For years, I've repurposed old, metal lunchboxes. A Rambo lunchbox became a lunchbox dedicated to Great Women of Literature. Another honored Great Writers of the South. More recently, I've dedicated a lunchbox to The Donner Party. For a long time, though, I've had it in my head to create the ultimate Superhero Lunchbox...not a lunchbox featuring Batman or Wonder Woman, but a box honoring my real-life heroes.

I posed this challenge to a wide circle of friends: get your hands on a metal lunchbox, and put some thought into who or what your heroes are, and why. And then get to work making the Superhero Lunchbox of your dreams.

This online exhibit is the result of that challenge. I hope visitors to this site will find it fun and interesting, and maybe even inspiring. Lunchboxes are such useful things, and so many of us have fond memories of toting tuna sandwiches to school in our Partridge Family or Six Million Dollar Man lunchboxes. There seems to me to be no reason for us to outgrow this tradition of toting around our meals in metal boxes that say something about who we are, what we like, and what our values are. I know I've never outgrown it.

Start here, because it's what started it all for me, and work your way up. Enjoy. Leave some feedback. Make a lunchbox.

For a more detailed view, click on the individual images.

If you're moved to make a lunchbox of your own, and have it included in this exhibit, submissions are welcome. Get your hands on a metal lunchbox (no plastic, please) - you can buy a blank one from or repurpose an old one. Go to town. Choose your superhero, and and run with it. Photograph your finished lunchbox, write a few words about your subject, and send the photos and text to me at, with the words "Superhero Lunchbox" in the subject box.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Jennifer Hayes

The lighting in my office is crappy, and I couldn't see all my imperfections as I was working. But the more I see them now, the more it really describes my family. And it gives me a little knot in my throat.

 I created my lunchbox in the same way I do my other projects, in boxes so that the piece has a keepsake feel. 

My super heros are my parents (and my grandma). Both of my parents grew up poor (my mother didn't even have indoor plumbing in her house). So they both worked really hard to give me and my brother everything they couldn't have growing up. 

When I was younger, my dad was in the Army and his position kept him away for long periods of time. My mom had to take care of my brother and me by herself, often in another country where she didn't know anyone or even know the language. She worked office jobs to help pay the bills and save money. We didn't have much, but they loved us, and we always had a roof and food. Even the years when we weren't sure we were even going to have a Christmas tree, my mom worked several jobs to get each of us a little something. I'm glad that they love me unconditionally, tattoos, pink hair and all. 

So I turned my parents into some of my own favorite things... paper dolls. 

My grandmother had seven children, lived through the great Depression and once lived in a tent with her little ones and husband. She passed away when I was 12, but I will always remember her as one of the nicest, strongest women I've ever known. Her laugh was loud and infectious, as was her desire to help others. 

 Thank you, Lana, for this project. It's been very moving working on it.

A note from Jenn: I totally meant to add that the letter wrapped around the box is from when he was stationed in Germany for two years when I was younger, and would write to me. I was terrible about writing back, but I still have his letters. Their wedding photo is also inside as well.