Valentine Shadow Boxes

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

This time of year, stores are flooded with beautiful boxes of candy, and the packaging is often just as fun as the contents! If you are the lucky recipient of such a box, or if you have any kind of small box needing a new purpose - make a shadow box!

Here, we'll create a Valentine's Day shadow box in the style of Mexican retablo art, using recycled and found items from around your home. Mexican retablo boxes are typically composed of several found items that go together to convey a story or message.


  • A box, any size or shape
  • Found items from around your home (see below)
  • Cardboard scraps
  • Glue, such as Elmer's or hot glue
  • Scissors
  • Soda can tab
  • Acrylic or tempera paint & paintbrush (optional)
  • Glitter (optional)
  1. Find your materials: Go for a treasure hunt around your house! Look for small toys, game pieces, scraps of ribbon and paper, buttons, beads, pages from children's books and magazines, old party decorations, bottle caps and broken or unwanted jewelry.
  2. Plan your layout: Look at the materials you've gathered and see what inspires you the most. Can you combine some materials to form a theme or message? Does a particular color or group of colors stand out more than others? Choose items that look good together and help you express your idea.
  3. Prepare your box: Paint your box inside and out, if needed, with a color or colors that work with your design. If you'd like to use some glitter, sprinkle it on while the paint is still wet.
  4. Arrange your materials: After the paint has dried, experiment with arranging your found items. To add depth to your shadow box, glue small cardboard squares on the back of some of your items to make them pop out from the back of the box. Glue everything down with Elmer's or hot glue.
  5. Embellish: Part of the fun of Mexican retablo art is the abundance of decoration. Can you add more bling to your design? Try buttons, beads, bottle caps or shapes cut from magazines.
  6. Finishing your box: When everything is glued down and secure, glue a soda can tab on the back top of your box with hot glue, or poke a small hole through the box with a nail. Use this to hang your box on the wall. All finished! Now your empty box has a beautiful new purpose.

This month's project is brought to you by the Ohio Craft Museum, 1665 W. Fifth Ave. in Grandview. The museum is offering a free family workshop about making Valentine Shadow boxes on Feb. 6 from 1-3 p.m.; pre-registration is required. Call 614-486-4402 to sign up, or go to for info. And don't forget Spring Break Craft Days for children aged 7-12 on March 21-23.