Shadow Box Ideas

    by Ryn Gargulinski

    About the Author

    Ryn Gargulinski is a writer, artist and performer whose journalism career began in 1991. Credits include two illustrated books, "Bony Yoga" and "Rats Incredible"; fitness, animal, crime, general news and features for various publications; and several awards. She holds a Master of Arts in English literature and folklore and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in creative writing with a French minor from Brooklyn College.


    One of the most intricate pieces of art that anyone can make is the shadow box. When hung on the wall, these three-dimensional showcases go beyond the simple photo and a frame by allowing folks to add objects into the mix. When it comes to shadow boxes, anything goes, but they work best with some type of overall theme.


    Shadow boxes consist of a box-like frame that is recessed for placing objects inside it. The fronts are often covered with glass. The inside of the box is graced with figurines, mementos, photos, illustrations and other ephemera that evoke the overall theme.


    Animals are a common display theme, and a shadow box showcases them beautifully. A family pet box might contain mementos, photos and trinkets from family pets, including an old tag or collar, while another might feature a jungle theme, with miniature trees and vines for the lions, tigers or other jungle animals. You could also replicate one of the exhibits from the neighborhood zoo, such as the penguin house. Boxes can also highlight a single type of animal, such as a display of cats, dogs, birds or snakes.


    Holiday and seasonal shadow boxes are very easy to make, because themed supplies are readily available. A Christmas shadow box may feature miniature gifts, a tree and elf figurines. A spring shadow box could be filled with flowers, butterflies and the springtime sun. The bottom of a Groundhog Day box could be made up to look like the groundhog's underground lair, with him popping his head up to check the weather.

    Historical Eras

    Shadow boxes also provide a canvas for remembering historic events and periods. A Roaring 20s display could feature fringe, feathers and a flapper chick in full regalia. Civil War shadow boxes could have antique miniature weapons, flags and nostalgic items from the armies. Recall the 60s with miniature flower power posters, love beads, bandannas and a toy Volkswagen bus.


    Shadow boxes used as a memorial for someone who has died, or to display images of death, are another interesting idea. Those used as a memorial could include the person's funeral card or program, photos of the individual at different ages and some of the person's favorite memorabilia, like a pair of old baseball tickets or a wedding ring.
    Those interested in the macabre could create a shadow box with small skeletons, headstones and photos of graveyards. A little dirt on the bottom and some cotton batting for cobwebs add the final touches to a spooky scene.

    Photo Credits

    • Photo by Ryn Gargulinski