DIY Tramp Art

Appropriate for grades:
Subject areas: Visual and Performing Arts

A notch and a layer. Some wood and a knife. Patience and labor. These are the key ingredients of tramp art, a form of woodcarving that was common among working-class men (and occasionally women) primarily from the 1870s through the 1930s and 1940s in the United States and Europe. Tramp art assumed a wide variety of forms, from sewing boxes to frames, clock cases to devotional objects, and whimsies to furniture. Made primarily from recycled cigar boxes, crates, and other wood scraps, tramp art demonstrates the makers’ inventive transformation of the detritus of modern industrial society into useful and beautiful household objects. Photographs were special heirlooms, tramp art frames were popular as a wonderful way to protect and display these unique memories.

 Create a unique frame for someone special or cherished photograph!


You'll need:

  • 1 piece of sturdy cardboard 8" x 10"
  • 3 sheets of construction paper (3 colors) or any colored paper
  • glue stick or liquid glue
  • scissors


Procedures A grouping of images that showing the steps of how to make a frame in the tramp art style using construction paper and cardboard.

  1. Take a sheet of colored paper and fold it in half, and in half again.
  2. Draw a good size circle or square on the bottom left side, where the folds connect. Draw a circle or square shape for the frame outline on the upper right side. You can scallop or zigzag the edge of the frame.
  3. Cut along the two lines.
  4. Open your folded paper and place it on top of the cardboard piece. Trace and cut the outline of the frame.
  5. Add glue to three sides (bottom, right and left side). Glue the cardboard and frame together.
  6. Draw and cut out different shapes from a sheet of colored paper. You can scallop or zigzag the edge of the shapes. Glue the shapes onto another sheet of paper. Cut the shapes leaving a border following the form of the shape. Repeat the layering process, gluing and cutting a slightly bigger shape.
  7. Glue the layered shapes onto your frame. When you complete your frame insert a photo through the top unglued part between the cardboard and construction paper.

Download Lesson Plan