Those who were in military service, as well as the family members of veterans have few possessions which are more treasured and prized than a military shadow box.
What is a military shadow box
A military shadow box is more than just a display of medals, photos, citations, patches, ribbons, souvenirs or the flag. A military box is a display case which tells of the entire life story of the army man or army woman. These shadowboxes are also considered as family heirlooms and they protect the memorabilia from physical damage.
How to create a shadowbox
When one wants to create a military display or a shadow box for military medals there are a few steps one needs to follow.
All the items which need to be mounted need to be collected together. Based on how they need to be arranged as well as how many are there, the frame of the box can be designed. Either the medals can be arranged aesthetically or else they can be arranged as per the category of the medals. The medals ranking the highest need to be on the top left and then patches, ribbons and pins can be displayed. Medals can also be arranged as per the date or shape or even the rank. If one desires, in addition to medals, skill badges, patches and signed letters or even the flag can be added. Normal sized shadow boxes are 18” squares and they have dividers in the box which are around 3” high. The frame too of these shadowboxes are 3” high.
The next step is collecting the materials required. These will be a sheet of plywood, 3” molding lengths, nails or glue to stick wood, tools for carpentry, hardware for hanging, and sandpaper for the finish and to smooth it out, stain or paint which is needed, wood sealer, velcro as well as the medals which are to be mounted.
One needs to then cut the plywood so that it is at least one-half inch more than the size needed of the shadowbox. The entire square should have a 3” lip or frame. The hardware which will help to hang the shadowbox needs to be installed at the back of the unit before working on anything else.
Once done, the section dividers need to be cut as per the size required. These are to be either nailed in place or glued in place. If there are uneven surfaces, sandpaper should be used to smoothen it out. Then the wood needs to be either painted or stained. Once that is done to satisfaction, the wood needs to be sealed.
The last part is cutting pieces of Velcro and using them to attach each separate memorabilia piece.
If one wants to follow tradition, then the background of the shadow box should be red for the Marines, Blue for the Navy and Black for the army.
Also, if it is done for a US military person, then it needs to be crafted by a U.S. Craftsman – this is strictly as per the tradition being followed as the craftsmen making the shadow box are doing it to honor those who have fought for them.
As he opened the door, a shy smile concerned his lips. I instantly observed the band-aid under his eye. We shook hands and he welcomed me into his house located in the Isanda Village, near Cape Town, South Africa. This was my introduction to Xhanti, the dazzling Xhosa artist, who, like Mandela, is not afraid to take dangers to supply a much better life and future for his household.
I asked about the wound under his eye. In his unassuming way, he informed me of how he had taken an incorrect turn into the middle of a boy’s game: tossing rocks for precision. His face was the outcome of a mis-fire. In a world where there is little high-end, the youngsters of the area make usage of what they have for home entertainment. It is these kinds of day-to-day activities that assist to inspire Xhanti’s work. His latest creation is of a child walking on stilts. Another common past-time for the kids of the township – a game that takes little more than a few pieces of wood and some resourcefulness.
He welcomes me into his living room and asks me to take a seat on any one of the three little couches. As I make myself comfy, I check out. His walls have actually photos drawn by his son and every free space appears to be fulled of some requirement for everyday life. I ask him where he works and he points to the floor. His studio is his living-room – a little area on the floor no larger than a meter by 1/2 a meter. Here in silence he will certainly bring his work of arts to life. He is motivated by that which is most dear to him – his individuals. The Xhosa women, the kids of the town, the seniors of his neighborhood. His art shows the changes in the Xhosa nation. As the conventional ways of the Xhosa are forgotten or changed, Xhanti captures and reveals these sensations in the happiness or sadness on the faces of his creations. This transition to the ‘modern-day’ and ‘Western’ ways is most easily observed in the gown of his sculptures. The figures of females are now outfitted in hats and Western style skirts, while still adorned with standard design precious jewelry. His interest to detail is paramount and among the identifying functions of his art.
I ask him about his work: how long does it take to make a piece, do you draw it out first, do you constantly work in the exact same medium? Xhanti’s sculptures all start as an idea. They are formed in his mind from an indistinguishable mass to human kind – he finishes each piece, down to the finest information, in his mind before he ever starts to work with his hands.
When you look at the intricacy and richness of his work that Xhanti has no formal training in art or anatomy, it is tough to imagine. His story is like lots of South African natives, males of the land, who have little opportunity. He completed primary school and had a dream – an imagine ending up being an artist. Born in the Eastern Cape, he came to Cape Town to study art. He applied to university but his marks were not remarkable and he had no background in art. With limited area in the art schools, Xhanti had little hope. He stood firm. Finally he was allowed by Pen Tech. After a year of learning technical architectural drawing, Xhanti became frustrated. Like a butterfly wishing to broaden its wings and fly, he knew he required a more imaginative outlet. He desperately wished to get the abilities to be able to share his principle of beauty with the world. Figured out, he discovered a local art factory, Fenix, where he learned how to mold and shape clay. Ultimately his skill grew and he was employed as an apprentice. For six years he developed and baked modest clay figures, pots, vases and Christmas ornaments in the kiln. As the clay of those pieces hardened, he formed himself. Extracting as much knowledge as possible from regional mentors, Xhanti discovered how to make the visions in his head become a truth in clay. With a full-time job and taking care of his family, there was valuable little time left for him to shape his initial works. Ultimately the tedium of shaping the exact same tasks over and over for his employer started to endure Xhanti. He now had the skill but not the liberty he had to reveal his vision.
It was time to spread his wings and fly.
After leaving Fenix, Xhanti had a minute of doubt – the kind I think all fantastic artists should have. During this moment of crisis, if you are fortunate, someone or something will come along and raise you up – will certainly convince you not to provide up. Xhanti was lucky.
In the early days of his profession Xhanti fulfilled a lady at his church, Charmein Plummer. A generous and beautiful soul, who recognized Xhanti’s skill and had a desire to aid him. Without the funds to be a customer in the conventional sense, she pulled her resources to assist Xhanti in any method she could. It was throughout his terrific crisis of talent that Charmein once again reminded him to have faith in himself and his skill. She was his luck.
Xhanti calls this team, his living angels. The foundry where he worked is where all his pieces are produced to this extremely day. Accounting, web design, sales, Facebook are all part of Xhanti’s curriculum now.
As fortunate as he has been, the roadway is still difficult. The critics still say to Xhanti that he is not a ‘fine artist.’ Well, the critics never ever suched as Monet or any of the other Impressionists much either, in the start. The critics inform him that he must not make use of colour in his bronze work, that it is too different and will never sell, ‘that individuals simply want bronzes of the ‘Big 5′.’ As they say, success is constantly the finest revenge. Xhanti is going far for himself and his work does sell. Those with an eye for talent, who see his possible and acknowledge an excellent investment, seek his work.
Real to style, Xhanti refuses to conform. He uses his art to ‘express myself to the best of how I feel’.
They are his expression of the best part of the world.