Create a one-of-a-kind decorative gift box filled with love, inspired by the signature looks and ideas of the influential Black fashion designer Patrick Kelly.
Patrick Kelly Gift Box of Love
Hannah Freeman, Senior Teaching Artist / Dec 10, 2021
The de Young’s special exhibition Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love explores how love was the center of the designer Patrick Kelly’s world. He spray-painted a heart to kick off each runway show, and distributed Patrick Kelly’s Love List to show attendees. Kelly loved Valentine candy boxes, once printing fashion-show invitations on the inside of chocolate boxes. He designed a candy-box hat for his collection. Many of his fun designs are adorned with hearts, buttons, and bows. Two of these hallmark looks are featured in a dress from Kelly’s Fall/Winter 1986–1987 collection. His fascination with buttons stems from his grandmother, who used to repair the family clothes with a rainbow of mismatched buttons at their home in Vicksburg, Mississippi. He was taught to sew by family members. As a child, he noticed fashion magazines didn’t have pictures of Black women and resolved to make clothes for everyone.
- White unlined paper
- Color pencils or pens
- Color paper or old magazine pages
- Small empty box with lid (such as an old tea box, chocolate box, or skin-care box)
- Glue (white glue and glue stick)
- Small tub
- Hot glue gun (or a needle and thread)
- Ribbon or yarn
Questions to Consider
- For whom are you making the Gift Box of Love?
- What colors do you want to use on your gift box and why?
- What other materials will you choose to decorate the box?
- How else can you use the materials to decorate?
- If your box has a fitted lid, be mindful of where to stick the decoration - too many decorative layers, or misjudged placement of decoration, may prevent the lid from closing securely.
1. Look closely at some of Patrick Kelly’s designs. Notice his choice of colors, along with the placement and texture of the attached decoration of buttons, hearts, and bows. Read through Patrick Kelly’s Love List.
2. Write a list of things you love about the person to whom you are giving the gift box. Embellish with color drawings, patterns, or a border if you like. Fold it carefully to fit inside the box you will be decorating.
3. Consider the different ways you can cover the box with color paper. Perhaps you will glue one piece of color paper for one side of the box, and a different color for another side. Maybe you will cut small shapes or strips of paper and glue them onto the box using a paintbrush with white glue poured into a small tub (that is called decoupage). Consider your color choices; warm or cool colors, or a full rainbow of colors. Alternately, you could use plain white paper and decorate it with color drawings and patterns.
4. Be mindful of how the lid fits the box. You do not want to add too much thickness to the box walls, as this could affect how the lid fits.
5. Experiment placing buttons on the lid or sides of the box (below where the lid line sits) before using a hot glue gun to stick them. If you don’t have a hot glue gun, you could use a needle and thread to sew the button onto a piece of paper, then attach the buttoned paper with white glue to the box. If you don’t have buttons, you could draw them on paper, cut out the shapes, and glue them down.
6. Experiment with ribbon (or yarn) to tie bows. You could stick the bows on the box to decorate, or use a ribbon to tie the box shut tight.You may want to decorate the inside of the box too!
After creating your Patrick Kelly Gift Box of Love, consider the following questions:
- Now that you have written the love list and decorated the gift box, which part did you enjoy doing most and why?
- What tips did you learn along the way that you would pass along to someone about to start the project?
- If you could choose any materials to decorate another gift box, what would they be and why?
Your gift box of love is ready to give to the recipient! After they have opened it and read the list, you can share what you learned about Patrick Kelly and explain some of your design choices and process.
We would love to see what you create! Email pictures of your artwork to email@example.com or tag us on any social platform with #deyoungsters.
- Patrick Kelly, Dress, Fall/Winter 1986–1987 (detail). Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Gift of Audrey Smaltz, 2021.8.1. © Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
- Patrick Kelly, Patrick Kelly’s Love List. © Estate of Patrick Kelly / Philadelphia Museum of Art
- Process photographs by Hannah Freeman