DIY: Handmade Candy Boxes

Decoupage a box to hold your goodies or give as a gift.

| December/January 1994

A handmade gift is a treasure and deserves to be treated as one. Present your holiday candy, cookies, or other sweets in a container that will live on after the contents have been reduced to crumbs. One way to package an herbal gift is in a box like those shown above which owe their simple charm to “antique” herb drawings decoupaged onto the surface. Long after the sweets are gone, the boxes will still be useful for holding paper clips, potpourri, jewelry, mementos, notes, stamps, or loose change.

Decoupage is the French word for “cut out”, and virtually anything that can be cut out can then be applied to a surface.

Any hobby or craft store offers a selection of inexpensive unfinished boxes made of heavy cardboard or lightweight wood in different sizes and shapes to fit your needs; the technique of decoupage is adaptable to any container made of almost any material, even metal. Ours are decorated with illustrations from a clip-art book of old-time plant woodcuts, but any kind of artwork may be used, including pictures from magazines, catalogs, and greeting cards, even fabrics and photographs. Découpage is the French word for “cut out”, and virtually anything that can be cut out can then be applied to a surface. As you become familiar with the technique, ideas will present themselves. Because the illustrations that we chose were black-and-white, we added soft color with oil-based colored pencils.

It’s often easier to come up with a pleasing design to decoupage when the background color on the box is white, off-white, or another light shade that doesn’t compete with the design. We used standard decoupage materials: acrylic gesso, which after many coats will produce a smooth, slick surface; acrylic paint for the background; and a decoupage finish, which adheres and seals the design onto the surface. All are soluble in water, making cleanup easy. A layer of antiquing finish “aged” our boxes to make them more compatible with the woodcut designs. Antiquing shows up best on a pale, muted background.

You can position the cutouts to overlap the top and bottom halves of the box so that the plants seem to wrap around it, but there are many other ways to produce a pleasing design. You can decoupage just the top of the box or do the top and bottom separately with related illustrations. You may prefer to paint the inside and bottom in a contrasting color or decoupage them; you may glue felt to the bottom, line the inside with a satiny fabric (if the box is not intended to hold food), or decoupage a tiny butterfly inside that is revealed like a jewel when the box is opened. Making these boxes personal is part of the fun.

Because decoupage involves a lot of time waiting around for each coat of gesso and finish to dry, we found it most efficient to work on several boxes—as many as a half dozen—at once. Now that you’ve bought the decoupage materials, you might as well use them, and the cost of additional boxes is nominal. The extra decorated boxes are useful to have on hand during the holiday season for any special occasion.

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