Intro to Mini Box Collages: Create Beautiful Collages with Easy to Find Materials | Betsy Mitten | Skillshare
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Intro to Mini Box Collages: Create Beautiful Collages with Easy to Find Materials

teacher avatar Betsy Mitten, Surface Pattern Designer, Artist

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.

      Introduction

      2:27

    • 2.

      Class Project

      1:38

    • 3.

      Picking a Theme

      1:44

    • 4.

      Choosing a Box

      3:06

    • 5.

      Basic Supplies

      2:43

    • 6.

      Free and Low-Cost Materials

      5:00

    • 7.

      Small Supplies: Big Impact

      2:31

    • 8.

      Design Tips

      3:58

    • 9.

      Putting It All Together

      7:41

    • 10.

      Display and Gifting Ideas

      1:25

    • 11.

      Final Thoughts

      1:33

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About This Class

If you love hands-on projects, working with a variety of materials, and creating visual stories around a favorite theme, all within the small box format, you’ll love making your own Mini Box Collage.

Betsy has decades of experience designing and implementing hands-on creative projects that use easy to find materials, personal themes, and storytelling. 

In this class you’ll learn:

  • How to choose a theme and box for your collage
  • How to gather materials with low and no cost options
  • How to create an interesting design through layers, texture, and color
  • Tips for working with all of the fun 3-D embellishments including buttons, charms, beads and fabric
  • Easy to follow steps for putting your collage together and the best types of glue to use for different materials
  • Techniques you can apply to other creative projects
  • Gifting and display options

Materials: 

  • Top or Bottom half of a small cardboard box approximately 3”x 5” or 4” x 6” works well
  • Scissors
  • Papers - drawing or sketch paper, construction or other patterned paper 
  • Glue stick, glue dots, and/or craft glue
  • Pencil or pen. Optional: colored pencils, markers, or other favorite drawing tools
  • A downloadable PDF with optional materials ideas is included in the resources. I’ve listed a few below under optional papers and embellishments
  • Optional Papers: tracing paper, wax paper, velum or the see through window on invoices, patterned paper from the inside of envelopes, kraft paper from bags, scrap paper, old maps, etc. I encourage you to use what you have. 
  • Optional embellishments: canceled stamps, buttons, charms, beads, ribbons, twine, fabric, stamp art, small shells, ticket stubs, words clipped from magazines, etc.

You’ll be creating: 

  • A Mini Box Collage that showcases your chosen theme and shares a favorite story.


I can't wait to see what you create!

