Creating a Shrine Installation

Creating a Shrine Installation | Textile Art


Welcome to Beneath The Folds, where Christine Cunningham explores the creativity of textile art, from inspiration to technique.

Creating a Shrine Installation will certainly impact any room. Your reason for creating it and the items used will determine it’s overall effect.

Let us look at the layering of theme and objects, nostalgia and symbolism, decorative jewels, creating memory tags, height and scale, colour and light. Updating your creation will keep it fresh, paying tribute throughout the year with cards and photographs.

Creating a Shrine Installation
Creating a Shrine Installation

Theme – A Tribute

A buddha garden sits above the fireplace with memory tags celebrating my beautiful Mam who passed away last year. I imagine her playing hide and seek with tiny angels as buddhas sit in quiet contemplation. It is a place in which I can sit with her, feel her love and celebrate her life. I will add her ashes to the little Faberge Egg she bought me. It is a tribute to her.

Creating a Shrine Installation
An enchanted garden of buddhas and angels

Since creating my shrine at Christmas I have added to it with photographs, flowers and cards, celebrating Mam’s 80th birthday, Mothers Day and Easter.

My creation will evolve throughout the year, an everlasting celebration of love, an enchanted garden in which she can play.

Creating a Shrine Installation
Add cards, flowers and photographs to celebrate throughout the year


Buddhas sit in a lavish garden of silk flowers and ivy, evoking a heavenly paradise where angels dance against a backdrop of porcelain. A mix of voluptuous roses, peonies, hydrangea and magnolia captures the abundance of Mam’s old garden.

Delicate white orchids remind us of the fragility of life. Birds with beautiful tail feathers sing amongst the foliage.

Creating a Shrine Installation
Creating a heavenly paradise with flowers and birds

Nostalgia and Symbolism

Choosing objects with meaning makes your shrine personal to you and can be symbolic of whatever you want it to be. A sense of nostalgia and love is captured in treasured possessions, bringing a lifetime of memory to the scene.

Pandy is 52 years old now, very threadbare and soaked in love and tears. He represents my beautiful childhood. The moth symbolises death and transcendence into another realm. A tin of angels preserves a lock of Mam’s hair which still smells of her.

Creating a Shrine Installation
My beloved Pandy

Decorative Jewels

Adorning the buddhas and pandy in jewels establishes a timeline of gifts and memory, enhancing the scene with colour, sparkle and grandeur.

A small buddha wears my Christening bangle and Pandy sports Mam’s antique clip on earrings and a diamante brooch which are effervescent in the candlelight. The large buddha is heavily adorned in hand made decorative beads, a gift from my sister too precious to wear.

Creating a Shrine Installation
Buddha adorned in precious handmade beads


Memories of laughter and joy are precious and should not be overlooked.

Painting buddha’s face and adding sunglasses creates a playfulness to the occasion of remembrance.

Creating a Shrine Installation
A playful Buddha sporting sunglasses and makeup

Memory Tags

Creating memory tags is an easy and very effective way to evoke the spirit and character of a loved one, recalling the everyday, memories of a life lived.

Printed, laminated and suspended from a rail, these tags create a transparent curtain, a waterfall of soft pale wool. The mirror reflects and doubles the scene, creating a rich dialogue. Recalling language, music, favourite activities, adventures and traditions all express the essence of who Mam is to me.

Creating a Shrine Installation
The essence of who Mam is to me – memory tags

Height and Scale

An undulating plateau of buddhas and foliage draws the eye through the creation and up through a waterfall of memory tags.

Establishing tiered heights and playing around with scale creates a diversity and depth within the design.

Use books to build a platform upon which an object sits. Pile ceramics high to evoke temples of faraway lands. Play around with placement before you commit.

Create distance with smaller objects in the background. Disperse larger objects throughout the design, grouping small objects between for pockets of detail to draw the eye in.

Create your very own Alice in Wonderland, enticing the viewer to explore hidden treasures.

Creating a Shrine Installation
An undulating plateau of Buddhas and foliage
Creating a Shrine Installation
Creating pockets of interest – dancing angels


Whatever your theme, colour is important in creating a flow and continuity throughout your creation and will determine the overall effect.

I have used white throughout, symbolic of purity and spirituality. The hanging curtain of memory tags, floral pattern in the blue china, flowers, candles, ceramic buddha head and the marbled setting of the fireplace binds the creation together.

Using a natural palette of green and blue set against a backdrop of brown and gold creates a feeling of understated opulence.

Creating a Shrine Installation
A colour palette of opulence


Using light within your design evokes a sense of serenity and peace. Light represents everlasting life, spirituality, a realm beyond our own. Whatever you believe, it is an effective way to light a room, creating a glamorous focal point.

The combination of layering light creates a beautiful ambience which softens and caresses the room. Layering string lights throughout objects binds the scene together. Fairy lights tie in the extended scene along the bookcase and the log in the hearth sparkles with warmth. A top layer wound through the ivy above the mirror takes the eye up through the curtain of memory tags.

Battery operated candles shine at intervals, creating pockets of interest. Real candles glow brightly in the safety of the glass case and small lanterns flicker.

My ancient lava lamp has a hypnotic rhythm of oil bubbles. Beaded lamps cast a more intense light. The dancing of the candle in the buddha oil head casts shadows which ebb and flow. If you use reflective surfaces light is bounced around, creating pattern and depth. I covered a glass vase in gold leaf to hide the flower stems. It shines.

It is a space in which I can sit and feel close to my Mam.

Creating a Shrine Installation
Creating a spiritual realm with light

Whatever you create, I hope you enjoy the process and develop something truly magical to be enjoyed and cherished. It can be whatever you want it to be.

I am truly broken since my Mam passed away but my shrine gives me comfort. I imagine her dancing in this beautiful garden forever. She loved to dance!

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