This post features a DIY tutorial on how to display hand written letters as an up-cycled art form to memorialize loved ones.
I haven’t been able to nail down the best way to begin this post. It’s hard, because a flood of memories are making it impossible to nail down just a couple paragraphs on why I created a frame fit for my beautiful Grandma Barbara. She was my favorite. She kept in touch with me by phone and letters my entire life because we never lived remotely near each other. She was someone I had been sharing secrets with for 30+ years.
We called each other weekly to keep up on my pregnancy journey. As soon as I found out I was having a girl, she was the first and only person I told for months. I told her the name she would have too. Those were our last secrets. She passed away from cancer a couple months before her great grandaughter was born. My first night with my baby, I told her about my Grandma Barbara, and how much she had already loved her.
I’m thankful I kept so many of the letters my grandma sent me over the years. From silly notes, to encouraging words, to adoration, whenever I read over these letters, I can hear her voice, and the memories flood in. I can recall so many stories I want to share with my daughter just by reading these letters. So with this frame, I used my Grandma’s very own words written in her gorgeous handwriting to keep her memory going in my family.
Here’s a little art history on the method used to transform this frame. Decoupage is the art of adhering cut-outs onto a desired object. The earliest known decoupage were discovered on East Siberian tombs. Nomadic tribes would decorate their deceased resting places with felt cutouts. Neighboring China picked up the art method around the 12th century. Eventually it reached Europe and it was a full on craze in 18th England where artist Mary Delany dominated the decoupage method.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED:
- Copies of hand written letters
- Mod Podge Matte (or a waterbase sealer of your choice)
- Craft frame
- Scrap paper (to avoid a glue mess on your table)
- Optional: Decorative flowers
If you have access to a copier, the first thing you’ll need to do is make copies of the hand written letters you want to include in the frame. I treasure the originals and keep them safely away in a photo box.
Read over the letters, and cut or tear out some of your favorite paragraphs and sentences. You can use scissors to be more precise, and rips to add visibly different textures to the final overall look.
These cut pieces of handwritten letters will be referred to as ‘paper pieces’ throughout the rest of the tutorial.
Before adhering the paper pieces to the frame, try laying them out and figuring out where you want everything placed. Once you have a placement you like, take a picture for reference or just lay them to the side in the order you like.
Using a sponge, adhere Mod Podge to the back of a paper piece (completely) and apply to the frame. Smooth out the paper onto the frame to get out any wrinkles or bumps. Continue to do this with all the desired paper pieces until your frame is completely covered.
You’ll probably have pieces that wrap around the edges of the frame, and that will look cool in my opinion. But if you want a more polished look, check out my TIP following this next step.
After all the pieces have been adhered to the frame, you need to coat the top of the pieces with Mod Podge as well. So use your sponge and paint the sealant over all the paper pieces and let it dry.
TIP: If you want a more polished frame without visible paper pieces around the edges, paint over them with a desired color. I had some awkward looking edges by the photo portion of my frame, and cleaned that up with a sharpie.
This is optional, but if you’d like to add more to the frame, go for it! I had some vintage-y paper flowers in my craft drawer that reminded me of my grandma’s love for flowers and the color green, so I hot glued them in an aesthetically pleasing arrangement.
Your frame is now ready for a photograph! For my frame, I used a beautiful headshot of my grandma when she was a high school senior. It’s wallet size, which is a bit small for this particular frame. To make it fit, I used sturdy cardstock paper as a base, and taped it down with decorative washi tape that matched the overall look of the frame.
When it was completed, I set it out among all the other framed photos we have in our home. My little girl noticed it immediately when she entered the room. With wide eyes and a big smile, she asked “Who is that?”
“That is your Great Grandma Barbara…” and so the stories begin.