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…


  • 51.
    AmyGee said…

    Hi there!
    I remember being so inspired by this project when I was reading your book. I was thrilled to see it again this morning.
    Ebay has a seller who had more than 2000 type drawers and he’s selling them for $12.50…I’m ordering 2! This is the address…
    Happy Weekend!

  • 52.
    Alexa said…

    My mum has an old stamp drawer filled with ‘bits’ too. i just bought one for myself last weekend in Portobello Road (London), and it’s an antique stamp drawer from Fleet Street. i’m filling it with all my ‘a’ stamps. i just know that i’ll eventually end up with a few of them all filled with different stuff!

  • 53.
    Caroline said…

    Gorgeous project.
    Your web site and the spirit of your creativity just totally inspire the heck out of me, daily.

  • 54.
    Sue Treiber said…

    once again, I love everything about this!

  • 55.
    Trude said…

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! This will make the perfect birthday present for my mom – I think they’re getting tired of my hybrid albums, so this will be a nice change!! :)

  • 56.
    Amanda said…

    This is so cute!! I wish I had the patience for it!

  • 57.
    Kelli Kemmerer said…

    OH Ali, that is so cute!! I LOVE LOVE LOVE that idea! I am going to have to do this one. Thank you for this idea!!

  • 58.
    Margaret C said…

    Love this – I have a tray like this and keep rubber stamps in it. Not so much a repurpose, eh ?? As we are about to move house. I may change it…

  • 59.
    jenn said…

    WOW…just wow. :)

  • 60.
    Rhonda Palmer said…

    I have something like this that I bought a year ago and have waited to do something with it. Now I know. Thanks a bunch! You are so awesome!

  • 61.
    Bree said…

    This is one my favorite projects of yours :-)

  • 62.
    Gabi said…

    Hi Ali,
    I’ve just started to read your book Life Artist, LOVE it!!! And I saw this project in the book, it is so cool! Thank you so much for the inspirations you are giving to all of us.
    You have another fan in me :)
    Have a wonderful weekend.

  • 63.
    Amy said…

    I saw this project in your book and I love it, you are so inventive! But I was just looking on ebay for the type drawers and also at wooden type and I happened to see this! I thought you might like to bid on it!
    I thought that was so cool! I wish they had my initials!
    Thanks for all your ideas!

  • 64.
    Chrys said…

    I like this idea – I have one of these at home I’m going to make me one this weekend….
    Thanks for sharing

  • 65.
    Julie Johnson said…

    I have one in my kid’s bath with pics and labels…am adding pics slowly. Their bath is black with antique touches….the printers tray, old window frame, etc. Love it! I also have a much smaller one with tiny compartments. Each tiny compartment fits the little index print photo shots. I have my index prints in a baggy and have been snipping favorites out when I have time at soccer practice or watching the kids play outside. It’s in my computer nook and one of my favorite things too…
    We just hung two old window frames this weekend on the back of our garage- outside. We blew up 4 of our favorite pics of our 4 kids, and mounted it on black . My husband sealed and screwed the backboard in. The pics are 16 x20 and black and white. It’s so fun to see their faces while we’re grilling and hanging out!
    Thanks for all your inspiration!

  • 66.
    Leonie - Australia said…

    Love it Ali, it looks great!

  • 67.
    Kimberly said…

    Wow, this super cool. I will have to look for one of these, I think it would look great in my kitchen which is Watermelon themed. I can already picture lots of pictures, and watermelon decorations filling each hole. I sure hope I can find one. Thanks so much for sharing your talents with the world. If you don’t mind I would like to add a link to your blog from mine, would you mind? Here is my blog
    Happy Scrapping,
    Kimberly in Nevada

  • 68.

    How funny… I was looking at these on eBay not too long ago for a class project. I grew up with my mom making “shadowboxes” similar to this but smaller and I’ve wanted to make something like that for a long time. The problem was finding enough to teach a whole class! I came up with something else but this is a definite must in my near future!

  • 69.
    Teresa Wilkins said…

    WOW. Amazing project!

  • 70.
    Lori-Anne said…

    Hi Ali,
    What a terrific idea. I have too many pictures in a box and this would take care of some of them. Thanks for the step-by-step instructions (I need instructions).

  • 71.
    Irene said…

    Hi ALi, what a great way to show your favorite pictures. You wrote you printed them at home. Do they not fade easily by sunlight?

  • 72.
    Katie said…

    oh my word I am in LOVE!!!
    New mission – FIND A TYPE CASE!!!!!

  • 73.
    Jill said…

    Thanks for sharing with your project. I bought the same tray you showed the empty one about 15 years ago and thought put collections. A few years, I saw one of Autumn Leaves called Designing with Paper and it still keeps me thinking of creating the tray. I’d like to see others doing it for ideas as I want to do it this weekend, but can’t do it because I’m trying to adjust my new routines since I started my new job three weeks ago. I added your post for favorites called cool project so, one day I have a chance to do it.