Meet Your Teacher

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Betsy Mitten

Surface Pattern Designer, Artist

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Level: Beginner

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Transcripts

1. Introduction: Are you looking for unique way to showcase your favorite travels, hobbies, and interests? Would you like to make a one-of-a-kind gift for a family member or friend, or find a way to use a small piece of your own art, but you have limited time and space. Do you love to make things by hand and enjoy upcycling and using what you have for your projects. Then you'll love creating your own mini box collage. I'm Betsy met and surface pattern designer and educator. And I'd like to welcome you to mini box collages. The beauty of this project is that it's great for all levels of experience. It works for any theme. The unique small size keeps the project interesting and manageable, and it comes with a built-in display. You probably have most of the materials you'll want to use and the other materials are easy to find, will even go on a scavenger hunt around your home. There are no limits to themes. Your mini box collage can celebrate a favorite place and event, a special person, a beloved pet, a garden, a flower, a holiday hobby, or anything that interests you well know drawing skills are necessary. You can also include your own art. The small size of the mini box means that even the littlest element makes a big impact. Devote as much or as little time as you have. You don't need art skills, but you'll enjoy this class most if you love to create things with your hands. I've always loved making things by hand and teaching. I graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in textiles and fibers and later earned a master's in education. I have decades of experience designing and implementing art and nature programs in museums like the chicago botanic garden, the Morton Arboretum, the Field Museum, and public and private schools. In 2020, I taught an online class for Bonnie Christine's surface pattern design membership. Flourish. I fell in love with online teaching and the possibilities. I use Adobe Illustrator and work digitally much of the time. And I also love to work with my hands and share how to make things. I'm so excited that you're here. Thanks for joining me for mini box collages. Meet me in the next lesson and I'll tell you all about our fun and creative project 2. Class Project : Welcome back. I'm excited to share the steps to creating your own mini box collage, a visual story around a theme of your choice. From a favorite vacation place, a memorable event, something you love. You get to decide. I loved this project because of the uniqueness of the small box format and the flexibility of collage for storytelling. It works for any theme. The size keeps the project manageable. You probably already have most of the materials and I've included suggestions for low and no cost options. I love to up cycle. So those ideas are there too. It's an engaging project to make and to give the gift. In this class, we'll cover how to select a theme. I've included a downloadable PDF, tips for choosing a box upcycled or new basic materials and additional options including free and low-cost extra embellishments that give personality. I call this small but mighty impact. How to design a visually interesting collage with composition, layering, and using a variety of elements which glues work best for the different materials and finishing touches on the inside edges and the outside decor. We'll finish with ideas for gifting and display. I can't wait to see what you create. Meet me in the next lesson and we'll look at all the different options for selecting your collage box. See you there? 3. Picking a Theme: My first step in creating a mini box collage is to choose a theme or idea for the box and think about what kind of story I wanted to tell. This step always gets my creative juices flowing and helps with gathering materials. A theme could be something like butterflies, a favorite flower, a trip to Paris, or collage for a friend. It's completely up to you. You might wonder how the theme is connected to the story. This story helps you decide what you want to highlight or emphasize about your theme. It can be as simple as I loved the beach in ocean, or it might be, I want to focus on a particular beach we visit every summer and use a map and shells I've collected on the beach walks. Maybe it's a birthday gift for a family member or a special friend. And you want to reference meaningful moments your story as a way to hone in on what you might want to include in your collage. You don't have to have this nailed down at the beginning, but I do like to think about it. I've included a PDF on themes with ideas and room for your notes and sketches that you can download. You can find it under the resources. Any theme or idea for a collage, we'll work a favorite vacation, a special memory, a trip and event, a person, hobby or interest, holiday celebration, even a favorite food. These are just a few ideas and I know you'll come up with even more. The theme and story can always change and evolve as you create your collage. But this gives us a starting point. In the next lesson, we'll look at options for your collage box, including a fun scavenger hunt around your house. Use whatever you have. I can't wait to share these ideas with you. 4. Choosing a Box: In this lesson, we'll look at several ideas for choosing a box. For your collage. I'm sharing places to purchase a small box and ways to upcycled boxes you already have. Choosing a box is another area for fun and creativity. I'm going to show you the two that I have used most often. But you can really use anything that interests you. This box right here is about four by 5 ". And