Turn Your Mementos Into Artwork

This piece was originally published on Mind Body Green.

As someone who works for a framing company, I always like to say, “Empty walls are sad walls.” Or, put another way, “Full walls are happy walls.”

Studies have actually shown that surrounding yourself with beautiful art has emotional benefits, stimulating the same parts of the brain that fire up when you look at someone you love.

If you’re reading this and realizing you’re not quite that enamored with your current wall décor situation, there’s no need to run out and buy a whole new batch of photos, paintings, and screen prints. Chances are, you already have a treasure trove of begging-to-be-framed items hiding in your house right now.

A frame and mat can elevate those meaningful artifacts currently tucked away in drawers—tangible embodiments of our passions, travels, memories, and life experiences—into works of art that will brighten up your life every day.

Get ready to see seven objects that you probably already own in a new light.

1. Scarves

Put a frame around that colorful (albeit hard to integrate into your wardrobe) scarf that you inherited from a great-aunt or scooped up during your travels, and voilà! You have a fun, large-scale image that you can enjoy every day.

Pro tip: Be sure to examine the fabric for any stains or spots first and take it to a dry cleaner if necessary.

Photo credit: Morgan Rachel Levy

2. Memorabilia and keepsakes

Why keep your most important memories in a shoebox to gather dust? That vintage pennant from your alma mater or the first dollar bill your business earned should be out on display for the world to see. Keepsakes often make for gorgeous pieces of art, and hanging them allows you to relive the sentimental moments they represent on repeat.

Case in point: My company was recently commissioned to frame a library card from a children’s book that had special meaning for the librarian who discovered it.

Photo credit: @laurensmithchu

3. Maps

Detailed topography adds a nice design element to any room and always invites closer examination. Consider giving a second life to that atlas you love so much, framing an old map to remember an amazing trip you took, or spotlighting a new city that you're dying to get to one day.

4. Press clippings

If you're in a business that gets a lot of press, custom-framed newspaper and magazine clippings preserve a record of your proudest moments. And trust me, on those challenging days in the office, you’ll be grateful for the visual reminder of your accomplishments!

5. Greeting cards

My friends all know I’m a stationery fanatic, so I often receive cards in the mail that are way too pretty to toss. If you’re with me on this, consider framing some of those beautiful cards that you’ve held on to over the years.

6. Vintage photographs

A treasured vintage photograph—whether passed down in the family or scored from a cool flea market—feels authentic and refreshing amid the sea of virtual images we look at on our phones and computers all day long.

7. Children’s artwork

If you’re a parent (or grandparent, aunt, uncle, or godparent), you’ve probably saved some favorites from your child’s portfolio over the years. The carefree, abstract nature of children’s artwork adds an exciting energy to any space, and your budding artist will be so proud to see their work on display. While my 8-month-old son, Miles, is in the very early stages of his art career—food is still his medium of choice at the moment!—I can’t wait to frame some of his creations when he gets a little older.

Photo Credit: Oh Joy!

Now that you've got your memento, it's time to get framing.

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