Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Sea-Themed Altered Box

Another of several posts for today!

This is the first of four boxes that I have completed, from my tissue paper collage boxes project. You can read about the beginning of this project here. I began with the blue-green one, which was to have a seaside theme, as a gift for a friend celebrating a significant birthday.

28 Finished Seascape Box Side and Top

This was the development of a similar box I altered back in May 2012. Here it is for comparison.

10 Completed Sea Theme Box Open 30-5-12

The first step was to add some waves to the sides of the box, and I did this by applying a fairly thick layer of Finnabair 3D transparent matte gel medium all around, with a palette knife, and I then went around again with the palette knife, “sculpting” the wave shapes.


I then sprinkled on some glass micro-beads over a bowl to catch the excess, which I then poured back into the jar. A lot of them fell off over the next hour or so and it remained to be seen how many would still be stuck on after the gel medium had dried!


As soon as the gel medium had formed a skin on the surface, I applied some coarse pumice gel medium to the lid, leaving a space for what would be a small rock pool, and sculpting some of it to resemble sand over which the waves had left an impression.


I had to leave the box overnight at this stage as the gel mediums needed to be thoroughly dry before applying any paint or embellishments.

In the meantime, I turned to the embellishments. I got out my jar of small air-dry clay pebbles which I made some time ago for my stash, and a selection of natural coloured fluid acrylic paints.


I painted a base coat of cream over the entire surface of each of the selected pebbles, and then applied some of the beige and a little of the white, in what I hope is a realistic representation of pebbles you find on the beach. Turning each pebble around in my fingers in order to paint the entire surface was quite good because my fingers tended to smudge and blend the paint somewhat, giving a more natural appearance.


The final task that evening was to make the starfish. I had a silicone mould that I’d made from a starfish charm – you can see that it had a ring on the top, but this can be cut off the finished piece. I made it from Fimo air-dry clay (the same as the pebbles) and popped it out of the mould and left it to dry overnight.


The next day, when it is dry, I was able to trim off the ring and the excess clay around the edges.


Here is the side of the box now that the transparent gel medium has dried. I have put a moulded clay face underneath it to tip it up a bit so you can see it better.


I felt that there wasn’t enough contrast, so I added some of the gorgeous Daler Rowney pearlescent acrylic inks, brushing them on and dabbing it with kitchen paper and repeating the process until I got the desired result. These liquid acrylics really shimmer!


The glass microbeads were still falling off, so I decided the only thing for it was to add some soft gloss gel medium to keep them stuck on.


Here is the box once the gel medium had dried. The glass microbeads were nice and firmly stuck now.



Moving on to the lid, I filled the “rock pool” with Glossy Accents.


I then moved on to the inside of the box. I have given this a lot of thought and wondered what I could do that would echo the sea theme but also be a contrast. Years ago I went on an embroidery course where we learnt box making and the teacher said that every box should contain a surprise. I love this idea!

After a good night’s sleep, I decided that in this case, the box should be like the inside of a shell, lined with nacre (mother of pearl). I did a search online for a technique to create faux mother of pearl, and did some experiments. I have done a separate blog post about this here.

All the boxes were prepared in advance by painting a coat of gesso inside and out, and now I went over this with titanium white acrylic paint on the inside of the box and lid to give a smooth white surface.


The first step in creating the mother of pearl effect was to dab on some distress ink in Spun Sugar and Broken China, using a screwed up piece of cling film.


I repeated the process, this time using Liquid Pearls.


After this I applied a layer of Finnabair 3D transparent matt gel medium, using the smallest palette knife I have got, which reaches into the bottom of the box. After applying it fairly roughly, I went over it with a large flat brush, slightly moistened, to smooth out the roughness, and I used curving brush strokes to resemble the inside of a shell. Unfortunately this doesn’t show up very well on the photo.


I couldn’t do any more on the inside until this gel medium was dry, so I got out my Daler Rowney pearlescent acrylic inks again, and painted them on around the rim of the box. With these boxes there is always the danger of applying too much paint, which means that the lids won’t go on, but this stuff is so thin that I thought it would be OK. In the photo, you can see the edge of the tissue paper collage, which shows how thick this is, and how if it went to the top of the box, the lid definitely wouldn’t have gone on.

Also while waiting for the inside to dry, I decided to paint the sand on the top of the lid. I mixed together several of my Pebeo fluid acrylic paints till I got the right sand colour, and painted the coarse pumice gel medium which I’d sculpted into a rough sandy shape, and which had dried nice and hard. I carefully avoided the rock pool in the centre, but any stray paint wiped straight off the shiny surface of the Glossy Accents.


Here are a couple of close-ups of the painted sand.


For this photo, I propped the lid up on one side so that you can see how thick the sand is, and also the wave pattern on the side of the lid, done with the Daler Rowney acrylic inks, gel medium and glass microbeads.


I thought that for the surprise inside the box, I’d put a single pearl, as in an oyster. Going through my stash, in my “Junk Jewellery” box I found this necklace. Whenever I go to village fetes I pick up loads of junk jewellery – some of it is actually quite nice and I wear it, but there’s a lot of pretty awful stuff, but if you can look beyond that and see instead the elements that make it up, there’s often some quite useable stuff. I chose one of the large pearls from this necklace and removed it by straightening the wire which was threaded through it, and put it in the bowl of embellishments for the box.


I returned later, once the gel medium on the inside of the box had dried. However, I wasn’t quite happy with the 3D matte medium, even though this was my first choice of the experimental samples I’d done. Inside the box, I felt it needed a bit more sheen, so I added a coat of Finnabair heavy body gloss medium.

Here is the completed mother of pearl lining to the box. In real life, the colour shows up a bit more, and it’s more lustrous.



Painting the starfish. I used my Pebeo fluid acrylics for this.


Assembling the embellishments on the box lid, and about to make the seaweed from thin strips of green tissue paper torn from scraps. I stuck the embellishments to the lid of the box with Pinflair glue, and made the seaweed and stuck it down with soft gloss gel medium.


The single pearl inside the mother of pearl lined box, stuck down with Pinflair glue.


Finally, some photos of the completed box, once the gel medium on the seaweed was dry.

27 Finished Seascape Box Closed

28 Finished Seascape Box Side and Top

The box opened, revealing the mother of pearl lining and the little pearl.

29 Finished Seascape Box Lid and Inside 1

30 Finished Seascape Box Lid and Inside 2

31 Finished Seascape Box Open, Lid and Side

32 Finisheed Seascape Box Side 1

33 Finished Seascape Box Side 2

34 Finished Seascape Box Slightly Open

I gave my friend this little box on Friday, and I am happy to say she was delighted with it.


  1. Aaah, this is why you were experimenting with the mother of pearl finish earlier! A very complex project and not for the faint hearted as you handcrafted all the bits and pieces without cutting any corners! It looks amazing in the end! I'm sure your friend appreciated all the artistic effort that went into it!

    Have you heard about the microbead ban in cosmetics? I hope they will not extend that for art products as well. They don't usually end up down the drain after all, but you never know! I'd better stock up on microbeads while I can!

  2. I love the box. It is so pretty. I love the single pearl.

    1. So glad you like it, Aiyana. It was a fun project to make.



Thank you for your comments! They are much appreciated. Spammers, please be aware that I read and moderate ALL comments, and yours will be deleted before publication, so please don't bother!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...