Ever since I made my angels shadow box last year – read about it here – I had been contemplating making another one, using images from the same book that inspired my first shadow box.
I had found an illustration of Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus in a manger that I thought would be perfect to translate into a shadow box.
My idea was to put the manger scene inside the box and the angels on the outside – an outside-the-box shadow box of sorts. I was going to use the 3D decoupage layering technique – the same technique I used to make my flower fairy cards, but decided to build out the manger a little bit and give it a more three dimensional look.
The first thing I did was make several laser copies of the illustration onto heavy cardstock.
I only have an inkjet printer, but opted for laser copies from my local copy store to keep the ink on the images from running in case I got them wet. (Inkjet ink will run and smear when wet).
For the actual shadow box itself, I found a box among my Christmas cards stash – remember those? – that was about the same size as the manger and recycled it for my project.
The box was a larger than the image, so my plan was to extend the manger a little bit to fill up the extra space.
The first thing I did was to cover up the exterior of the box with decorative paper. I decided to use this brown Italian marbled paper that I had in my collection of decorative papers. (Did I mention I am a paper hoarder?)
I thought this was the perfect paper because of the muted brown colors. Plus, I wanted something that was still a bit elegant, but that would not draw attention away from the subject matter of my shadow box.
I measured and cut out my paper in one piece. Using tacky craft glue, I adhered the paper to the back and sides of my box.
The tricky thing about using wet glue on paper is that paper tends to ripple when wet and pull away from the surface it’s glued on, creating air pockets where the coverage of glue is uneven. That is exactly what happened when I adhered the paper to my box. I used a bone folder to smooth out the paper as best I could. Once everything dried, the air pockets on the surface were not as obvious.
To recreate the manger, I cut out pieces of thin balsa wood to mimic the beams you see in the picture. Parts of the beams were hidden in the illustration, so I had to extend the measurements so that the beams touched the edges of my shadow box. I chose balsa wood because it is very easy to cut with a X-acto blade. I then mixed up some brown and forest green paints to get the right shade of murky brown for the manger. I painted the balsa and immediately wiped off some of the color using a paper towel to give it a worn look – a trick I learned from all those interior designers I’ve watched over the years on those TV design shows :0)
Since the interior of the manger in the illustration was a warm golden color, I decided to highlight the color by lining the interior of my box with a bright piece of paper. I searched through my stash of crepe paper and found this orange ombre florist crepe:
The front of the paper was too dark, but the back was just right, so I lined the interior of my shadow box with the back side showing.
I love the color; it has the perfect touch of warmth, even better than the color in the original illustration.
Next, I glued the balsa wood pieces to the box, arranging them to mimic the look that was in the picture. The perfect glue for this task was Beacon’s 3-in-1 advanced craft glue, which I was introduced to by a fellow paper crafter when I attended the Scrapbook Expo last year. It has “instant grab,” which means it immediately starts to bond upon application, while still allowing you a brief window of repositioning time. Plus, it was thick enough to fill in any gaps in my pre-measured pieces of balsa, without being too thick, like hot glue gun glue.
I then added the images of Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, and the animals in the background to the interior of my shadow box. To create dimension, I adhered pieces of foam stickers and foam core board to the backs of the images that I had cut out earlier and layered them together to create a sense of depth.
To recreate the floor of the manger, I took some olive green doublette crepe paper (from my crepe paper flower-making projects) and colored it with some brown oil pastels. I glued the colored crepe to the back of the image of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus.
The crepe paper extended to the bottom edge of my shadow box.
In the original illustration, there are two birds nesting in the darkened upper left corner of the manger. Because the bright orange interior of the manger was peaking through the beams, I had to take a piece of brown cardstock that I colored with a black Sharpie marker and glue it to recreate the darkened corner where the birds were nesting. I then glued a cutout of the birds onto my shadow box.
Oops! You can see my less than careful glue job in the preceding photos :0( You don’t notice it so much in the finished piece, I promise :0)
Next, I cut out a piece of grayish brown florist crepe, left over from one of my crepe paper flower making classes, to create the roof of the manger.
The manger portion of my Nativity shadow box was done!
Now it was onto the angels. I had cut out several copies of the image of the angels, with each copy representing the back-, mid-, or fore- ground angels. Then I put them all together using pieces of foam tape, so that the angels appeared to be positioned in front of one another like in the illustration. I was a little worried that the foam tape would make the angels in front pop out too much away from the manger, making them look like they were floating in the air, but in the end, they looked just fine.
Because the beam of wood the angels were resting on in the illustration was shorter than the width of the box I was using for the base of my shadow box, I had to extend it by cutting out small pieces of the wood beam from the another copy of the picture and gluing them to both ends.
I glued the angels to the top of my shadow box. One last thing and I would be done!
For the star of Bethlehem, I cut a piece of gold wire to use to suspend the star above the shadow box.
I twisted the ends of the wire so that there would be more surface area for the glue to grab onto and hot glued one end to the star and the other end to the back of the shadow box.
My Nativity shadow box was now complete!
I was really pleased with the results, but I noticed mistake I made when I cut the angels out. For one of the angels standing in the back, I ended up separating her body from her head because I neglected to cut away the body on the subsequent, top layers of cutouts.
It’s not that noticeable unless you’re looking at it closely. For a moment there, I wanted to redo my entire shadow box by starting all over, but I decided against it because hey, even though I’m no newbie crafter, I’m human and mistakes will happen. I just have to accept that and acknowledge it and move on.
Mistake or not, I had a lot of fun creating my shadow box, so much so, that I am looking to create another one soon, so stay tuned. My next idea is not Christmas related, so I may not get to it until I’m done with my Christmas crafting.
Which brings me to – I have a couple more Christmas project ideas in mind, but will need to see if I’m in the mood to complete them. That’s the thing with creativity – you have to respond when the muse hits. Otherwise, the desire to create cools down.
What holiday crafts have you been working on? I’d love to know :0) Please share in the comments.