Lit Art in Tiny Tins

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About: artist, partner, parent, daughter, sailor, boatbuilder, house painter, knitter, muffin queen!

I’ve been making tiny pieces of art lately. To keep them from from coming apart, or getting lost, I put the tiny art in tiny boxes (can you sense a theme here?). But tiny boxes are dark, unless the top is off, and then the top gets lost. If the top has a window in it, the artwork is easier to see, but still shadowed. I wanted to light the box from the inside, like a tiny museum diorama, or a window into another world. I found kits for lighting dollhouses online, and set myself to making tiny things that light up.

Overview:

  1. take a box
  2. make an art to fit inside it
  3. install electronics (electronics = LED, battery and holder, switches)
  4. fit artwork back into tin, make allowances for replacing battery later
  5. close up
  6. turn it on!

Step 1: Supplies: Tin, Electronics

The boxes I used are wedding favor boxes from Michael’s, but I have also had good luck online. I felt like a kid in a candy store with all those choices! It is much easier for me to purchase or find boxes than to mainline mints…

For electronics, I found an LED, switch, battery and battery holder at https://true2scale.com/3v-leds-battery-units/ I’ve used all different sizes of LED. So far, I like the biggest size LED they have, called mega, and then I can cover it with fabric or paint to add atmosphere (or lighting gels, if you have access to them).

Step 2: Install the Electronics

For this switch, I put a hole in the side of the box, using my excellent hand punch.

I used superglue to hold the switch and LED where I wanted them in the tin.

Attach the LED wires to the battery holder and switch wires.

If the wires of the LED are not marked, you will need to install a battery, make sure the switch is turned on, and test to see which wire gets attached where. LEDs have a polarity, and only work when current is flowing through them the correct direction. The ones in the kit are color coded, so there is less to worry about.

Step 3: Fit Art Into Box

The pieces I want to showcase are beaded and collaged arrangements. They are composed on pieces of heavyweight interfacing, covered with fabric and with the edges finished.

While they have some structure they need stand-offs to hold the work above the battery and wires.

Because it will be protected within the box, you can add depth and dimension by stacking items or building things out off the background.

Step 4: Light It Up!

When you are pleased with your art, pack it carefully into the box. You can cover the interior of the box with paper or fabric to decrease the metallic reflections from the lighting. I also used fabric to cover the switch and as a way to diffuse the light from the LED.

Put on the cover, and turn on the light – isn’t that lovely? Good job!

Step 5: Sources

Boxes:

  • Michael’s for wedding favor boxes
  • https://www.specialtybottle.com/metal-tin-containers/clear-top-window
  • https://www.papermart.com/metal-containers/id=19037-index

Lights - dollhouse supplies can provide lighting kits or individual pieces

  • True2Scale.com (LEDs, battery holder and switch)
  • modeltrainsoftware.com (LEDs, battery holder and switch)
  • http://manhattandollhouse.com (individual fixtures)
  • You can also cannibalize decorative strings of LEDs. They can have colored lights, or LEDs imbedded in plastic items such as stars, snowflakes, pumpkins, etc. Ue the entire string, with the battery pack and switch attached or cut them apart and attach to button cells and switches yourself.

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