box.   People who have received one often say they like the box almost as much as the necklace! So I thought I'd show you how I make these little customized pouches.  Please click photos to see all the details more clearly.

You know how many Etsy sellers like to send along little "extras" and goodies to their customers?--well, my little handmade box is the little something "extra", since it consists of a little more of my artwork.  It also is an example of how I cannot throw anything away.  You see, I make these out of discarded cardboard, like old cereal boxes, shipping envelopes, tissue boxes, etc.  If I'm getting ready to toss out something that has a large, flat expanse of cardboard, instead it goes in my "I can use that someday" pile.   Here in Oregon, it seems we recycle everything anyway; I just take it another, personal, step further.

side note: I took a photo of my stack of flattened Cheerios and Kleenex boxes...but it was a little embarrassing, and hoarder-esque (it's' really not that big of a stack. Really.)  

ANYway, I've always liked these pouch-style boxes, even have a stack of new ones I bought at a paper store.  But I wanted to cover them with my own paper, and it was just easier to do that if they were completely flat, so I started making my own.  Here's how I do it:

Find a template pattern for the box: You can find this template and many others online for the shape.  My box ends up about 4" tall; if I need a bigger one, I just enlarge the template on my photocopier.  

Making my own decorative paper: For this project, I wanted custom-designed paper (but you can also use pretty scrapbook paper, printed digital designs you have made, or many other choices).  I made a simple black and white collage with clip-art images and my store logo.  I traced the box template onto this collage.  Then I just started doodling in the white spaces with a very fine Micron pen.  I worked quickly and was going for a loose, very random sketch-y style, adding little written notes, flowers, dots, etc.  I liked the whimsical doodles juxtaposed with the classic engraved images.  After the doodling was complete, I cut out the box shape along my traced outline---and this became my "master".
A collage of clip-art images, then doodles added, then cut into the box template shape.
Next, I put this cutout shape on my photocopier's glass, and ran off a bunch of copies onto brown butcher paper.  (I found a huge roll of butcher paper for next to nothing at Goodwill, and I cut up sheets from it to feed into my photocopier.  I'll be using that roll for years...)

Next, I rough-cut around my butcher paper image, sprayed the back with adhesive (I love Super 77; it's a workhorse in my studio for many projects), and mounted it to the printed side of my recycled cardboard, using a brayer to burnish the paper firmly to the cardboard:
By covering the printed side of the recycled cardboard, the back side is left nice and clean for your upcycled project.  I have found that a used FedEx envelope, or something similar, is the perfect weight cardboard for these tiny boxes, since it is lightweight and flexible enough to bend along the curved folds.  (For larger pouches, you can use a slightly heavier cardboard, like a cereal box).  (Also note: you can eliminate this adhering-to-cardboard step all together if you're using a cardstock that is heavy enough for a pouch.  I just like mine to be a little sturdier than cardstock).
Next, I cut out along the box outline:
Notice the top box in the photo above has the addition of white highlights.  I just made simple doodles here and there with a white gel pen, to jazz it up a little.  This is why I love working with brown paper: white shows up so nicely, and is such a quick and easy way to add so much extra life to a simple black-and-white print.  Yes, I add this individually to each box, but it literally only takes a minute or two, and is worth the extra bit of time.  Plus it is so much fun to do! And no two turn out the same.
Next, I scored along all the fold lines, using a stylus ( you could use a dried-out ballpoint pen or similar):
 Then, I used double sided tape to adhere the side flap (it's important to go all the way to the top and bottom edges of the flap.  You could also use glue and clamp it together, but that takes longer):

And the box is done!  The white doodles on the left pouch, above,  were added with a white Prismacolor pencil.  I actually prefer using the pencil rather than the white gel pen (seen on the right, above)--it goes faster and I often have issues with gel pens not flowing and skipping, but I do like the fine line I can get with the pen.  Here's the back side:

So, there you have it.  A peek inside my crazy world where I make my own boxes out of trash!  It may seem like it takes an excessive amount of time to make each of these individually, but really it only takes a few minutes, especially if I am making a bunch at once.  It took me waaaaay longer just to write this 'great American novel' of a post!!

