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In Honor of the SS Eastland

Today’s blog post is about crafting and history. A few months ago, I slapped some Mod Podge® down on a cardboard binder and added crumpled tissue paper. After sealing it with another coat of the Podge and adding some Tim Holtz® Distress Stain by Ranger, I fell head over heels in love with the way it turned out. It has the appearance of poorly preserved leather made out of human skin. Perfect for the stash of Halloween catalogs the binder holds

After that experiment, I had an idea to create a sort of dark shadowbox with a giant human eye. After fussing about with the tissue paper and finding the right doodads, I think it turned out incredibly awesome.
Dark sees what you've done and the secrets you lock away...

I wanted to make another, but with a lovely bluish-brown background. I thought of some diabolical mermaid as the focal piece or some deep sea creature, but both seemed forced. They weren't right. I studied the blue and it looked familiar and cold. It made me think of Chicago and then something clicked: the Eastland Disaster. 

Many years ago while antiquing in Arizona, I found a black and white postcard with the image of fire fighters and police moving draped gurneys onto a ship. Under those drapes were corpses. The back of the card described it as the Eastland Disaster in Chicago. I had never heard of the Eastland, but through the years, I would read articles about the tragedy that killed 844 people on the Chicago River July 24, 1915.

I sketched out my idea and it dawned on me that this year is the 100th anniversary of the Eastland and I really wanted to make something special…a small memorial of sorts. 

My husband purchased an authentic Eastland postcard for me and I copied it, aging the paper to nestle behind a large optical lens. I had various gears and star charms that I added oxidizing paint to and made them look rusted.

After unsuccessful attempts at finding a suitable top piece, I used a wooden plaque with wings and a crown from Tim Holtz®, using the same paint. 

I wanted balance for the top of the frame and found some extra metal book corners (again, Tim Holtz®) and gave them the rusted look as well.

The SS Eastland was "The Speed Queen of the Great Lakes" and I embossed a piece of copper with those words, torching it to give it some color. 

I severed the limb from a cake topper doll and added paint and stain and a layer of my favorite Glossy Accents® to give the arm a wet look.

The slender, pale arm reaching out of the murky waters asks not only to be saved, but to be remembered. The 844 lives lost aboard the Speed Queen are memorialized and their souls fly free instead of trapped inside.
SS Eastland Disaster shrine

I wish I could take better photos. Perhaps on a clear, sunny day I'll take more photos and add them to this post.

You can learn about the Eastland and remember The 844 by visiting or


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