For the Love of Altoids

Ok, I confess it……I have an unusual love of Altoids tins. Actually, any kind of little mint or gum tins but there is a special place in my heart for the Altoids tins. Maybe it was the years in retail and consuming countless numbers of the ferocious little tabs. Maybe it was the history class in seminary where we had a special challenge on a test—eat one of every flavor of Altoids AT THE SAME TIME! Maybe it is just because I like little tin boxes.

Regardless, love them I do!

I’ve got a few projects here that I made using these tins. My favorite is the Swallow Box. And someday I long to do the electroplating and etching done by the guy at The Steampunk Workshop.

However, as I was perusing Instructables…a most awesome site in which one could get lost for days….I came across a genius idea: Altoids Advent Calendar Combining the marvelous Altoids tin with one of my favorite Advent traditions could only be a WIN in my book.

Sassycrafter, the author and creator of this marvelous thing, suggest spray painting the tins. Having struggled mightily with removing the paint via several different methods, I would have to say for easy and speed, spray painting would be the way to go. (I’ve never tried the grilling method, which I might attempt the next time.)  Might be an environmental price to pay, though, and there are tons of ways to re-cover, re-finish, re-do, re-image these tins. Just let you imagination go and you can come up with many options.

Super cool!  It is too late for me to make one this year but I will seriously consider doing this next year!!


New Prayer Box

Haven’t had a lot of time to work on any prayer boxes or other things to leave randomly around town as of late because I’ve been diligently spending all of my “craft time” working on things for the craft sale portion of the church yard sale coming up at the end of the month. However, this one is ready to go out–nearly.   


witness box 

It’s made from a band-aid tin. Covered in archival scrapbook paper, silver acrylic paint and glued on crosses.   


 I removed the hinges from the lid of the binsideox and used cotton twine and wooden beads to hold the lid on. It’s actually pretty cool looking in person. Inside is heavy weight archival scrapbook paper accordion folded and cut to fit with inspirational words written on it. 

At the moment I’ve only got a single piece of scripture written on one of the folds but I’ll be adding to it tomorrow and plan to add not just scripture but also other inspirational words from inspirational people as well. There will also be a second sheet of the accordion folded paper left blank for whoever finds the box to add their own inspirational words. 



 It is a “Witness” box because it will have words that bear witness to hope and joy in the world. 


Two New Books

Ok, two new books to read! Woo! I’m excited!

First is Windows into the Soul: Art As Spiritual Expression by Michael Sullivan. I got this book for two reasons. One: I am really drawn to this idea of art as spiritual expression and spiritual experience. Two: I’m working on the idea of a workshop on art craft and spirituality. This last bit began when I was invited to assist with a acquaintance’s retreat on prayer. My portion was on art craft and prayer and I was thrilled to get to do this! During the weekend retreat, I held a rotating two hour workshop designed to expose the women in attendance to the idea of craft as spiritual discipline. I had many options of things for them to try, mostly so they could get their feet wet: painting a cross, making a prayer box or devotion box, making prayer beads from polymer clay, etc. Most chose to make the prayer beads, which was a lot of fun for them to do. Some had never even considered the idea of using beads in their devotional life, much less making them to represent specific people or issues or concerns. It was fascinating to see all of the beads come together. Sadly, no one made prayer boxes, but that’s ok. I do not know that they understood what they were or if I even gave a good description.

At any rate, this was so much fun that we’re going to do it within our congregation with an Art Craft and Spirituality Workshop starting in July. I have no idea who will even come, but we’re starting with the prayer beads the first week and then something else the next. I’m hoping there’ll be something in this book to spark an idea. Some of these items in the book, such as the first one which involves creating a collage page of words of that which impedes our relationship with God and God’s responses, may be a bit deep for this early on. It is a fantastic idea, but many people may find this too personal to begin with. However, I forsee this book being a great resource and inspiration.

Second is Printmaking and Mixed Media: Simple Techniques and Projects for Paper and Fabric by Dorit Elisha. The really nice guy at the bookstore said this was a good book, so I’m hoping he’s right and I think he would be since he said he studied this in college! 🙂  The closest thing to “printmaking” I’ve done is photography and work in the darkroom with photograms and photogram/ graphs, hand colored photos and other things related to a b&w darkroom. This appears to be quite different, I think. I’m looking forward to trying it out. It does seem to be easy to follow instructions, good supply list and project ideas.

Much more on my book list to yet acquire, including Steampunk Style jewelry by Jean Campbell and Making Connections: A Handbook of Cold Joins by Susan Kazmer.

Altered Journal/Book

So, I don’t know if you’d call this an altered book or an altered journal. It’s altered and it’s book-shaped and it would have originally been used as a tiny journal or notepad. So–whatever.

 Anyhow,  I had a lot of fun with it. Recently, I’ve purchased some Gesso to reinforce paper pages for a few little projects and I used it on this. Forgot to take a “before” picture of the tiny little book, but it was a little notebook with very thin paper for the cover and pages–four to a pack from the dollar store. Now THATS some cheap art supplies! 😉


Gessoed the front cover to give it more body without making it as stiff as it would have been if it had been reinforced with scrapbook paper. Metallic paint pens on the outside and archival scrapbook paper throughout.

“If You could be anything what would it be?”   There’s also the little tag that says “you found art!” and this blog address. The last two prayer boxes I made were FOUND, which was awesome, and the people who found them posted here which was even more awesome.