here's what, here's a little collage. You can kind of tell the size by looking at the stamp. The box itself came with the top and a base. And if we open the box, you have the dimension of the bottom, which is four by five. And then you also have the side edge. This is about five-eighths of an inch. You can create a collage in both the top and the bottom. Just remember the tops is smudge bigger. So it will fit on top of the bottom. And generally the edge is not quite as tall. Now let's look at this square box. This is always a fun shape to. This box, is about three-and-a-half by three-and-a-half. But of course, any size that you want to use is fine. The edge on this one's a little bit deeper, It's about an inch. And again, you've got the top and the bottom. Sometimes I reserve the top so I can give the collage with a lid on it, but that's completely up to you. I bought these boxes from a paper supply company online, but crafts stores also carry them. Now let's look at some options you might have around the house. I'm a big believer in using what you have. So I went on a little box scavenger hunt in my house and I'll just show you some of the things I came up with. An Altoid Xbox could be really fun. These are jewelry boxes that I had. A matchbox could be super sweet. Sliding in and out. Band-aid box. Is there a good size electronics? I re-did my stationery drawer and this actually even has a plastic cover that you could use. This is a corrugated box that art came in. Tea boxes in the pantry or kind of a hand you size. And here's one that I even cut down to show you how it would work. And a scarf came in this box. This box that the stamps came in could also use. I would encourage you to take a little scavenger hunt around your house and see if you have anything that would work. I can't wait to see which box you choose to use. Meet me in the next lesson and we'll look at the basic supplies to get started. You probably have most of them in your home already. See you there? 5. Basic Supplies: Welcome back. Let's look at these basic supplies. I'm really excited to show them to you. First, a box, whether it's a box that you cut from one that you have found in your pantry. A box you purchase like these from a craft store or a supply place, or just a box you may have had in one of your drawers or cabinets. Any of these will work. So you want to find some kind of box than paper. And this is a place where you can be super creative. And you know me, I'm always encouraging you to use what you have. Right here. I had some graph paper that would work in this paper is going to be the base of your collage, so it should have a little bit of weight. But graph paper, this is sketch paper. I just, and you can see that I don't need it. I really don't even need this much. So this is a great way to use up some of your scrap paper. Drawing paper. You could even use watercolor paper. I love brown craft paper, so I actually have I actually have pads of it. I just tore a page. But let's say you love brown craft paper and you don't have that kind of pad. You can use a lunch bag and cut it out of a lunch bag or even a grocery store bag. Both of those work just great. Printer paper, this is computer paper that would work, and this is newsprint. Okay, so what else do you need? Glue sticks are perfect for paper and very light materials. And glue dots are a wonderful answer for things like buttons are heavier embellishments. You could also use craft glue if you have time to let it dry, it just takes a little bit longer. You'll need a pair of scissors and a pencil. And of course you could use a bigger pair of scissors if you wanted. If you have a paper cutter that's handy to. And then I signed a ruler helpful, especially if you are cutting your paper with scissors. But I'm going to show you a way that if you don't have a ruler, you can do it. These are the basic materials you need. A box, paper, glue, scissors, a pencil, and a ruler can be handy for glue. I find glue dots and a glue stick, very helpful to have both of them. In the next lesson, I'm going to be sharing my favorite free and low-cost materials. See you there. 6. Free and Low-Cost Materials: Welcome back. In this lesson we're going to look at my favorite free and low-cost materials. I'd like to start with one of my absolute favorite and that would be canceled stamps. Those are the stamps that come on your letters and the time on what we might consider junk mail. This was a solicitation letter that I got. And it came with both this wonderful window that I'm going to talk about. And with this gorgeous stand. Another thing that's great about male inside security envelopes, you'll see that there are these beautiful patterns. These are just a few of the ones that I've collected. You can also snag the gray translucent little windows and we'll be talking about how those can be used. One of my all-time favorite free or very low cost things to use our maps, especially if I'm doing a box about a place. This is a map that we just had from a trip. I think it was actually free. Lots of times, rental car places will give you free maps. You can also find them online. This is just a copy of a map I have of Chicago. I live in the Chicago area. So I do a lot with that. And then this was part of a guide for chicago botanic garden. And I just cut out the area that I wanted to highlight. So old maps are a wonderful way to add a little sense of place to whatever you're doing. Speaking of old, I often will find out-of-print are old books. And for example, this was about flowers. So I copied a page. This definition and deal came from an old dictionary. And if you want to use old writing, you might have some letters are no cards that you've saved. Or sometimes my sister loves to collect old postcards and often sends them to me, especially if they have something