Wednesday 28 December 2022

2023 Topic 01: Shrines - Topic Introduction {by Dounia Large}

Hi everyone, 

Dounia here to introduce our first topic for 2023 that will also fall under the quarterly theme of tracks. 

For the next few weeks, it is going to be all about SHRINES here on the PaperArtsy Blog! An opportunity to explore what we deem sacred, significant or representative of our feelings enough to be worthy of an extra special artistic display. How do we go about building the housing and how could we explore the relationship between container and contents?

Shrines in a mixed media sense, might not be religious, but they are often used as a way to frame something special, particularly an assemblage of objects, 3 dimensional art made from found items, or trinkets that hold some personal significance. Let's take a look back at the history of shrines, and then some ideas will follow that might inspire your creativity around this topic over the next few weeks.

Shrines are present in most cultures and religions, in an incredible range of size, styles and uses to honour gods, saints, ancestors. They have always been an expression of art and human emotion, be it the aspiration for serenity, or an icon of comfort to ease the pain of loss or the uncertainty of life.

'Shrine' certainly evokes striking imagery of all around the world, from churches, to mosks and temples, like the iconic red laquered gates of the Japanese Inari Shrine .

Inatori Shrine by M yanagisawa

The definition of Shrine is quite flexible and can extend to be an entire worship space, but for this topic, we are going to restrain ourselves to more modest (in size) personal and portable shrines. 

Historically, Romans and Etruscan homes had personal altars for their household deities, the Penates and Lares, protectors of the land, the family, the household and the larder. It was a central point of the house next to the hearth used for daily worship.

Household lalarium in Pompeii By Claus Ableiter

Bringing your altar with you can be crucial for travellers and non-sendentary communities, resulting in stunning and clever compact works of religious art, like this Portable Buddhist shrine.


By necessity or convenience, these beautiful objects often served several purposes, like the illustrated boxes of Kavad Art. Both a sacred story-telling device and a portable temple.

Even smaller and more personal, Roman Catholics carry images of their faith everywhere with them thanks to pocket shrines. You can admire a whole collection of them by Saint Martha's Guild or try your hand at one with How to make a wallet shrine by Diane Gilleland.

Catholics are well known for their extravagant bejewelled, metal embossed  reliquaries, still fervently worshipped around the world.

Attributed to Jean de Toul, Met MuseumWikimedia commons 

Adapted from these traditions, the Nichos of South America frame saints, ancestors or skeletons in personalised and colourful displays. The variations are infinite as illustrated by this Mexican nichos collection by Ingrid Pfohl.

These are only a few examples of worship-art existing in the world, to use as reference or inspiration. As this is an existing practise among many cultures, please remember to be considerate and respectful of the religious and cultural significance of shrines to many people.

If religious links to shrines are a conflict for you personally, there are other words that capture their essence too: memory box, niche, cloche or art-window for example.

Artists often re-size the subject of a shrine, to re-interpret, re-invent and yet still allow the end result to be a representation of the core concept.

Minimalist shrines are an interesting exercise in focusing on what is essential for us to display and what is necessary for others to recognise. How far can we simplify and still have the classic iconography immediately tell us what we are looking at?

On the other hand, leaning into the dark imagery of some religious objects like ex-votos, can be a reflection of myths and mysterious legends. A style that can be also represented in an shrine-like assemblage of rusty pieces and found objects, such as this example by Michael de Meng below.

Religious imageries can be contrasted to express how much other subjects matter to us through art, maybe to question what is worthy of a shrine nowadays.

Personal shrines are also a way to build a personal monument, representative of our values, beliefs and creative style; it could be an exploration of what is the sacred for us personally.

Shrines are by nature an expression of personal concepts and beliefs magnified by art. We hope you will create your own shrine as you explore your artistic journey alongside the inspiration of this topic.

In our crafty circle, shrines are popular among makers, as a way to honour, preserve and display crucial pieces of our life. Modern shrines can also celebrate the importance of the mundane by finding beauty in overlooked objects and showcasing little treasures or trinkets. Here we are going to share a few ideas to spark your creativity to create a shrine personal to you!

