How to Make a Memory Box and Memory Box: Monogram Canvas, both 2011

Memory boxes contain hidden objects and are meant to act as visual reminders of incidents or events one may want to remember. Memory boxes might hold items that are sentimental or broken but still meaningful. In the box the item can remain special and tangibly become a catalyst for memories in the same way a smell or taste can conjure up memories. Just as zeros are placekeepers in a math equation, these broken or small things can become the reminder of important memories and events. By working with these real, yet hidden, objects/mementos the memory box becomes both a record of the hidden object and an object itself.


Step 1: As in book making you always want to work from the inside out. Begin by identifying the memory you are working with. Find an object or photograph that associates with that memory.

Example: My mother loved Louis Vuitton as did her husband. Louis Vuitton items were their gifts to each other. I found a very small shoulder bag in mom’s closet when I was cleaning out her house. At first I thought I might use it but the zipper was broken. I tried to have it repaired. I went to the LV store on 5th Avenue. They were quite rude. They said it was a “very old little bag” and that probably the zipper was no longer in stock. I was surprised because I had encountered very different customer service at LLBean and Patagonia. But I didn’t want to chuck the bag. I decided to use it for a memory box. I wanted to include a LV man’s wallet with it as well to remember my step-father and honor their happy marriage. I didn’t have a LV wallet. Canal Street provided.

Step 2: After identifying the object find a box that will fit it.

Example: At first I thought I would do a double piece using two boxes, but I ended up liking the simplicity of one box, and the fact that the purse and the wallet would be together.

Step 3: Refinish your found box to suitably house the item(s) you have selected.

Example: I created a dark stain on the wood sides because the classic Monogram canvas LV style is rather dark.

Step 4: Paint on the front-identified surface of the box. Use colors, textures and patterns that suggest the item and/or memory inside.

Example: I decided to use gold paint because these LV items are very expensive.

Step 5: Let dry. Once thoroughly dry turn the box over and drill a hole or place a mounting bracket. This will act as a hanging device for the memory box. This is when you can label the box, sign and date it. If you want the hidden object to remain a mystery you may also decide to seal the box at this time. I use sealing wax. (This also helps if the back panel is loose and slips.)

Memory Box, front and side views

note: to see more memory boxes go to my blog: from the third barn