Ali Edwards Capture life. Create art.

May 30, 2008

weekend creative : photo type case


[ project featured in my book Life Artist ]

This project is right up there at the top of my all-time favorite projects list. It has photos + words + re-purposes something old giving it a new life. Lovely.

Here’s the really simple how-to:


1. Find an old type case.

I purchased both of mine from antique stores/tag sales
for between $20 and $40 depending on quality and size. This one above
was $30. Both of the cases I have measure right around 32 inches x 16.5 inches. I would also recommend checking ebay or simply google “type drawers” or “type cases” (while looking up some sources I found that they are actually called cases rather than drawers).

I did a renegade cleaning of mine by spraying it with the hose on a hot summer day to loosen the dirt and grime that had accumulated. I am guessing it was probably not the best way to clean old wood, but it worked. After it dried I was ready to play.


2. Fill it with stuff.

The case above was filled with photos and embellishments. I measured the squares (this one had even sized squares vs. the empty one above has a variety of different sized rectangles) and they ended up being pretty much 2 inches x 2 inches. I re-sized a bunch of our favorite photos in Photoshop, printed them here at home, and trimmed them down to fit.

To adhere the photos and embellishments onto the wood I went with 3D foam squares. If you are wondering about the sticking power, this entire thing was wrapped + shipped to Utah to be photographed for the book and made it back in one piece and has been hanging on our wall ever since.

For variety and depth, I added more than one foam square behind some of the photos. This means that some of them stick out farther within the squares than others.


As for additional embellishments I pretty much went through my stash and grabbed elements that had a bit of meaning and were just waiting to be used in something (don’t we all have those things that you are just waiting to use on the “perfect” project). I also tended towards circle embellishments for a nice break from all those square photos.

These Scenic Route chipboard circles would work great. As would these Love, Elsie Soft Charms or these stacked layer stickers from K&Company or those classic Making Memories metal charmed quotes.

The compartments are also a nice place to store personal mementos. My Mom has a drawer hanging in the house I grew up in that is filled not with photos but little bits and pieces of things she has collected along her journey. Many of those little things relate to this or that event and are significant to us as a family. It is a treasure.


3. Display.

Our case hangs on a wall in our dining room. I hung it with picture-hanging wire and screws screwed into the sides of the wood. They would also look great on a bureau or dresser.


The prompt for the weekend is this: What can you do to “live with” your photos other than having them inside your computer, in boxes under the bed, hidden away in photo albums, or placed among decorations in your scrapbooks? Maybe a type case or shadow box is in your future…


  • 1.
    Laura Hawkey said…

    HI, loving your last few weeks posts! i love this and was inspired to get one after seeing it in your book, and i am gradually filling it up with photos and bits and bobs, This has definatly reminded me to find more photos this weekend, thanks for the constant inspiration! xxx

  • 2.
    sue said…

    I love this idea and am in the process of looking for another type case. I already use one to store part of my rubber stamp collection. They look great in it. It’s on my ‘to do’ list for summer.

  • 3.
    JLS said…

    I just saw two of these at a nearby antique market. I wanted to bring one home….but my fiance required me to give it a specific purpose right then and there (I collect too much, and a line needs to be drawn somewhere). I couldn’t come up with anything concrete, so my fiance made me leave it. I am SO forwarding this to him, so we can return to the market and snatch it up! Thank you!

  • 4.
    Angela said…

    Wow. I have the Life Artist book, but guess I missed this. Once we move I’m SO doing this!

  • 5.
    Lisa R said…

    Ali, you have fabulous timing– I have a type drawer sitting in my studio currently, just waiting to be filled with all kinds of things. seeing this is hopefully the kick in the pants I need for me to start creating!
    thanks for always being a source of inspiration. :)

  • 6.
    Julie Howard said…

    What a clever idea, and a beautiful way to display photos! I have one of these drawers that I just haven’t done anything with. Now I know what to do with it.

  • 7.
    Anna Beth said…

    This is about the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. I love it!!

  • 8.
    scrapwordsgirl said…

    I so loved this in your book. Thanks for sharing more of the how-to. I want to do this. I’m going to keep my eyes pealed!! Thanks for all the inspiration you provided to me every single day.

