The Shadow Box

Well, it’s done! And I think this thing is really cool! I don’t have that feeling all the time about my art projects, so this is nice.

We left off with a couple of layers of paint on the box and picture frame that I’d picked out to house my Dia de los Muertos miniatures from California.


In that last picture I posted, you can just see one of the embellishments I bought from Etsy to see if it would work. It’s a cool paint-your-own skull with wings.


Once it arrived, it occurred to me that it would look really good if painted by a miniature master. Fortunately, I happen to be married to one of those. So I handed it over and he got out his teeny-tiny brushes and got started.



While he was working on that, I put several more layers of the metalic gold paint on the picture frame, and then a couple of layers of gold glitter paint.


I lined the back only of the box with a sheet of glitter-covered foam from the dollar store. Then I started attaching some confetti spangles to the inside of the box, and to one of the smaller box lids, which I planned to use as a stage/step area to raise the figures up a little.


But then I had a brainwave. I remembered a random tin heart I’d received as a freebie when I bought some fabulous earrings from a friend-of-a-friend, Artista Muerta (who has an Etsy shop if you’re interested!). I didn’t have any real plans for the tin heart but it was perfect for this project. So in it went, and I spangled the whole floor instead of the step. I was a little worried that the Mod Podge would flatten or dull the sparkly spangles, but it didn’t.


The next step was to shimmy the box into the picture frame and stick them together so the box edge didn’t gap away from the frame. I used Loctite paste for this, because I have coordination problems that lead to unfortunate situations with liquid SuperGlue. If I had a nickle for every time I glued my fingers together… One time a few years ago I tried something rated for metal-on-metal adhesion and I was worried I was going to have to go to the hospital for a skin graft if I ever wanted to use my thumb in its opposable capacity again. No joke. So I learn these things about myself, and I work around them. As I said: adhesive paste. Also painter’s tape, so I didn’t have to stand there like an idiot for an hour.


I gave Husband’s precious skull 24 full hours to dry (again, because I learn lessons, including the one when my stencils ran on the Little Free Library!) and then I gave it a serious bath in clear spray-on sealant. If I may digress for a minute, here is a picture of the pizza box after the sealant dried. I am in love with the way this looks and I feel another art project coming on!


Once the sealant was dry, I attached the winged skull and ten jumbo-sized aluminum roses (also inspired by Artista Muerta’s jewelry and similar stuff I saw in LA), also using Loctite paste. It’s only been a day but so far that stuff seems pretty serious, as adhesives go. AND I have ten independently usable fingers today! I call that a win.


So here it is, in all its glory:

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Korean-esque pumpkin seeds!

So I’ve had these two pumpkins sitting on my kitchen counter since the third week of October. Fortunately, pumpkins are kind of self-contained and long-lasting, if you don’t carve them. I finally got around to doing anything with them this weekend. And by “anything” I mean, of course, “the best thing.”

First, I discovered something that is in retrospect self-evident but was very exciting. I put on a yucky old t-shirt and got ready for slimy upper arms and then I realized that since the time for jack-o-lanterns is long over, I didn’t have to stick my arm in the pumpkin! I could just whack that puppy in half and scoop it out like a civilized person!


I washed the seeds to get rid of most of the yucky stuff…


Then I sprinkled them liberally with salt and left them to dry overnight.


After browsing recipes online for forever, I decided to ditch them all and try my own. This is about creativity, right? So I decided I wanted to start with gochujang as my central ingredient, because I have been on a kick with this stuff in the last couple of months. It’s this fabulous spicy pepper paste used in a lot of Korean dishes, and I buy it at H-Mart.  You can put it on anything and everything is improved by it. Seriously, get some. (And note: it also comes in squeezy bottles!)

But I knew applying gochujang directly to seeds was going to make them very painful to eat, if it didn’t start an outright fire in my oven. So I scrounged around in my fridge and came up with some dumpling sauce (which is NOT soy sauce, but a bit more complex and more oily). I also added garlic powder because more garlic is always okay.


I greased the bottom of a glass pan, using sesame oil to keep the flavors sort of in the same Asian family.


Then I baked at 300° for about 40 minutes, stirring every 10. I should say that the recipes I was looking at called for a full hour of baking, but at 40 minutes these guys already looked seriously done. Not burned, but almost.

I also just realized I forgot to take a picture of them when they came out of the oven, because I was too busy eating them. So here is a picture of a small portion on my desk at lunch today.


To be honest, most of the spiciness seems to have baked away, and they mostly taste salted. But they do have a really pleasant, very mild afterburn. All things considered I’m pleased, although next year I might triple the amount of spicy paste!

The perfect creative storm

So a couple of things have happened since I last posted!

  1. I went to Los Angeles. The reason for my trip was sad, but I got to hang out with friends and family I love. And I also got to do some things that were really interesting, because it happened to be the weekend the Olvera Street historical people were running their Dia de los Muertos festival.
  2. My husband has decided to go for it and officially launch his own private financial services business! (I’d link to the website but it’s very much a work in progress. Later post!)
  3. I have decided I need more art in my life. I am not an artist and “art” may only be loosely relevant as a term to describe what I produce, but that’s my goal. And I want to proclaim that publicly and post about it because an imaginary audience makes me keep doing it!

These three things combine to give us the perfect creative storm. Because Dia de los Muertos is one of those things that gives me major cultural envy, and boy is it colorful and inspirational. And so I am beginning not one, but two projects about which I will blog.

The first involves a couple little souvenirs I picked up:


The one on the right is my husband, see? Because he’s in a suit and holding a bag of money? And the one on the left is me because… I am also a lady! Although I very rarely wear pretty ladyclothes like this lady, but whatever. Imagination, people.

Here is a better look at the shrine table:


IT HAS BANANAS. How cute is that, people??

So I really wanted to buy one of the full-scale wall-hanging shadowbox shrine things, but there just wasn’t one with the right sort of “people” going on in it. Lots of mariachi bands and newlyweds but I wanted this one to be a commemoration of the new business. So I figured I’d just have to put these guys on a shelf or something.

Then I happened to be at a store full of crafty things, because I have an addiction (but don’t worry, not Hobby Lobby!), and I saw these:


Perfectly-sized boxes! And not just pressed cardboard… they’re papier mâché!*

My imagination began to run wild and I bought a whole lot of other things, most of which sparkled. I have way too many supplies for this project, so we’ll see if that trickles down!

One of the other things I had to have and will definitely use is this picture frame, which was exactly the right size.


I am also using this project to practice patience. I have been doing one (or, okay, two) coats of paint a night and no more. The box helps remind me because it actually starts to bubble if it gets too wet.

So as of last night, this is where we are.


Be excited, folks. Be very excited.


*Dude, yes, I’m going to be pretentious about this phrase, because I don’t get to use it nearly often enough. Now go about your day hearing a gavel bang down and the voice of a distinguished gentleman saying “665, ladies and gentlemen: a papier-mache musical box, in the shape of a barrel-organ. Attached, the figure of a monkey in Persian robes playing the cymbals. This item, discovered in the vaults of the theatre, still in working order…”