“Alight for someone’s Journey?”  Used more images from the Icon catalog in this. The image in the bottom right hand corner is from a stained glass piece with a dove representing the Holy Spirit.

“A Keeper of Hope for those who feel Lost?”  More scrapbooking paper and stickers

“An Answer to someone’s Prayer?”  The tag on the left says “Help Me Please” and below it “I Will”  Again, more images from the Icon catalog and a handmade tag just like the one that goes on the outside.

“Be More than you thought you Could Be”  It’s hard to see in this but those are angel wings behind the text block. They are gorgeous little delicate foil things that I got some time ago and haven’t had a reason to use.

“The End?”

Do not know where this one will be released. Today I hope I will find the right place. I discovered that carrying things in my handbag, even though it is sizable, can be dangerous because I could damage things before they even get to the ‘release point’. I had to bring home the last box and re attach the feet. So, a ziplock bag will be helpful I think!

Working on another prayer box now. Using some new stuff I just got–blackboard chalk! Plus, I’m making chalk too. Love making my own stuff!


Guerilla Artists

On Sunday I purchased what may be the best book EVER. Guerilla Art Kit by Keri Smith. I love it and I so wish I’d found it before I did the Art Craft Prayer workshop. It’s by the same woman who did Wreck This Journal and a few other things like it. Her blog is here.

It has lots of practical things in it for doing stuff akin to the little prayer boxes, specifically like the tiny one I left at the chocolate shop. They are less complex, mostly, but all in the same family none the less.


Perhaps one of my favorite things she talks about is chalking. That’s similar to what I think of as graffiti but done with chalk. The impermanence of it and the thumbing-your-nose-at-authority-while-still-not-illegal quality are both intriguing. Just imagine someone getting mad at you for “defacing” something by what you’ve written or drawn–aside from obscenities of course–and then watching it all dissolve and melt away with the rain. I also like it because of a beautiful piece a friend of mine did a couple of years ago. One night when he couldn’t sleep, he went outside his apartment and drew a beautiful image of Christ on the cross in chalk on the black asphalt parking lot. It was beautiful and it only lasted for a few days until it rained.




Another thing I liked about GAK was its ‘maker’ feel. The author gives how-tos for:

Homemade stickers–both lick and stick and not lick and stick

Home made wheat paste–an environment friendly paste which degrades and dissolves over time for adhering posters, signs, etc to anything outdoors.

Make your own stencils

A recipe for moss paint

And many other things, too

There are commercial things you can buy for nearly all that….well, except for moss paint. I’ve never seen that in a store….but is it always necessary to buy everything? This book acknowledges the joy of making materials themselves as part of the craft and the creating.


If I had a grievance with the book, it would be that several of the links in the back are either broken or out of date. I’m certain that many of them were working and active sites at the time of publication but it is disappointing all the same.


Also, I would like to have seen more office guerilla art since so many spend their lives in a cubicle world. She tipped her hat to it and encouraged caution, but that was all. Aside from defacing property, which would no doubt result in immediate dismissal if discovered, this is could be an area in great need of art. Or at least a random act of grace.


In all, an excellent book worth every penny. Buy it. Read it. Do it.

Angel Box

Altered Altoid tin. This was one of the long narrow tins with Altoid gum. Photo of the cover isn’t so good, so I hope I’ll be able to get a better one later.

Cover is chocolate brown and red polymer clay with a decorative imprint made from a stamp. Pearlescent stuff in the clay before baking. Polymer was baked onto tin. Then tin painted and accented with black stamping ink. If I’d known about the ‘smoking’ technique, I would have used it then. Inside is an icon image of an angel and then a line from a hymn in the LBW about angels.

Box outsideAngel BoxAngel Box inside

First Random Act of Grace

Well, technically, it’s the first RAG that I’ve given away, though not the first I’ve made.  So, on this first post, it seems reasonable to put the first one I’ve actually let go of!

It is an altered Altoid tin–actually a faux Altoid tin because they all have the embossing on the lids now and I wanted a flat top. My original plan was to do the copper plating and saltwater etching that I found here:  However, things have not gone as planned and, so, I opted for a different technique. I used copper leaf in liquid form, which is standard copper leaf (just like gold leaf) ground and disolved in xylene. Actually, it’s a suspension and not disolved, but whose really keeping track? 😉  After the copper leafing was dry and set, I added the dark shading by ‘smoking’ it in a candle flame.

The bird on the outside cover is a swallow and has tons of symbolic meaning, particularly for sailors. Google it if you’re curious. It’s held on by Gurilla Glue which proved to be a bit messy at first but ended up being super strong and not difficult to tidy up. Inside lid is pen on archival scrapbooking paper which was first enhanced with colored pencil. Little guardian angel, appropriate to the name meaning, is affixed with hot glue. The inside bottom is polymer clay in various shades of blue and white and is intended, though perhaps not so successfully, to look like water. The charms engraved with words and the cross were imbedded in the polymer before baking and were also highlighted with the copper leaf.  The bottom of the box was very beautifully smoked and I sealed it with plain old fingernail polish. The ‘smoking’ can sometimes rub off and I wanted it to be both safe to sit anywhere and protected from further smudging.

This is a prayer box–meant to hold prayers for the recipient of the box and to also house the hopes and prayers of the new owner. Mailed it off today to its new home!

Inside Swallow BoxSwallow BoxBack of Swallow Box