Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Matchbox Diary Wreath

Every year, our local museum has an exhibit of Christmas trees that are decorated by volunteers.  The decorations are inspired by children's books.  Over the years I have decorated quite a few trees.  For the past two years I have decorated a wreath in a small hallway.  You can see last year's wreath based on the book Wynken, Blynken and Nod HERE and the tree I decorated with my neighbor two years ago based on the book Dear Mermaid HERE.

The book I was asked to do this year is called The Matchbox DiaryIt was written by Paul Fleischmann and illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline. It is a charming story about grandfather sharing his memories with his granddaughter.  When he was young he immigrated to the US and didn't know how to read and write so he kept small objects in matchboxes to remind him of things that had happened. 

The book has lovely illustrations with a great deal of detail. There are 14 items that are revealed in the matchboxes so I set off on a treasure hunt to find them all.

One of the hardest things to find was the small matchboxes.  I tried local grocery, drug and hardware stores and eventually found them a a dollar store - 10 for $1.  Cigar boxes are popular items to alter and I was able to buy this one at my local craft store, Ink About It in Westford, MA.   Fortunately, the matchboxes fit fairly well and I could fill the gaps at the top and side by placing some matchboxes vertically.  I added some strategically cut pieces of cardboard to fill up the base of the box.

Of course, I had to empty all of those matchboxes to avoid a fire hazard at the museum!  Now I have a lifetime supply...

I started searching for vintage images to cover the matchboxes.  Twisted Papers is my "go to" source for great vintage images and I was able to find lots of advertising images that would work well.  I also found a few matchbox images on a Tim Holtz Distressables Elements CD from 2008 by Design Originals.  This company was sold to Fox Chapel Publishing in 2011 and I could not find the CDs on their website but you might be able to find a copy still in stock at an online or local store.

This photograph was one of the items illustrated and I wondered where I would find one that looked similar.  It was exciting to find this man's "twin" in the People (Vintage Photos) Gallery on the Twisted Papers site.

He is not an identical twin but remarkably similar.

I used my Panstoria Artisan 4.0 software to adapt the images to fit the matchboxes and set up a few sheets of different images to print.  I also found a couple of paper matchbox labels in a vintage shop and added them into the mix of images.  (Panstoria is the company that created the StoryBook Creator program that Creative Memories sold and since Creative Memories exited the digital scrapping business as part of their bankruptcy reorganization Panstoria now sells the program as Artisan on their website HERE).

I used quite a few advertising images since matchboxes were often given away for promotional purposes.  It was a lot of fun to sort through the possibilities at Twisted Papers They sell images as individual downloads (instant gratification!) or in collections on CDs and DVDs.

The cutting, pasting and inking process to turn the modern red boxes into "vintage" matchboxes was fun.  I learned a few tricks by trial and error.  The covers were printed on regular printer paper so it worked best to put the glue on the matchbox and then add the cover.  Once they were stuck down some Distress Ink helped to age the boxes.  I used Vintage Photo on nearly all of the boxes and also some Peeled Paint and Wild Honey to tint some of the black and white images.

I made sure to use each cover only once for the boxes that went into the cigar box.  Even the boxes that are standing on the ends have been covered, just in case someone looks at them from a lower angle.  The boxes are pretty tightly packed but they are also glued into the cigar box.  The boxes layered on the top are also glued and the entire cigar box is wired into the wreath form.

The items in the matchboxes are arranged around the wreath in four clusters of three and the final two rest next to and on the cigar box.  The first three items are an olive pit, the photograph and a pen nib.

Next are a piece of macaroni, a bottle cap and a fancy hairpin (found on the ship when the grandfather was a boy immigrating to the US).

I made the hair pin by attaching a small rhinestone brooch to a piece of wire.  I always look for "junk jewelry" at rummage sales since many items are quite useful for craft projects.

The next three items are a St. Christopher medal, 19 sunflower seed shells and a fish bone.  I couldn't find a St. Christopher medal that looked similar to the one in the book so I created one from an image I found online, layering it on some chipboard circles, inking the edges in silver and adding a jump ring to make it seem more "real."

The next items are a piece of newspaper (created on the computer, printed on parchment and inked and crumpled) a tooth and a ticket.  The ticket is supposed to be for a baseball game but I had an image of a circus ticket that works since the circus part doesn't show.  The tooth is real (OK, I admit it - I keep everything!)

The final two items are a lump of coal (I cheated a bit - it is just a stone that my husband found and painted black for me) and some pieces of metal type.  The grandfather became a typesetter and this is the last box that they open together and talk about.

The hallway where the wreath hangs is a bit dark so I added lots of shimmery ribbon.  The deep red and gold are traditional colors and also capture the feel of the book illustrations.  The tiny lights are battery operated LEDs that do not get hot and are timed to be on for six hours and then off until the next day.

The final thing I added to the wreath was the large red bow to fill in the area by the cigar box and make the view from the left of the wreath more attractive.  I'll have to stop by the museum every so often to "fluff" it since it will most likely be bumped into a few times as people pass through the exhibit.  (One of the other decorators offered to take my photo by the wreath when I finally got it all put together.  I forgot to have one taken beside last year's wreath.)

I think that this book is lovely and I hope that some of the children who visit the exhibit may be inspired to start their own little collections just like the granddaughter does at the end of the story.  Simple objects can have great meaning when you know the stories that go along with them.  You'll have to read the book to find out the significance of all of the things that are in these boxes.

The Concord Museum has a wonderful collection, including Ralph Waldo Emerson's study, Henry David Thoreau's desk from his Walden cabin and the Paul Revere lantern from 1775 ("one if by land and two if by sea...").  You can find the museum website HERE.  If you live in this area and have never been to the museum it is well worth a visit and from now until the end of the year you will also be able to see the Family Trees exhibit.

Family Trees is a special event that has been held at the museum for the past eighteen years.  Volunteers decorate trees with a children's book as the inspiration.  Some of the trees are decorated by the author or illustrator of the book.  This event is a fundraiser for the educational initiatives at the museum.  You can read more about the Family Trees event HERE.

I hope your Thanksgiving preparations are going well.  If you are also celebrating Hanukkah enjoy the 0nce-in -a lifetime overlap of the two holidays, apparently "Thanksgivukkah" t-shirts are big sellers this year!

We will have all of the family together - our son and daughter-in-law from California fly in tonight (hoping that there are no weather difficulties with their flight!).  I have been away a lot over the past month and it is nice to settle in now for the holiday season. 

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  1. Your creativity and thoughtfulness never cease to amaze me. You inspire us all to be more creative and caring.

  2. Wow! What a wonderful project, Diane. I am always awed by your attention to detail. And now, of course, I have to find the book! Thanks for sharing! : ) Christine

  3. You are such a talented lady. Your wreath is just amazing.
    You certainly put a lot of time and effort into it. \


  4. Diane you have such a great imagination. I could have read that book and never come up with your clever ideas to make a wreath. It is just stunning. Savor every moment with your family. I know you'll be thinking of your Dad.
    Happy Thanksgiving to all. Hugs, Mary Ann


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