What You Need

​These are my steps in creating a project. They aren't always in this order.

  • The idea

  • Finding the right box

  • Creating backgrounds,

  • Finding and choosing objects for the box 

  • Arranging and placing the objects to tell the story

  • Tools, adhesives, paint, etc.


One hard lesson I have learned is not to start "decorating" a box until you have all the components you need, whether they are objects or ideas. When I first get the glimmer of a new idea, I start laying objects loose inside a chosen box. When I finally get a combination I like, then I start to put it together. This often takes weeks, and I often have four or more boxes going at one time.

The Idea

This is the most important part of the process.'Where do you get ideas? Sometimes they come with an object that you found at a flea market. Sometimes they come when you are about to go to sleep at night, sometimes when you see another work of art that sparks your imagination. It is almost impossible to "steal" an idea when you are working with found objects. Every piece is unique. Placing various found objects side by side will sometimes enable you to see them in a new way. I sometimes come up with several ideas at once, then go for a couple of weeks with no idea whatsoever of what I want to do. Be patient.

Containers and Bases

I use many kinds of boxes in my projects, old clock cases, old sewing machine drawers, vintage wooden jewelry boxes, printer type trays, wine cases, lanterns, etc. Finding these boxes can be an adventure and/or a challenge. I find the old clock cases on ebay. Other containers can be found at flea markets, antique stores, thrift stores and "junk" stores.

When I first began working with assemblage, I used wooden cigar boxes. Tobacco stores will usually sell empty boxes for a few dollars each. Most are too shallow to hold interesting objects. Sometimes you can find one that is deeper, and sometimes a box will have a nice wood finish. They are a good option for your first few projects as you learn methods for fastening, creating backgrounds, etc. I have used them in combination with another box.

I sometimes do pieces that are free standing. Bases for these can be unfinished wood plaques meant for hanging, or the tops of some discarded tops of jewelry boxes. These often have interesting carvings on the tops.

Creating Backgrounds

Backgrounds can be of infinite variety. You can use the the plain wooden background of the box itself, or add paint, collage, special papers of even objects. I once created an entire background using flat wooden buttons that had various patterns. The effect was colorful and unique. I avoid using the sheets of paper you buy a craft stores that are often used for scrapbooking. I have created interesting papers using Citrasolv and old National Geographic pages. You can find the method for doing this on the internet. One of my favorite paper is an old hundred year old ledger with handwritten entries.  Other papers can be:

  • Tissue

  • Newspapers

  • Handmade papers

  • Dress patterns

  • Alcohol inks

  • Old Atlases

  • Old yellowed pages from school books or illustrated books

  • Your own original drawings and paintings