Creating a Mixed Media Shadow Box

Bobbi Shupe
1. Come up with an idea/theme for a piece or collection of pieces and draw a sketch. Sketches can be rough or more detailed.



2.media02 If one of the elements to be used will take extra time to create and dry, make it now. I’m on a “head” kick so I’m making a lot of papier mache heads in advance. I use styrofoam heads for models as well as sculpted heads that I’ve created over the years to give me a variety of sizes. For papier mache, I use the traditional flour & water paste with paper towel (I like the texture) and a product called Claycrete.

3. Collect items that might work in the box with your theme. I’m working on a collection that will depict a different color in each box. My current box will be “black”. Gather things like jewelry, fabric, feathers, decals, coins, stencils, toys and trinkets. I always plan to do some illustrated areas so my boxes aren’t just a collection of “found” objects.

4. I use a pre-constructed shadow box that can be purchased at any craft store. Take the back board out of the box and prep it to be painted. Often this board has a velvet-like surface so I use a piece of illustration board or water color paper adhered to the original back board. If I’m going to do water color washes, I execute them directly on the water color paper. If I’m going to create a more opaque wash with acrylic paint, I’ll prime illustration board adhered to the back board, and then apply the color wash.

5. Begin to build up the elements on the background. Layers may have to be dried before others can be applied. Prop the board in front of a small space heater or use a hair dryer to speed the process. It’s always a good idea to be working on more than one piece so you can move to one while another is drying. Stick with traditional rules of design: uneven # of elements and work from the background to the foreground. When layering, this isn’t always possible since some layers happen by accident. Realize your original sketch may change significantly.











6. Examples of two finished pieces: Kaleidoscope and Begin & End and a photo of each as a work in progress.








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Haiku Helper

Whiney Writer


by Whiney Writer

The life of a writer has ebbs and flows, highs and lows, and comes and goes. I was in the middle of a low-going ebb of writer’s block, trying to turn letter into words when Hans whispered, “High school” into my ear. (Hans is my current muse and former farm boy. But handsome and well-overalled as he is, after the Little Red Hen Reboot debacle let’s just say he’s on a short leash.)

“High school?” I whispered back, confused. “Oh! Haiku!” And the memory of my very first writing workshop flooded back. The teacher suggested starting with a haiku each day to get the words flowing!

Haiku has an easy formula—five syllables by seven syllables by five—and can be about almost anything. (And they don’t even have to rhyme!) So I vowed that whenever I got stuck, I’d write another haiku just to keep the words moving.

Here are some haiku to inspire you, fellow struggling writer, from my low-going ebb of a day.

Writing is like the
Morning dew; all you must do
Is collect the drops the muse was supposed to have left there on the flowers … but oh, I guess he forgot!

I know, I know; it was my first attempt, and I guess I was a little hard on Hans. But a little later I tried again …

Words swell like leavened
Bread. Growing, expanding, rising,
And then you bake them to perfection—but you forget to knead the dough and by the time you remember it’s all over the stovetop and what a mess!

Last line was still giving me some trouble. But never say quit, say I! And so …

Relax, relax, relax it’s only a first draft … Oh no, I think I’ve had too much instant coffee and Captain Crunch.
Write like the wind, like a draft,
Like a windy draft.

Progress! Got the second and third line that time.

And finally, it happened. I started feeling the flush of inspiration that said, “Throw haiku out the window! Write the truth! Write what is inside you! Write, write, write!” And I could barely keep up with the words flowing out of my head and pen!

There once was a writer named Whiney,
Whose publishing credits were tiny.
But she writes every day,
Book, poem, or play,
And a contract she someday will sign (EEEE!).

And having traded haiku for limerick, my writer’s block was broken!

So fellow struggling writer! Next time you’re not sure how to start, try a limerick! I’ll even give you a first line …

What shall I do with my muse? …

Go for it! And send it in when you’re done! (Hans will post the PG ones.)

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Managing the Overload of Writing Advice

Pam MingleSometimes, when the urge to subscribe (again) to The Writer, or to buy another book on writing by the latest guru strikes, I want to scream “Enough!” I’ve been reading articles, books, and blog posts about writing for fifteen years. Add one or two writing conferences each year, my monthly critique group, and routine gabbing with friends about the art of writing, and you have a lot of advice and in depth instruction. How much more can my brain absorb? I think I’ve reached the saturation point.

Have I given in to the urge to cut myself off from all this craft advice? No, I haven’t. I know I’m a stronger writer because of all that I’ve read and all that I’ve learned at conferences and workshops. When I compare my writing today to my earlier work, I’m aware of how valuable these various resources have been.  Not right away of course. Much of it sits there, leaching into my brain and percolating until I need it. And I’ve discarded a good bit too.

How can I—we—approach this advice overload without feeling so overwhelmed? Here are a few tips:

  • Choose one, two, maybe three writing blogs you value highly and follow them. Subscribe or make a note on your calendar to check them weekly, or use It doesn’t take long to read a blog post. My current favorite is Writer Unboxed ( I find there are often ideas in blog posts I can use right away.
  • Limit your reading of writing craft books to one per year. This is how my fellow critique group member, Anna-Maria Crum, deals with the flood of writing books threatening to drown us. One book per year seems reasonable and doable.
  • Keep a collection of your favorite writing craft books handy. The ones you cut your teeth on. It’s especially helpful to re-read sections of them when you need reminders of basic principles. It’s like meeting up with old friends—these books are reinvigorating, heartening, and, most important, trustworthy.
  • Register for one or two conferences per year, because attending a session taught by a gifted writing teacher, who also provides the opportunity to ask questions, is invaluable. Frankly, I’m beginning to believe that the personal connection is far more important than the books and articles on writing. And it’s a lot more fun!
  • Purchase recordings of some of the sessions from whatever conferences you attended. While I’m walking, or at the gym, I listen to them. The other day I had to get off the treadmill to ask if I could borrow a pen and piece of paper to jot down something I wanted to be sure to recall.
  • Read the library copies of The Writer and Writer’s Digest rather than subscribing. Having all those issues pile up can be depressing. Libraries often let users check out all issues except for the most recent. While I’m at the library, if I think of it, I peruse the recent issues, and if there’s something I really want to read, I check the issue out or photocopy the article I’m interested in.

No doubt there are other ways to stay on top of writing craft resources. Please share your ideas in the comments.


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4 comments to Managing the Overload of Writing Advice

  • Yep, I hear you! I finally tossed all my outdated writing newsletters and magazines only a few months ago…some dating back ten years! I like reading new writing craft books more than magazines, I’ve found. They tend to dive more deeply into a writing topic–which is what I need these days.

    When I’m submitting regularly, though, or searching for an agent, I find magazines and newsletters to be worth the subscription price. They tend to provide information on markets that gets dated more quickly.

  • Ceil

    It’s nice to know I’m not the only one trying to keep up with all the “how too” advice. Your tips are great. After all these years I still marvel at how I learn something new at every conference I attend!

  • Brilliant! This really resonated with me because it’s something I started putting into practice about a year ago, but it’s creeping back in. :-) I LOVE Writer Unboxed – highly recommend that blog.

  • The same sensible approach can also be applied to marketing–because you can’t do it all.

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