Last summer, Malcolm picked up a very beat up blue Sesame Street plastic lunchbox circa 1987 with someone else’s name on it at a thrift store. He used it as it was all year long, and now, with kindergarten looming in the fall, it seemed time to give this thing a makeover. We’ve used the insulated types of lunchbox, but the lining always peels away and you can never really get them to stop smelling like rotten broccoli and cheese. But these old school, simple, uninsulated lunch boxes are easily cleaned and clearly very durable, so we were willing to invest a little time in bringing this one back.
Sometime in 2009, I tore a few pages out of one of my Audubon magazines and saved them for an unknown future project. The images were of dozens and dozens of different beetle species arrayed against a white background. (The photographer, Christopher Marley, does amazing things with beetles, and you should check out his article and photos.) I dug these beetle pics out of my desk, and set to work on the lunchbox.
I intended this post to be more of a how-to, and less of a gloaty, show-offy before and after, but I forgot to take pictures in the middle. Still, it’s a very simple project that anyone can do. First, you peel off whatever’s left of the old picture on the lunchbox, and clean the surface with soap and water. Let it dry. Then, cut out a picture, or make a whole collage if you like, to fit in the rectangular depression on the front of the lunchbox. I used Mod Podge to affix the magazine pages. The key is to smooth out the pictures so that no bubbles or folds remain. If you use thick paper, you can use a ruler to smooth the surface. If you’re using something thin, like magazine pages, be a bit more delicate in your handling. I used my fingers to smooth out the pictures.
Once everything is stuck in place, let it dry completely. I added a “The Beetles” logo I printed off the interwebs. If you do this, make sure the ink is totally dry before you glue it in place or you will get a smeary mess. After it’s all dried, you can use the rectangular depression to your advantage: I poured a whole bunch of Mod Podge right on top of the picture and just smeared it around like cake frosting (or what I imagine cake frosting would be like if I had EVER made a cake.) Then, let it dry. It starts out alarmingly opaque, and will take several hours to fully dry to a translucent finish (at least it did in the swampy humidity here in New England that makes me want to die.)
Then, voila! A brand new, kinda hipster, kinda cute, revamped 80s lunchbox for your 2000s kid! Or for you. I confess to coveting this thing. The Mod Podge is a pretty durable finish too, so you can wash the lunchbox thoroughly. I wouldn’t recommend the dishwasher, but that’s a small price to pay for a one of a kind item like this one.