Colourful Cardboard Box Storage Ideas

Here’s a cardboard box storage system tutorial that’s so simple it doesn’t really need instructions: the pictures will show you everything you need to know.

I’ve whizzed up a cereal box paper tray and an asymmetrical shelf or box that looks great either sitting flat on your desk, mounted on a wall or hanging off the side of your desk.

The materials used were:

Why use cardboard boxes for storage?

Not only are cardboard box storage systems really effective recycling solutions, they’re practical for short-term uses, like kids’ furniture, or in situations where there isn’t enough money for store-bought furnishings.

If you make them well, keep them dry and treat them well, cardboard furnishings can last for a long time (and they only get stronger with every re-covering, so you can change the look pretty easily!).

1. Cardboard paper tray / file storage

cardboard box paper tray in progress.
Cardboard box paper tray in progress.

The paper tray used up three cereal boxes from Aldi. Cereal box cardboard is very lightweight, and so when it comes to any kind of furniture, you’ve got to be reasonable with what you expect it to stand up to and what it’ll be used for.

Hot glue is great for attaching the boxes without causing warping or buckling.

You can secure the boxes by folding one of the tabs over the other box (being sure to cut the matching tab off so it isn’t too bulky) and glue the outer tabs to the inside of the boxes with PVA glue.

cardboard box storage - 2 views of a cardboard paper tray

Cut two pieces of wallpaper to cover two opposite sides of your tray and paste them on with PVA. Make sure the pieces are long enough to fold over the open edge and into the box, and wrap an inch around the sides.

Place the glued boxes in the centre of your wallpaper sheet, making sure there’s enough paper to cover the two unpapered sides with some to spare for folding into the box opening.

cardboard box filing system

Glue a strip of paper over the internal dividers to neaten them up.

Asymmetrical cardboard shelf / desk tidy

I’ve been wondering what to call this pattern – it’s not quite Greek key, but I can’t think of the formal design name. Still, it’s an interesting arrangement for four rectangular boxes.

You can use any size of box for this design as long as they’re rectangular and the same size. I used boxes that originally held 6 cans of spray paint, and they were pretty beaten up before I started, so nothing was square.

I trimmed the flaps from the box tops with a sharp knife before starting, and glued the boxes together as shown above.

I started gluing the wallpaper to the box from the bottom and folded the paper up the sides, clamping it to the box with clothespegs as it dried.

With the base and most of the sides covered, I used scraps to fill in the unpapered gaps.

Because the paper was so busy, I was pretty haphazard about matching the pattern inside – personally I didn’t care about that because of not being able to see it once it’s filled. If you were going to make this as a gift, I’d suggest working out where your pattern overlaps and matching it up at least at the “front” of your shelf. It’ll never line up everywhere, so don’t worry about that.

cardboard box storage - 2 views of an asymmetrical cardboard shelf

I particularly like this weird shape for hanging off the side of desks, and it’s got potential to get very big if you can find enough boxes to keep adding to it.

Not a bad way to use materials that would normally end up in the bin, right?


Studio Notes 12/04/19

In the school holidays, office hours come second to parent hours, and they’re all parent hours.

And frankly, that’s great!

One of the great things about being a parent is that you get to experience all of the hobbies that your kids pick up and inevitably abandon, and learn a bit along the way.

Eventually you won’t have the chance to do that any more, so you might as well roll with it and enjoy… and get back into the studio when the term starts again.

Technical support yet again

In my universe, being a mum means being the tech support dude.

I never expected to spend my time labouring over ADB drivers or reboot key combinations, but my 14 year old has now decided to embark on a life of hacking, which means that I have to scrabble to keep up. So naturally that means spending hours on rooting a OnePlus X phone – the phone he had to have above all others.

I thought after that I could convince him to sit with me and watch a Skillshare course on developing plugins, but he was off. I didn’t have enough energy to carry on myself, but I’m adding that to my scroll of projects.

This week has been filled with lots of back-end maintenance projects for my own sites, so I kinda want to get it all out of the way and out of my system so that in a week or two I can get back to my real work.

Stuff I painted, made and wrote…

Over the weekend I started work on that portrait of my lad, but I’m still not sure where it’s going. Will I toss it or keep going? I’m not entirely sure right now.

Playing around with double-sided books.

I’m fooling around with double-sided books as well, because I just have to.

As for what I’ve been writing about – last week it was customer lock-in, and this week it was the sunk cost fallacy. It’s getting dangerously close to pop psychology around here, but I like it.

There’s probably a bit more of that to come, but first, I have some mumwork to do.

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studio notes 12/04/19


Studio Notes 05/04/19

What’s next?

