Working with found objects, pages from old books, and dime-store trinkets, self-taught artist Joseph Cornell (1903–1972) transformed everyday materials into extraordinary universes. By collecting and carefully juxtaposing his treasures in small, glass-front boxes, this pioneering artist invented visual poems exploring themes as varied as the night sky, the romantic ballet, glamorous movie stars, and bird habitats.

Joseph Cornell's life, his sources of artistic inspiration, and his intriguing boxes are presented in beautifully collaged spreads in this 80-page book. The book's design, inspired by Cornell's boxes, collages, and letters, tells his story in both words and images.

A project section aims to inspire the reader to create their own box assemblages. Ideas and materials are suggested for six boxes, including habitat boxes, game boxes, and museum boxes, all based on significant themes in Cornell's work.

Also included are fun materials to get the creative process started—five sheets for collaging, a ready-to-assemble miniature box, a magnifying lens, colored plastic, and printed game pieces—all housed in a sturdy hinged box with a removable grid.

The perfect book to give someone who is just starting to become interested in collecting and assemblage work and would appreciate guidance.

$29.95 (CAN $34.99)
Available in bookstores at Amazon or IndieBound.

Tags: Box, Cornell, Found, Joseph, Magical, Objects, The, Worlds, book, crafthaus

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The project section of this book is a "Paint-by-numbers" collage. It makes me very uncomfortable when it is suggested that the maker will be making original artwork or learning about the collage of Joseph Cornell with a sticker sheet.

Yes, I understand that this is just to make the book more inviting.It is a sales tool and nothing more.

Any thoughts?



When it comes to getting introduced to new ideas, sights and thoughts many people need a lot more hand holding than most of us with an art background expect. We come to this naturally because we are driven to make since before birth, but I have often observed that non-creative types who are open to learning new things need a lot of guidance, talking to, and step-by-step instructions to feel secure enough in creating anything at all. Remember the experience economy PDS we did, Harriete, about the wonderful jeweler who took her beading classes to clients' campuses? Same thing as this box, really.

In my opinion, the art/craft world has often left interested laypeople feeling inferior and stupid when it comes to our work which is counter-productive and arrogant. Hobbyists derive pleasure from the act of making. What's so wrong with that? Making/creating anything is better than not creating at all and sitting on the sofa, sucking bon-bons, and watching re-runs of Friends all the time (don't get me wrong, I loved that show). Getting an introduction to a craft form in a non-threatening manner is much more preferable in my mind than standing in a corner feeling unworthy because the outside world tells you you are nothing but a dabbler.

Whatever happened to the craft world being inclusive, helpful and supportive? I think this book is in the 'supportive' category. At the very least we might end up with someone who added a new craft experience to their lexicon. With craft in middle and high schools (and some universities) being the sad state of affairs that they are, anything to help people get into the mood for creating is good. As I said, some just need more help than others.

BTW: Nowhere did I see the claim made here that a person making something from this kit creates original artwork - but they indeed do learn something about the artist and the work, I think that is undeniable.

I want to add that in a weird twist of irony Joseph Cornell was self-taught too - which goes to show that everybody has to start somewhere and there's no telling where things can lead once your hands are covered in glue. :-)

Yes, I understand and agree with what you are saying...but would prefer they suggest cutting out images from books or magazines.....(a la Joseph Cornel) rather than offer pre-printed stickers.

It is the stickers that make me concerned, not the book or project.


We doubt the estate of Joseph Cornel is overly concerned about a flood of Cornel forgeries or stylistic rippoffs flooding the market. This kit is clearly aimed at the non-artist, non-creative thinker.

Why indeed have a set of predefined stickers? So that the user can easily achieve a predetermined and acceptable result without all the skills, we as trained artists apply innately. Compositional narrative being chief among them.  This kit is the very essence of inclusion with built-in positive reinforcement of the user's effort.

As professional artists we are not in the slightest concerned that the positive experience of anyone playing with this kit will in any way diminish our stature or ability to earn income. We do see great potential for a Harriet Estel Berman printed tin bracelet kit though.

Funny from 2 Roses. You must be great company at dinner.


I felt the same way about the collage sheets Harriet! There are similar sheets for sale at Michael's...I've never seen Joseph's Cornell's work but I've heard it often referenced.  Perhaps this book is geared to teenagers, it has all the elements to appeal to that age set.  


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Masthead Credits

Bettina Matzkuhn, Vancouver, BC


30cm h x 96 cm w
Fabric collage, machine and hand embroidery.

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