  • 74.
    Emily Barklage said…

    My mom also had a type “case” filled with little treasures hanging in our house growing up. She’s not a keeper and it is since gone … how I wish I had it now!

  • 75.
    D'Nese said…

    This is like the best thing I have EVER seen!!!

  • 76.
    Nicole said…

    I have adored and been inspired by this project since the moment I saw it in Life Artist. I have come back to it again and again. And today, your post prompted me to bid on one….and I won it! So one of these is in my future for a summer project as I break from university teaching….as always, thanks for your amazing inspiration.

  • 77.
    Jen A said…

    I love the weekend prompt! I’ve also been hoping to come across one of these beauties (type case) since reading your book. I know when the moment is right it’ll happen.
    Thanks again for all the inspiration!

  • 78.
    tracey said…

    I’m giddy with this one Ali. Giddy I tell ya.

  • 79.
    annette said…

    I LOVED your idea in your Life Artist book and completed mine about a month ago. Several of my scrappin friends also are making them. I must say I love mine and want to do another that is just around Family Holidays and traditions. Wish I would have thought of the foam dots!!!! Love your ideas and thanks again for ALL of the FABULOUS INSPIRATIONS!!!!!

  • 80.
    Morgan said…

    Very cool!

  • 81.
    Sara said…

    I LOVE this… I find myself more and more looking at things I already have in my home and repurposing them. This is a great idea as well. Now I just have to figure out what I have to make something similar!

  • 82.
    ~Michelle~ said…

    every time i see one of those type cases all i can think of is the nightmare of memorizing the placement of letters in them, and how hard it is to hand set cold type, and how glad i am i will *never ever again* have to deal with cold type.
    and the non joy of having to memorize fonts and being tested on fonts and having to be able to identify them correctly based on cold type.
    ah!!! the finals i had in my typesetting classes were not fun. glad to see there is some other use for the cases these days, but i just would never want one hanging in my house! :-)
    (of course this is a wonderful idea you’ve had, I’m certain many people will take it and run with it)

  • 83.
    Tammy Circeo said…

    I was at a neighbor’s home yesterday and she was asking me what I thought she should do with a particular wall space. I suggested a couple of things, but neither really felt right. When I saw your post this morning, I immediately e-mailed her the link. . . because it’s perfect.
    I also wanted to mention that your words + photos series was absolutely spot-on!

  • 84.
    Debby L said…

    This is scary. I was just at a antique store a few days ago and saw a type drawer. I’ve got to go back and pick it up. This is great and would be great in my hallway “hall of fame.” Thanks

  • 85.
    Sandy said…

    Love this idea, looks great.

  • 86.
    Chris Dodaj said…

    Hi Ali, did you adjust the sizes of the boxes by removing some of the slots? I bought one of these back in October and haven’t figured out how to get better sized boxes.
    If you could respond that would be awesome.

  • 87.
    Aia said…

    lovin’ this! shows how you *ahem* think outside the box. very good idea, will have to take this one up someday…now off to the flea market!

  • 88.
    aimeeterry said…

    that is freakin awsome! wow! a friend of does the same kind of thing. she takes old things and make something new out of them. she calls the her “ew to new” projects. this is a great one! thanks for sharing.

  • 89.
    Nanie said…

    WOW ! This is so amazing ! What a great job ! I absolutely love it ! Thanks for sharing, I wish I had more space in my room lol !

  • 90.
    Ann said…

    I love this project! Our summer antiques shows just started, and I know that I can find type cases… This would make a great holiday gift for grandparents/parents, too, filled with family photos…

  • 91.
    Lu said…

    love. simple as that.

  • 92.
    Alex aka Gypsy said…

    That’s really awesome, Ali. I have been thinking a lot about getting pics out of the computer lately…Time to stop thinking and start doing it! You rock ~

  • 93.
    fanny said…

    what a lovely project. I am so going to a garage sale tomorrow to try and find a case like those.
    xx fanny

  • 94.
    Ava said…

    thanks for sharing
    i want to make one too

  • 95.
    kim Strother said…

    I am going to get one of those drawers ASAP. I LOVE IT!!!! Love the idea of all my favorite photos showcased in one display like that!!

  • 96.
    Sandy K said…

    what a great idea!!
    my sister has a million of these and if I can get her to give one up this will be a gift back at her :)
    thanks for all the inspiration!

  • 97.
    Annemarie said…

    What a great idea!! I am going to do pawn shop crawling until i find one! I will not rest until I completed one.
    South Africa

  • 98.
    tracy rizzo said…

    Here is a shadow box I did for my house-I have 2 more to do and I am inspired to do them now!

  • 99.
    Michelle B said…

    Hey Ali! Love all the project ideas! But I miss hearing what you and your family are up to. Any big summer plans? More swimming lessons for simon. Summer flowers or decorations around your house?

  • 100.
    SherryAnn said…

    Ali, you have just inspired me to take my old printers box (thats what I have always called it) out of the closet and actually use it again. I had mine left over from my country decorating days.
    Can’t wait to play.

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