Words of late artist Frank Howell...I totally relate!

"There are few days off and no retirement from this entanglement of knowledge, passion and vision that will be molded and converted into creative expression. There are no guarantees of acceptance, understanding or reward, but...the noise inside the mind never ceases. I will paint today, tonight and for as many tomorrows as I am given..." Words of the late artist Frank Howell...

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Shadowboxing a Swimsuit or any other Garment- A Tutorial

I promised a tutorial to show the process of shadowboxing the vintage swimsuit that I shared yesterday- Here it is.

Note:   I should tell you right up front that I am a professional picture framer, having worked at, managed and owned frame shops over the years.  This project is doable for the average person, but you will need a few special tools and you should not try this if you are fearful of handling glass...If you are scared of glass, go let the professionals handle it. You can get cut while cleaning the glass, as it needs to be cleaned well right up to the cut edges.  If you are nervous, you will be shaky and that's just setting you up to get cut.  If you're cool with glass, then you'll be good to go.

For this project,  I recycled an old frame that had been given to me a few years back-  It was dark wood, with a burgundy velvet fabric mat board lining...I had to rip that all out and clean it up before I even started my project.  It was worth the effort though, because it saved me well over $100.

So, this is the way the frame looked before I cleaned it up and painted it.  It is shown here with the backing and glass removed.  I was getting ready to paint it with a custom mixed chalk paint, using a popular recipe that can be found online- 1 Cup latex paint, 2 1/2 T Plaster of Paris, 1 1/2 T cool water.  I decided to try it using craft paint.  Acrylic is plastic, so if latex paint works, then craft paint should also work.  They are all basically the same thing. I mixed it in the recycled sour cream container -white with a few drops of a dark brown just to age it a little.  It went on just like the expensive brands of chalk paint, and adhesion was perfect.  It did take two coats, as it would have with any paint.  I waxed it with CeCe Caldwell's wax that I had left over from a previous project.

With the glass removed from the frame, I cleaned it really well on both sides.  Then, I carefully dropped it back into the frame.  Now we will cut the sides  of the lining (foam core with mat board) of the inside of the frame.  These will be attached to the sides of the frame and will secure the glass into the front of the frame.

Measure the depth from the glass to the of the frame, from the front to the back.  It is shown here marked "foam core."  You will cut four strips this measurement.  They will then need to be cut to the correct lengths, as determined by frame size.  In all, you will need 4 strips of foam core and 4 identical strips of mat board.  The mat board should be the same color as the back piece that will be the "background."

This is my mat cutter...

This is a tool that rolls adhesive onto the strips of foam core and mat board.

Foam core strips have been added using the adhesive above.

Then, mat board was added on top of the foam core.  The mat board should be cut very precisely, so that there are no cracks or gaps showing.  Use the same adhesive to attach.

Now, measure across the entire back space from the indented area all the way across to the other side.  Do this both vertically and horizontally.  This  is the measurement of the large piece of mat board that everything will be mounted onto.

As you can see from the picture in the center, the measurement is 29 3/8.  You will want this to be exact.    Now, measure the other dimension and cut the mat board piece.

Now, you have your back board on which to design the piece.  Start laying it out directly onto the mat board.

When you are happy with the layout, take an awl and punch tiny holes where the garment will be stitched into place.

Using a needle and thread that matches in color, stitch through from the back to the front and then back through to the back.  Tie the thread to secure.

I used the Scotch adhesive (same as above) to attach the rubber cap.

The photographs were attached to a small block of foam core that was attached with more adhesive.  I also put the starfish into the pocket of the swimsuit and stitched it into place with more thread.

Because I don't want to put adhesive onto the garment, I stitched a small block of foam core to the top (taking the thread all the way through all layers to the back of the foam core) and then stuck the postcard onto the foam core with adhesive.

When everything had been stuck or stitched into place, I carefully placed the piece into the frame and flipped it over to view from the front.  Check for anything that needs to be further secured or dust and stray things that have fallen into the bottom.  Also check for any spots on the glass that can now be seen.  It's best to discover these things now, before the back goes on.

Now, it's time to secure everything and put the paper dust cover on.  You will need to attach everything with framers points.  

Here is a link to my point driver, pictured below, and you can also find all of the other tools mentioned here at Dick Blick online.

                                FrameMaster Framing Tool

Attach the paper with the adhesive and trim the excess away with a razor blade.

Put a wire on the back, and it's ready to hang.

If you are shadowboxing a garment, I hope you found this helpful...I would love to hear from you and see what you've shadowboxed!



  1. Suzanne of Simply Suzannes at Home

    Hi Judy!
    You did an amazing job on this project!
    I did something similar to this one a few years ago when my oldest son became an Eagle Scout.
    Shadow boxes are such a beautiful tribute!
    Thanks so much for coming by my neck of the woods, and taking the time to leave a comment! You asked me about my camera . . . Well, I bought it about 10 years ago. It's a NIKON D70. I'm a BIG believer in natural light. Photos taken in natural light, with a steady hand, is key to taking great photos. That's my secret :0)
    Have a great weekend!

    1. Suzanne, thank you so much for revealing your secrets to great pics! Part of my problem is the steady hand, as I'm becoming a bit shaky in my old age!
      I appreciate the response to my question.
      Enjoy your weekend, too!

  2. What a great tutorial! Your project turned out fabulous!
    Thank you for coming by for a visit and commenting Judy!
    ~ Violet

    1. Thank you Violet! I appreciate the visit and comment.