Matchbox Crafts

Written by katherine harder
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Matchbox Crafts
Make over plain matchboxes into works of art or keepsake gifts. (Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images)

Matchboxes often come in plain, unremarkable covers. Craft artists see opportunity in these unexceptional boxes, and have come up with seemingly limitless ways to decorate and repurpose the small containers. In an art trading ritual called "artist trading cards," or ATCs, artists use small objects like matchboxes or playing cards to create miniature art to mail to artist friends and crafty strangers. Jump into the practice by crafting your own "trading card" matchboxes, or use matchbox crafts to create inexpensive gifts or personal art.

Keepsakes or Party Favors

Spice up your everyday matchboxes with decorative touches such as paint, stickers, scrapbook paper, glitter, ribbon, rickrack and hand-drawn designs. Use smaller items, which will better match the box's scale. Attach paper and fabric with spray adhesive, which will give even, non-warped coverage; use white or hot glue or other elements. Give away your decorative matchboxes as-is, or add some utility to improve the design further. For example, you could attach a looped length of ribbon or yarn to one end of a matchbox to turn it into an ornament. If you're gifting your decorative matchboxes as party favours, place something else besides matches inside, such as candy or a Chinese food-style "fortune" scroll.

Miniature Decorative Storage Boxes

Decorate your matchbox with paint, paper, lace, coloured glue, glitter or any other materials you have on hand. Use your tiny decorated box as storage for any miniature item, including whimsical objects, such as minute envelopes or tin ornamental shapes, or practical things, such as stamps, jewellery or sewing notions. Create larger, more elaborate storage by turning your matchboxes into a row of drawers. Remove the cover from three or four boxes, decorate only one of each box's short end and glue a small, round bead on each end's centre. Glue together a cardboard surround for your group of drawers to complete the miniature chest of drawers. Add a bead to each underside corner of your drawers to act as legs.

Tiny Dioramas and Wall Art

Most children create shoebox dioramas at some point during their grade school education. Play with the diorama idea by miniaturising it -- instead of using the clunky shoebox, create a compact, quirky matchbox diorama. Before you begin, remove the sliding cover, which you don't need for a diorama project. Decorate or draw on the background first, and then use thin, flexible cardboard or tin to cut out miniature furniture, people or other objects for your petite scene. Give away your dioramas as gifts, or use tacky wall goo to attach the lightweight art pieces to your wall.


Create inspirational or devotional shrines out of your ho-hum matchboxes. Spray paint your covers gold, silver or another metallic colour or religious look; metallic glitter and stamp embossing also add to a religious theme. Decorate both the cover and the box's interior, since the cover will act as a protective sleeve for your portable shrine. Depending on your shrine's theme, you could paste cut-outs from Mexican Loteria cards, religious images or inspirational quote books. You can also use personal images, such as an image of a deceased loved one or your romantic partner. Inside the box, keep a small personal keepsake, such as a shell from a romantic vacation; a folded, handwritten note or a religious metal.

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