How we create a shadow box: Part 1

How we create a shadow box: Part 1

At McDonald Niklaus we believe in stories. We recently got to help a really great family tell a story that was near to their hearts, and we thought we’d share the process with you.

944d9c2b-ee33-42c5-8136-3585417b57efKim called and wanted to make a shadow box for her daughter. A shadow box is like a frame for three dimensional objects. Kim had her now adult daughter’s baptismal dress and had been wanting to get it framed for her for years.

Whenever we get a call like this to create a family keepsake, we often start with the same advice. Gather everything you can that’s related to the object you’d like to frame. Whether it’s movie tickets, a Christmas card, a ring or a set of pictures, you can never bring in too many things. So a little while later Kim showed up at the shop with a whole collection of things from her daughter’s childhood, including pictures, newspaper articles, jewelry and even a lock of her daughter’s hair from her first haircut.
934d4473-c20e-4367-bb48-ad6f3ac2b379Our favorite part comes after you bring in all your keepsakes. We want to hear your story. Before we get into picking out frames and colors we wanted to hear about Kim’s daughter. We want the finished shadow box to retell that story of love, family and growing up. Once we found out exactly what made these pieces so meaningful, we were ready to start the layout process.

Before Kim left, she picked out some frames and mat colors that she liked and we went to work. A shadow box like this really takes the whole shop. As designers we start to play with the layout. We want to frame and show off the most important piece, while keeping the supporting pieces from getting lost. In this case, Kim had some beautiful jewelry that we wanted to make sure to showcase, but we wanted to make sure that the dress was still the featured item. Over the course of several days we tried several layouts with different frame and mat options. We tried out some fillets (which are kind of like mini-frames within the frame) and some three dimensional framing options that helped keep the sense of depth. After we had some design ideas we all loved we were ready to call Kim back in.d5c11d60-5a82-4d62-95c7-efb07e8ea275
We showed her some mock-ups and laid out the items with some frame and mat samples. We we had all agreed on the story we were trying to tell, we were ready for the next step: actually building it.

There are a ton of considerations in the build process beyond just making it look great. We also want to make sure that each shadow box is built to last for generations while protecting its contents. Of course, we also want to make sure that those items can be safely removed if they should need to be in the future. It’s a lot to think about, so we’ll cover the actual building of the shadow box in Part 2.


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IMG_20150710_133725440"We love these silhouettes, Jody. The process was so easy and they ended up looking exactly like our boys. We now have them hanging in our bedroom. This was our first experience with a custom framing shop and the quality is just unbelievable. And being able to look at and tweak every detail was awesome. Thanks again, Jody." -Missy L

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About Us

McDonald Niklaus Framing & Gifts is a full service custom frame shop & gift gallery that strives to bring the best, most unique framing to our customers. McDonald Niklaus also sells many amazing handcrafted gifts made locally and throughout the USA.

700 Boulevard St
Dover, Ohio

(330) 364-3136

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