  • 9.
    Sasha J Nygaard said…

    Wow! I have been loving the last few posts (not that I don’t always love them anyway!). I feel so energized to tackle my stack of albums and get them organized. And the type case is beyond cool – I’d love to make one for over our mantel. I especially like the fact that it will hold an albums worth of photos in a really cool and stylized way. As always -thanks for the great inspirations!

  • 10.
    Stacy said…

    I’m also storing rubber stamps in my type drawer and some of the little compartments are just too small for stamps. Pictures are a fabulous idea. Thanks!

  • 11.
    heidi said…

    I love this idea – I’ve had one of these drawers for ages, always meaning to fill it with nature/objects. I like the idea of photos – I think I’ll age and distress mine and mix them with things we find on our beach.

  • 12.
    Hope said…

    I love this and I’m looking for a type case right now. I can’t wait to do this project and hang it at work. I’m also thinking about doing them as gifts.

  • 13.
    Karla said…

    ….just so neat! And what a way to show your family how special it is :)
    thanks so much for sharing with all of us honey,

  • 14.
    Kendra said…

    I’m so excited! My mom had one of these in our dining room growing up and it was filled with this and that. I also remeber seeing it in one of your 365 photos. Thanks for sharing the details of yur process! I’m off to the estate store!

  • 15.
    kristina said…

    That is SO beautiful and unique, Ali! Love it! Thank you for the idea! I’ll have to be on the lookout for it when Nashville has their flea market again in a few weeks!

  • 16.
    Krystyn said…

    Wow -this is amazing. I would love to put one of these together.

  • 17.
    Linn said…

    This is one of my favorite projects of yours…I’m so glad I saw it before cleaning out my grandparents’ house a few months ago. I rescued an old, dirty, wooden coke bottle crate that I plan to do this with. I’m so thankful you gave me the idea so I can use not only pictures with meaning, but also a crate with meaning.
    Thank you!

  • 18.
    Lindsay Palamaruk said…

    Absolutely beautiful!! I LOVE your blog & your VISION!! You are so inspirational beyond words. I look forward to reading your blog everyday. You so “GET IT”!!
    Thank you so much Ali for sharing all your insights with us.

  • 19.
    Marie - mariemc said…

    Love this idea!!!!

  • 20.
    Aimee Wheaton said…

    Love this idea!!!! I passed by one of these shadowboxes/typecase just yesterday at an antique store!! I may have to go back and get it now! Thanks for the inspiration!

  • 21.
    Michelle Martinez said…

    OMG!! I love that idea. You are so creative. Your site always helps me think outside the box and come up with new ways to use my own limited artistic talent. Thanks!!

  • 22.
    mandy b. said…

    That is one of THE coolest projects I have ever seen…I’m out to find a type case! Thanks for sharing!

  • 23.
    Mary said…

    I have one of these in my basement that I haven’t used for years…what a great idea!

  • 24.
    mary rogers said…

    one of my most favorite things you have ever created ali! love it! : )

  • 25.
    Nikki said…

    I love what you said about living with your photos, instead of having them tucked in a box.
    TFS another great idea!

  • 26.
    Anne said…

    What a great idea! Back in the day, I was a journalism major and we had to learn to hand-set type as part of our education. (I know, I know. . . too primitive!) But these cases were called California Job Cases. I don’t know why. Your project brings back so many memories of so many ink-stained hands. FYI – type is set upside down and backwards. Which explains a lot about my thinking process. . . I think.

  • 27.
    Liz Ness said…

    What a great idea!

  • 28.
    Candi Tardio said…

    i remember when i read about your type set drawer in your life artist book…i ran out and got one, LOVED the awesome idea…still need to fill my drawer with photos!!! some day i will get it finished :)
    have a great weekend!!!

  • 29.
    Meg said…

    I love this case, Ali, so many little peaks into your memories! I have seen one at a house on 11th that has a garage sale every weekend (on the corner of Monroe, I think? I see it on the way home from the library.) I may have to actually stop there today and see if they still have it!

  • 30.
    Michelle B said…

    I have noticed this treasure in your flickr pictures and in your book and I love it! I really think I am going to try do something similar. Thanks for letting me steal your ideas! My husband asks me if I get ALL my ideas from AE and I tell him – “she wouldn’t put direction how to make it if she didn’t want people to copy her!”. Great stuff Ali!

  • 31.
    Jennifer P said…

    Yea, that’s pretty much awesome. Now I must find one.