                                               Linking up with Debra at Common Ground:


  1. Love this idea! Thanks for the tutorial. I'd like to check out your Etsy store!

  2. Maggie, these are absolutely beautiful!!! It truly is like getting two goodies for one money! You are such a talented artist...the sketches on that container are so gorgeous to me. I hope you are doing so good and wish you a wonderful weekend!!! hugs and love, Dawn

  3. The is brilliant. Thank you for showing us how to make our own beautiful boxes. Blessings to you, Patti@OldThingsNew

  4. So cute! One of the reasons I love buying from Etsy is because of the fabulous packaging. Thanks so much for sharing yours.


  5. What a great idea! Thanks so much for sharing. I am definately going to have to give it a try.


  6. I received one of these last night (housing something equally FABULOUS!), and it is absolutely adorable! So pretty, in fact, I took the insides out and reassembled the box with the bow! GREAT tutorial - THANK YOU! Happy Friday - Tanya

  7. Such cute boxes. I made a paper box the other day and painted a bird cage on the entire box with the bird in it to give it a 3D illusion. :)

  8. Thanks so much for sharing how to make that - what a wonderful idea!

  9. Maggie these are great, and yes I always love getting something in one of these boxes! Thank so much for sharing how you did this!!

  10. I am flabbergasted for two reasons. One, I love these boxes and that's coming from you-know-who, Mr, Craftless. Two, I didn't know you were doing these and I live with you. I'll need to make more of an effort to peek into your office more. I LOVE YOU!

    1. Mr. Craftless,

      Though I love you (more), I am dumbfounded by your obliviousness sometimes.

      'Flabbergasted' + 'Dumbfounded'....we are quite a pair.

  11. Oh my goodness! This is gorgeous and SO generous of you to share how to do it as well as giving these away with your jewelry purchases when it is such a labor of love! Thank you so much for sharing, Maggie! :)

    1. Thank you so much, Phyllis! How nice of you to stop by and comment!

  12. Wow, I love my box even more now that I know it is recycled! You are a rock star!

  13. Maggie, this is a great post and I love that you are repurposing trash to treasure, which it absolutely is - the "Oregon way". Well done!!

  14. Wow, I love these! I think you could sell the boxes all by themselves:-) Thanks for the great tutorial. Fabulous idea!

  15. tx so much for sharing,i becamre a follower thru vickis GYB party, i just wanted to be sure you know that you are really multi talented! i do alot of the sane stuff but you are really good! so thanx for inspirirng me to always be better and have fun! i travel to portland a couple times a year as it is where my family is, i hope i can come to one of your studio classes and get to meet you, aloha, angi in hana

  16. this made my day! so lucky to have such a crazy sister! thanks for all the recent posts =)
    p.s. Southwest fares low right now - when will the boutique be???

  17. Hello, Maggie, my Dear! It's Lagniappe! (Think I spelled that right!) French/Creole "A little something extra"! ♥ I've come to you from The "Grow Your Blog" was over before I knew about it, but it was so nice of Vicki to leave the list up! Anyway, I always welcome new blogs to enjoy, and yours is delightful! I am now following you ~ please come and visit me if you get a chance!
    So nice to "meet" you!

  18. Oh, my gosh, Maggie! A person purchases jewelry from you and receives a second gift of your artwork! I am beyond impressed! This is so lovely!!!!

  19. Thank you so much for the tutorial. It was very clear and easy to follow. I sell small items in my booth that need a small box. These would be perfect. Love the idea of branding them.

  20. Thanks for sharing the tutorial with us. I love your collage.
    I may have to try one of these.

  21. Thank you for this tutorial. I love these boxes and now know I would be able to do this myself! Your jewelry is beautiful!

  22. Oh, it's downright gorgeous! I just have collage images in my head (and a few thousand on my PC) don't know how to put them together for an elegant look like yours! Please share your ideas on how to create a collage easily with or without photoshop. TFS and inspiring!

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