to do with a place that we love or some kind of hobby that we have. Now let's take a look outside, depending on what I'm doing my box about adding natural elements can be really nice. These are stones and shells I collected on a beach in California. These sticks came from my backyard actually this morning. The thing to remember is the tiniest little element can make a big impact in these boxes. You can always press. This is sort of a pressed or Revit piece that I think is quite beautiful. And I'm going to press these little flowers that I pick this morning and include them in one of my boxes. One of the things I want to mention about collecting though, is that there are some rules about collecting and certain places like nature preserves. Or for example, if you're in a why it's against the law to collect coral seaweed. Never wanna do that too. You always want to know that you are following the rules of the rules of the road are the rules of the land. I'm a surface pattern designer. In addition to being an educator and I always have lots of paper. I've printed out samples of my fabric just to look at scale. And I actually have a lot of fabric samples too. You can see this is the same pattern, just a different scale in a different color. And even a piece of fabric that small can make a big impact. You might find that you have a lot of chord or ribbon around your house. So that's another kind of free low-cost thing. Now the last thing I wanted to talk about, I mentioned briefly these wonderful windows that you can use in your boxes. There are other kind of translucent and transparent papers. I happen to have just from doing art projects, handmade paper you might or might not, something else people often have in their house. And it's quite an expensive if you don't, is wax paper and that makes it very cool. Sort of layering effect. Other things I love to layer with our vellum. This came in a package and I saved it. This is tracing paper. Tracing paper works great. And this is from a wax paper see in which bag? And I just cut a section out of it. We're going to be talking more about layering in future lessons. But I wanted to point out or encourage you to take another tour around your house, checkout your cabinet, and see what you have. You might be surprised at all of the materials you already have that are low cost and no cost and that you can use. In the next lesson, we're going to look at all of the wonderful embellishments and things you can add to your box. See you there? 7. Small Supplies: Big Impact: Welcome back. In this lesson, we will look at materials I often purchased when they'll have a big impact on my collage. And I don't have them at home. Something like the super cool flat glass beads. I'm going to show you just the right charm. A rubber stamp that matches my theme. Ribbon or decorative papers are a few. Let's look at these options. My favorite is the flattened glass bead. They're used for flower arrangements and watch this, they work as magnifying glasses. You can purchase these flattened glass beads at Floral shops or craft shops. They're really amazing. They come clear and in colors, handmade papers, even very small amounts can make a real impact. Fabric scraps, small remnants. You can even make ribbon from fabric. Here you can see how I did that on the side here. I love buttons, beads, craft charms, fringe, hoarding, ribbon, twine, even tassels were because the small size of the mini box collage, even a very small piece of material or embellishment can make a really big impact while she is something I love to use. Rebecca Jane Fulbright has a washy class on Skillshare. This is actually some of her washy. You can also find it at craft stores or even office supply. But I really love using it, especially when I'm doing the edges of the box. Rubber stamps are wonderful to create images and layer. You can see how I printed on a little square of paper and then added it to the background. You could also stamp right onto the background if you wanted. I use purchase papers, as I said, handmade decorative scrapbook papers, and also herbs and plants. I've purchased herbs and small plants for an IRB collage. And this one right here, I use Sage and I use Kimberly cross birds technique that she teaches in her Skillshare class with making images from press plants. Now it's your turn with your theme in mind, gather your materials and let's get started. Meet me in the next lesson when we talk about collage composition and some easy steps to help you design your mini collage 8. Design Tips: Welcome back. In this lesson, we'll look at easy design tips for creating your collage. These include how your theme can influence your design choices, sketching ideas and planning, simple steps to measure and fit your base paper, composition tips for placement, varying materials and layering plus how I keep it all organized for glowing. Let's get started. Now you've got your box in your theme. Of course, you can always modify your ideas as you work in your collage. First, I consider my theme, my story, and the feeling I want to convey is it calm, a celebratory, encouraging gratitude, playfulness, you can decide. The next thing I do is I sketch out some ideas on a piece of scrap paper, but you can just begin designing right away. Now let's talk about the base paper. You can either cut a piece of paper to use as a base or you could work right on the inside of your box. I tend to always want to have a piece of base paper and it could even be a piece of decorative paper, doesn't have to be playing. It's really up to you. This is how I cut paper to size. If you have a paper cutter, you can measure the outside of the box and then trim your paper about an eighth of an inch smaller in height and width. There's a bit of trial and error in the beginning, and that's perfectly normal. You can