You might find kits or boxes, shrines or theatres available online to purchase and decorate as a useful starting point. Maybe you already have them in your stash!

Leandra Franich

But do not be afraid to explore other substrates! You can make your own shrine from card board, clay or papier maché to mix up the textures.

Upcycling is always a good solution. It might be time to make use of that cigar box you have been saving with Laura Carson's video tutorial on Creating Armoires from Cigar Boxes.

Or you could explore even more unusual bases. How's a chocolate box for a multi-compartment shrine? Lots of food or supplies packaging could also work.

Don't hesitate to think outside the box! How about a more organic shrine. Check this Ceramic Shelves collection by Marika Säppi. Could you recreate these shapes out of cardboard?

Let's also play with size. Miniature shrines might be less intimidating! Take a look at this Little Boxes collection by Carol Leibel to get an idea of the possibilities! You can also follow this video tutorial on Matchbox Shrines by Aimee Bishop for personal and organic tiny shrines. 

Altoid tins, or vintage metal tins can be a really interesting substrate for miniature shrines too. Check out charity shops, antique shops or brocante markets, flea markets, garage sales or online market places, auction sites too for items that are already aged and worn with an inherent history to explore as your 'container'

A shrine does not have to be a stand alone box either! How about wearable shrines? Lockets are already shrines to loved to ones, why not develop the idea?

Staying with jewellery, the subject and meaning can also be more obscure, difficult to decipher at a glance. Its meaning can be known only to you and those who matter, leaving a beautiful object for everybody else to observe.

Your shrine does not have to portray a deep meaning. Nobody can dictate what matters to you! Insignificant things that bring you joy might also be worthy of a shrine, be it your pet, beautiful leaves, found shells or French chocolate!

These tips may help you along your creative journey and if you crave more inspiration, do not hesitate to check these two collections, Shrines & Altar I and Shrines & product ideas. 

Finally, Shrines are not a new topic on the PaperArtsy blog so you might want to explore:

We hope this introduction made you curious to follow our bloggers projects in the weeks ahead. Do not forget that they will also offer a 'nod' to our Quarterly Theme: TRACKS.  We hope to inspire you to make your own shrine. 

To help make something from a template, we have compiled a few resources. For your base, here are two tutorials on how to make nichos by Right Now Crafts. The technique can easily adapted to other contents and forms. If you need inspiration shape wise, check this extensive Shrine Shapes collection by Fee Berry.

If you want your shrine to be shaped like a house, Mel Stampz has you covered with her collection of 124 house templates.

For more basic containers, All Free Printable has lots of boxes templates, from basic to cutesy, in PDF format. Template maker creates box templates to your chosen dimensions. Among others, you can make matchboxes and shadow boxes with multiple possibilities for the resulting file, including PDF to print and Cricut.

For ornamentation, lots of inspiration can be found in architecture. Wikimedia commons compiles thousands of public domain images, free to download and use. You might like the Arched Windows and Meyer's Ornement categories for example. 

More inspiration and resources will be made available on the PaperArtsy People Group on Facebook during the topic run. If you want to create along with us we would love to see what you get up to! An album will also be accessible for you to share your own shrine creations within the group. We really love to hear about how the blog topics have inspired you, so don't be shy!!

Don't forget to tag us on Facebook and Instagram with @paperartsy if you follow along with this inspirational, creative theme.


A Pink said...

What a thoroughly interesting read, Dounia that certainly has given me food for thought for the topic .

Thank you for writing and resourcing all the fantastic examples and of course sharing.

Inspiring and educational

Wishing #teampaperartsy a very happy healthy 2023. I hope its kind to you all .

Amanda x

Cindy Marlow said...

Wow! This was a very informative article and I love the resources.

Jennie Atkinson said...

A fabulous introduction to Shrines Dounia.... and a fabulous read in its own right! Thank you x