I’ve really enjoyed a week with no plans and no pressure. I could do with another one… so I think I that’s what I’ll have. I need to decide on whether to work on the 250 coin next, or divert myself into finishing off a personal painting that had to get packed away before my house move.

T's portrait in progress on the studio wall.
T’s portrait in progress.

The pipdig problem and customer lock-in

Recently I’ve been listening to a few marketing podcasts (remember sunk costs?), and I came across the concept of lock-in.

As a consumer, it’s something I strive to avoid, but as a creator, it’s something I’d love to know how to capitalise on. Of course, I’m clueless as to how a visual artist would go about creating any kind of closed ecosystem cozy enough to make customers/collectors never want to leave, but the concept is still interesting.

This week it became apparent to me just how strong a force customer lock-in is, in the wake of the unfolding pipdig problem. I watched the drama unfold in amazement, as well-respected members of the WordPress community outed pipdig, a hosting provider and developer, over a myriad number of sins such as:

  • using bloggers’ servers to perform a DDoS on a competitor
  • changing links in bloggers’ content to link back to pipdig
  • hiding a “kill switch” that could effectively wipe out a site…
  • and much, much more!

As the experts waded in and rubberneckers like me looked on, pipdig’s loyal customers came to the rescue, refusing to believe the evidence or the word of the experts.

It came down to “I’ve known this company for x years, they’d never do anything wrong!”, and, “Do I really have to change all my themes now? I’ve got them on 19 blogs!”.

Basically, customer lock-in happens through getting so comfortable with any service that you embed them into your life, making it too much of a hassle to leave, and also embed them into your identity, making an attack on their brand into a personal attack on you. It’s fantastic for companies that can take advantage of it, but not so great for consumers at the bottom who can’t get themselves out of a bad deal.

After several years of staring hopefully at code, I’m not an an expert, but neither am I a complete fool, so thankfully there’s little chance of me getting suckered into this kind of loyalty… but it does make you think about all the other aspects of life wherein we willingly lock ourselves in.

So the moral of the story? If you’re an artist who doesn’t consider yourself “technical”, you don’t have to resign yourself to the whims of your web host overlords. This is why I cover websites and blogging here – to empower you to do as much as you can, or jump ship to someone who can do a better job for you.

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Studio Notes 05/04/19

Studio Notes 29/03/19

I finished my first screen printed notes!

Like I said last week, the colours changed on me mid-printing, which was unexpected, but I ran with it and ended up with something more ochre-tinged than froggy green.

Back of banknote saying "The borrower is a slave to the lender"

Because I took my photographs late in the day on Sunday, I lost the light I needed and basically ended up with a blueish cast after colour correction – or I should say, after attempting colour correction.

So yeah, I’ll have to take some new pics but I just had to get them uploaded there and then, because I knew the start of the week would be too busy and it would end up taking months.

Front of banknote, portrait detail.

Here’s a post about the ideas behind this part of the money project and the process.

Tidying up the studio and the loose ends

There has naturally been a lot of visual notetaking and recording over the course of the money project, and I found that starting a sketchbook helped me to get to grips with the processes and track the progress.

I don’t naturally gravitate towards working in sketchbooks, as I like to work on loose sheets, and do a lot of 3-d work as well… so sketchbooks always seemed to be just tarted up scrapbooks, which I couldn’t be bothered with. Still, I realised last year that I needed to start one just for the money in order to sort out the clutter in my head, and guess what? I really enjoyed putting it together, and it totally paid off.

Now, the challenge is to sort through the past few months’ tests and scribbles and decide what makes it in and what goes into the bin.

Dilution, and other roadblocks to getting art done

On Thursday I was listening to the Escape Hatches episode of The Accidental Creative podcast. One part of it made me stop – the second “escape hatch”, dilution. You can get there at about the ten minute mark.

Was what I always thought of as “shiny object syndrome” really just a way of diluting my commitment and rationalising underperformance? Maybe – I am very open to analysing myself in that way, as long as it’s helpful and not just something to make me feel generally annoyed with myself.

Recently I’ve made a lot of progress with saying no to things and turning down work that doesn’t pay off in terms of what I want to get done in the long-term; so I want to keep that going by taking a little bit of time to wrap up some of the small, niggling projects that don’t count towards either the figurative images or the money project.

Just a few things like making new cardboard box shelves and making some Japanese stab-stitch notebooks and notebook covers – not practice-related, but things that I’m curious about and want to hold in my hands!

Then I’ll have all the time to focus on the two (or, let’s face it, three) projects that I love.

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Studio Notes 29/03/19

Making the 100 Promises banknote

When I first started thinking about making an artist’s currency, way back in 2014, I thought about it both taking the form of coins and notes. Along the way, it was clear that most artists’ currencies take the form of notes, and it’s easy to understand why.