also use the same process with a ruler and scissors. If you don't have a ruler, you can trace around the outside of your box. You'll want to cut the paper inside the lines. I usually move in at least an eighth of an inch on each side. It's not unusual to have to trim the paper a few times with this method. You want the paper to fit in the box, but also to be able to take it out easily. I use a toothpick just like this to lift stuck paper. I like to build my collage inside of my box and then glue last, but that's also a choice. I tried to use the entire space so my viewers eyes move around the buttocks. Here's an example. I avoid putting something right in the middle. I vary colors, shapes, sizes, and the materials I choose, paper, fabric, buttons, all of those. I try to leave some open space, but that's entirely up to you. Now you may wanna do something with simply a drawing, or maybe you have a painting and a border and that's fine too. You don't have to use lots of different materials. The next tip is to add layers. Layering adds interest, and here are my favorite ways to layer, and I'm sure you'll think of even more. Let's look at the translucent paper first. Velum, wax paper, tracing paper, those windows and invoices, they all work to add another layer and it just, it adds some interests. You can also layer rubber stamps by printing on another piece of paper or by bordering images. There's some really fun choices you can make when you layer. And I just wanted to point these out. When you layer something you cut, you can vary the edges, the shapes, and the sizes. And this is true for paper or fabric, whatever you're working with, Let's look at cut paper versus torn paper. Then here with fabric, we have cut with regular scissors. This I cut with pinky shares, and this piece I fringed because these pieces are small, it really doesn't take a lot of time to add this extra detail. You can create layers on top of one another or you can flip things in so they peak out. I like to stay open to surprises and changes. Now, I wait until the end to glue everything together, but that's also a choice. If it's super involved, they take a photo or I take it apart in layers, like I'm going to show you right here. It's completely up to you. Now I'm happy with this design. In the next lesson, we'll talk glue and we'll put it all together. See you there. 9. Putting It All Together: Welcome back. In this lesson, we're going to glue our collage together and put on some finishing touches. Before we get started, I wanted to point out the different glues I use. And when I use them, we talked about glue sticks and glue dots and the materials lesson. Craft glue or glue. Elmer's will also work in place of glue dots. If you have time to wait for it to dry. I don't use craft or Elmore's white glue on paper because the paper wrinkles. My favorite glue stick is the glue stick. It works best for me. But if you prefer something else or have something else, use that glue sticks are great for any kind of paper. And once in a while, a small fabric scraps. I can also show you how I've used them for small herbs by putting the glue on the paper rather than on the fragile herbs. Sometimes I find that a little bit of craft glue actually does work better for some of the most fragile herbs. I use glue dots for everything else. Buttons, charms, ribbon, courting, glass beads, definitely anything three-dimensional. They can be a little fuzzy for some things like a shell and some buttons, if you find it, the glue dot isn't sticking to the back of whatever you're trying to adhere it to. You can actually peel the glue dot off the clear backing of the packaging and just put it onto whatever you want to use. That happens quite often for me if I'm using something, I don't know, that's a little slippery or a little uneven. It's just a workaround. Sometimes I actually roll up the glue dot and push it into the shell. You may have to fiddle with them on some materials. And that's just the nature of the glute up. I also wanted to show you these adhesive squares. If you have something you want to raise, these are cool. You can also get the same effect with a small piece of cardboard and the glue stick. We've talked about glues and I have my collage right here. My biggest tip is to take a quick photo on your phone so you can reference it if you want to. So we built it from the base up and we're going to take it apart from the top down to the base layer. As I've mentioned, you do not have to do it this way. And always, you can change things around as you work. You can always glue as you go. But I liked the flexibility of moving things around and trying different arrangements right up to the end. So I wait to glue. You can glue layer by layer and, or by grouping. My theme is b's, we plant our garden to attract bees. My daughter's junior high class had beehives, and we have beehives at the family farm. I love learning about and observing bees. So I'm excited to create this box. I've taken the collage apart in a combination of layers and groups. I'm building it outside of the box so it's easier to film. And then I'll put everything inside. I've got a bass paper, a layer of handmade paper with gold dots than a strip of B washi. The torn brown wax paper was glued in an earlier lesson, I'll add the stamped be letters, ribbon, the sweet charm. It seemed a little plane, so I added a Twine bot. Then we'll also have this little arrangement of fabric from one of my collections. The striped fabric is cut with pink and shares and fringed. And the b is also cut with pink and chairs. Plus I have this little beach charm. You can follow along while I glue these pieces together, you may notice that I've added an extra Stamp s. So it now says bees. I'm gluing layer by layer and using glue dots on the ribbon. But a strong craft glue would