  • 32.
    vinnie said…

    OMG !
    It’s amazing…
    Thanks for sharing such a good idea
    à bientôt

  • 33.
    Terri Porter said…

    Ali, you have me jumping for joy with this idea! I have an old type tray that I got from an antique store over 30 years ago. At the time, I collected matchbooks and displayed them in the type tray. I had a piece of glass cut exactly the same size as the whole type case and attached it with brass corners. It has been stored in my basement and collecting dust for sometime. Don’t know why I never thought to use it for photos, but it is going to be unearthed TODAY and used on this project. I’m so excited because I always loved the look of this hanging on the wall but the matchbooks no longer interested me. Thank you SO MUCH for this idea!

  • 34.
    jennifer said…

    You seriously read my mind! I just went to an antique store yesterday hoping to find a tray or something interesting – but no such luck. I love this idea. Maybe I’ll find something else to fill this weekend. Thanks.

  • 35.
    Candice Summers said…

    I LOVE THAT!!! My grandfather was a typesetter and I was a third generation printer, before I became the mommy of 2 lovely children on the spectrum and 2 neurotypicals. Whenever I see a type case I just think of my grandma and his vintage printing press and the smell of ink. LOVE IT.

  • 36.
    stacy said…

    WOW Ali! This is amazing! I just love it. I take so many images of my family that I would love to have dispayed EVERYDAY..but feel that I just don’t have enough room for them all. This is a beautiful way to do just that! Thanks…can’t wait to find/create my own!

  • 37.
    Shell said…

    OMG – thanks for the typecase link. I am going to London in August – and I now WILL be going to their shop! – or their stall at Covent Garden or Portobello Road.
    WOO HOO – even more excited now than I was!

  • 38.
    Amber said…

    WOW! That is the coolest idea ever.
    I am SO doing that!
    Thanks for the inspiration, Ali!

  • 39.
    AllisonK said…

    Seriously a very awesome project!

  • 40.
    Spazzymommy said…

    Wow. You’ve got a new subscriber to your block. How fun and inspiring!
    I want to get my pictures off my PC and out from under my bed…and this is a beautiful way to kill two birds with one stone! :)

  • 41.
    Jessica Turner said…

    Ali, when I received your book right after it released, I went CRAZY for this project. I went to the flea market two weeks later and was able to nab one for $15! I haven’t put pictures in it yet, as we are expecting a baby soon and I want him to be a part of it, but I LOVE this project. So glad you posted it to your blog.

  • 42.
    Rachel Smith said…

    I have the exact same tray with the odd sizes as the empty one you showed. I remembered seeing this project in your book, but I think the compartments are just too small for photos. What else might you suggest? I really want to do something special with it.

  • 43.
    Shelly Kettell said…

    What a great project!!! It is awesome! as are you!

  • 44.
    Lisa in WA said…

    Best project I have seen in ages, thank you!! I am definitely inspired to make my own, I love the antique look in my home.

  • 45.
    Jana Beck said…

    This is fabulous! Have you filled the one with a variety of shapes that is pictured? I would love to see what you came up with…
    Thanks so much for sharing your creativity!

  • 46.
    Rhonda Steed said…

    my dad just bought me a whole type case cabinet and i don’t have enough little tidbits to fill the drawers (I only fill about 3 of the 17) so I think I might be taking one and making something like yours. (Mine are the uneven sized kind too)

  • 47.
    kelly rae said…

    ali edwards, this is the coolest photo display ever! i can’t wait to do this. my mom is going to love this, too. forwarding to her now…

  • 48.
    Chels said…

    Cool Project!

  • 49.
    Jan C. said…

    Dang! I gave my type case away years ago after having it around and never doing anything creative with it.
    I have to admit when I first glanced at the opening picture, I thought, “OMG, Ali has scrapped herself a head board for her bed!” Thank goodness you had other frames nearby for scale. But it makes me wonder if a person actually could put several type cases together and make a twin-size headboard for a kids’ bed–something that would just be attached to the wall over the bed and not actually attached to the bed itself. You could put all the child’s most favorite people and things in the little boxes, and they would never have to be afraid of falling asleep alone again!

  • 50.
    asnipofgoodness said…

    I adore this project, and will begin my search for a “type case” imediately!!! I really love your style, and your blog has always been a fav! recently it has been even more awesome. I love all the projects, and practical help!

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