Notes are far, far simpler to make than a metal coin. The first banknotes were just written promises to pay a sum of money, after all.

Notes and coins are both immediately part of the language of money, but notes carry the connotation of high value. The exception is in the US, where their single dollar is still a paper note… but the US’s cultural capital is so strong that it’s made sure that the visual shorthand for money takes the form of a greenish paper bill.

So although I wanted to create both coins and notes, a paper bill had to form part of my currency, no question.

Why screen print the 100 banknote?

Printmaking is the technique that one would obviously turn to when aiming to reproduce currency – because there would have to be several of the same notes in “circulation” – and etching is the printmaking technique associated with banknotes and with money in general.

Just because I wanted to create a banknote didn’t mean I wanted to copy a banknote… I also wanted to evade expectations somewhat. Give a bit here to the accepted concept of money, take a bit away there.

Screen printing is a very interesting technique, as it can be dead simple or ultra-complicated. Multi-colour screen printing is difficult to perfect without a professional system for registration, so getting perfectly identical prints was always going to be near impossible. I liked the idea of the human touch coming through the attempt to mechanise the process, with all of the “flaws” – misregistrations, bleeds and fading – form an essential part of making each note an individual work of art.

Also, there’s the fact that I feel as though the medium of screen printing is part of my personal artistic practice. There are lots of things I like to do and to try, but only a few I think of as “what I do”: painting, screen printing, ceramics and sculpture.

Elements of the visual language of money: colour, shape and symbolism

I stuck with the immediacy of green. For the first banknote I would make, I had to keep it simple; this is an artwork made to illustrate a concept, and it had to speak out the concept clearly.

Although I initially planned for the piece to take on an overall more pea-green, but not quite Kermit, tone, things got derailed one-third of the way through the printing. I decided to incorporate a more olive-toned palette

The same thing went for the shape and general format of the portrait. It may seem as though I was immediately working with lots of design constraints… but in the beginning stages I planned the note to be square, just to mess with our widely-held ideas of what money should look like. That just didn’t feel right though, so rectangular it was.

What I did particularly want to play with was the abstract patterning on the notes. I just love geometrical arrangements and started to experiment with the idea of optical mixing by overlaying printed acetate sheets in a kind of “lite” op-art.

Layering a couple of half-tone screens on top of each other gives each note a unique patterned effect, as each one can look very different from the other if the alignment is changed only slightly.

Bottom of rear side of banknote saying: "the borrower is a slave to the lender".
100, rear detail – “The borrower is a slave to the lender.”


The back side of the note features four tools of the artist’s trade – the pen, brush, pencil and gouge, referencing the variety of media in which I work. I’ve taken on this motif as a kind of identifying crest, repeating it in my pewter 250 coin… and it’ll be a repeating feature in other coinage and notes.

The back of the note features a quote from Proverbs 22:7, saying, “the borrower is a slave to the lender.”

The symbolism of 100

The denomination was always going to be important. As a central part of a larger body of work, this piece had to carry the anchoring number, and it had to relate closely to its value as an artwork – so in that sense, it chose its own denomination of one hundred.

One hundred what? This is the first of my money artworks to explicitly carry the name of my currency as “Promise”, although that is inferred as the title of my screen printed cheques.

Why promises? Well, the value of all currencies are in what they promise to give you in exchange. The money itself isn’t really any good to you; it’s what you can exchange it for when you need to exchange it. It’s the promise of transforming itself into something else, whether that’s a loaf of bread or a tank full of petrol.

If you have the nerve to put your face on something and assign it monetary value, then you’re making a lot of promises.

How it was made…

The images were mostly hand-drawn and repositioned by extremely old-fashioned cutting and pasting, with a lot of photocopying to resize. It’s left me with a sketchbook full of copied pieces and variations, which is interesting in itself.

Of course, I realised after doing most of this that I should have designed it all on a computer instead for pinpoint accuracy, but the fact is that the handcrafted element does reflect my personality and working style. Will I adapt to take on faster methods? Absolutely! But this piece has had a lot of hand-work put into it, which makes it special to me.

The piece is a 3-colour, double sided screen print, which is a technical challenge – 6 opportunities for something to go wrong! Actually, there were seven pulls in all on each note, as the note’s number is added afterwards with a separate screen.

Each colour had its own unique screen which was printed light to dark. Several different papers were tested for their colour and handle, but I selected a light cartridge for its bright white colour and flexible handle – the note is meant to be held as well as looked at!

Overall it was everything I enjoy in my work – a technical challenge and a deep concept to dive into.

See more pictures and buy online.


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