work. There's always a bit of adjusting and fiddling. I like to use this gluing time to check my design choices and make any changes. I've added an extra glued on to keep the ribbon secure. There are different brands of adhesive or glue dots. They come in roll sheets and dispensers in different sizes. This charm is heavy, so I want to make sure it's secure. I'm using my strongest glue dodge. I'll adjust the bot after it's glued down. This is a small piece of fabric. So the glue stick will work. I'm making sure I get glue right to the edges of the fabric. You'll notice I've moved the B fabric around a bit from the original design. I make a lot of tweaks and adjustments as I put the materials together. These may include moving things, adding or eliminating an element. While I used an adhesive dot for the buttons, a bit of tacky aircraft glue would do the job and might have actually been easier. Now I'll glue this onto the paper with a glue stick. Next, I'll glue the letters. I'll speed this up. My tip. I almost always use a piece of scrap paper under whatever I'm gluing. It just makes it so much easier. I love how printing the letters on squares of brown paper creates a subtle layering effect. You can also print or write your own letters and words. A toothpick makes a handy tool to add a bit of glue from a glue stick or craft glue in tight spots. I thought the lower left-hand corner needed something. I slipped a photocopy of some bees under the brown wax paper sandwich bag, and I'm trimming off the excess. The corner still seems plain to me. So I'm going to try this definition. The contrast with the white paper feels a bit bright. So I'm testing another piece of torn brown wax paper over it. I liked the way that looks. I've moved the beach arm to under the letter B. And I'm testing out a b dance idea with these dotted pencil lines. Before I commit to ink, I've always loved bee dances, so I'm leaning in that direction. Let's talk about the inside edges. You don't have to, but it's another opportunity to decorate. You can decorate the edges before, after you do the main collage, I've done it both ways. The paper might take up a bit of space, so it's a consideration. The easiest way I found to decorate these inside edges is to measure the height of the edge. And then I cut the paper the desired width. If you don't want to use a ruler, you can do this by tracing the edge, folding the paper to this line, and then cutting the paper a bit thinner. Or you can do it by estimating. I use the inside of an envelope and a lunch bag. So I had to cut several pieces. I spread the glue on the back of the paper and then started at one and worked it around the inside of the box. I spliced it on the bottom where I didn't think it would show as much. There is a bit of fussing and fiddling, but we're all good at that. You can do the same thing using washy either all by itself or as an additional layer while she has an adhesive back, but it's not as sticky as regular tape. I apply the washy carefully and once it's where I want it to be, I go back and apply pressure to make sure it sticks. Now that we've put this mini box collage together, Let's look at ways for display and gifting. A minimax collage makes a unique piece here, your home, and a fantastic and heartfelt gifts. See you in the next lesson. 10. Display and Gifting Ideas: Congratulations. Now you've finished your box and it's time to share. Display your box flat on a mini ESA or in a grouping. Many boxes make great gifts or super fancy cards. You can use the top of the box and extend your theme to the ribbon. Outside decor and other elements you tie onto the top. A mini ESOL is a super fun way to display your box. I ordered mine useful online, but you can find them at craft stores. You don't have to, but I decided to paint the easels to match the decor or theme of my boxes. I used an inexpensive Kraft acrylic paint. You could also get super fancy and add embellishments. No box top, No problem. I slipped this mini box collage into a wax paper sandwich bag and added decor on the outside. And this is a recycled cellophane slave from a fancy card. If you are shipping your mini box path for safety. Just a few of the ways you can display or gift your mini box collage. I'd love to know your ideas. Meet me in the next lesson for some final thoughts, how to upload your project. An extra fun surprise, I added to the VBox. I can't wait to share that with you and how to reach out to me if you have any questions. See you there. 11. Final Thoughts: Congratulations on completing the mini box Collage class to review, we've talked about picking a theme and the story wants to tell, selecting a box, gathering materials, designing your collage composition, and the best glues and process for putting it all together. Adding finishing touches plus ideas for displaying and gifting. One thing I hope you take away is how easy and creative mini box collages are there great to showcase themes you love and fun to make on your own or in a group. Now I promised you one more surprise if you are feeling like adding something extra special. Here's one more idea. You can see that I added washi to the outside of the top, but the real surprise is on the inside. Let's open up the box. Wait for it. That's right. You can decorate the inside of the top two. How fun that, please share your mini box collaged by uploading a photo to the student project section, you'll find the green Create Project button right under the class video. You can follow me on Skillshare and reach out to me with questions. I've included my contact information and where you can find me on social media on a slide at the end, please feel free to reach out if you have any questions about the class or anything else. Thank you so much for joining me in mini box collages. I can't wait to see what you create.