Valentine’s Day for Creative Geeks: It’s All About the Box

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Mario Coin Block Valentine's Day Box

From candy to cars, roses to Rolexes, advertisers have turned a holiday of love into a carnival of consumerism that would make even a third-century Roman saint want to punch a florist in the nose. Perhaps that is why more Americans than ever are choosing not to celebrate the holiday at all. While I’m firmly in the camp of “show your love every day, not just on February 14th,” I have to admit that I love Valentine’s Day. Why?

It’s all about the box.

Creating an elaborate Valentine’s Day box has become a tradition in our house. No idea is too ridiculous. With some cardboard, an X-Acto knife, hot glue, and paint, we’ve created skateboards, glasses, Mario cubes, and have even incorporated electronics, Lego, and plaster molding. The beauty of the Valentine’s Day box is that nobody expects it to be perfect. It’s not fine art. It’s rough, it’s messy, and you will no doubt make mistakes, and sometimes even start over. This is rapid prototyping for kids, and they will cherish the memory of the creative process long after they’ve forgotten many of the kids whose cards fill it on Valentine’s Day.

If you’re ready to move past the shoe box wrapped in construction paper, here are a few ideas to get you started:

The Hat Box

The ubiquitous logo from the first movie.
The ubiquitous logo from the first movie.

This is a quick, cheap, and easy cheat to make a round box. Great for symbols, logos, and other circular designs. Want to make a Pokeball or Captain America shield? Pick up a hat box from a craft store and go wild.

Corrugated Cardboard

Don't forget to accessorize!
I don't hate you.

You know all those old Amazon boxes you saved, thinking you’d one day need to ship something? Here’s your chance to use them. While not as clean as non-corrugated, it is easy to work with, as well as being free. Don’t expect too much from corrugated, though. It crushes easily and is really only useful for larger applications.

Non-corrugated Cardboard

Good idea to learn Oculus Reparo for this one.
Oculus Reparo

You can buy this in large sheets from most craft supply stores. The thicker you get, the sturdier your box will be. You can use it to create your own custom shapes. Cut two identical shapes, top and bottom, then glue a strip around the edge, making it three dimensional. You can use cereal boxes for the outside edge, as the thinner cardboard wraps much easier, while still providing the support the box needs. Don’t be afraid to incorporate non-traditional materials as well, such as overhead transparencies for “glass,” or aluminum foil for “metal.”

Papier-mâché (or Paper Mache, for those of us who don’t like to hunt around on our US keyboards for accented characters)

Prefer Jigglypuff? Just add ears and a bow.
Prefer Jigglypuff? Just add ears and a bow.

Is the foundation of your object spherical? Paper mache is a fun, albeit messy, solution for creating Golden Snitches, Morph Balls, Death Stars, and the like. There are a number of tutorials on paper mache available on the internet. Just be sure to plan ahead and allow a full day to dry, another day to sand and primer, and a third day to paint.

Plaster of Paris Plus Paper Mache

If you’re really keen on making the largest mess possible, while creating realistic, non-symmetrical boxes, give plaster molding a try. Once you have your mold, you can mix up shredded newspaper in the blender or food processor, add your paste, and pack your mold with the pulp. Again, allow plenty of time for drying and sanding.

Complicated, messy, awkward, time consuming, and totally worth it.
Complicated, messy, awkward, time consuming, and totally worth it.

Helpful References and a Few More Photos

Ah, you like it now. Just wait. It's wicked fast.
Ah, you like it now. Just wait. It’s wicked fast.
A magnifying glass for a Sherlock fan...no, it's not a frying pan.
A magnifying glass for a Sherlock fan…no, it’s not a frying pan.
A Valentine eating robot. Opens and closes with K'Nex motor.
A Valentine eating robot. Opens and closes with K’Nex motor.
Legend of Zelda Master Sword
Legend of Zelda Master Sword

Made your own geeky Valentine’s Day box? I’d love to see it. Leave a link to it in the comments.

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