I've been working on this project off and on for ages - as a present for my mom... finallly finished it in time for Mother's Day, now I get to share it with you guys. It's all beads and thread, woven together in peyote stitch using instructions from a book by Dark Hare Beadwork.
Thanks for all the kind compliments guys - here are some answers to questions that popped up...
The book is called "Little Boxes" - it's available here: http://www.beadcave.com/julia/littleboxes/index.html
You can buy a pdf version for $25US and it includes patterns and instructions for different box types (triangular, 4 sided, 5 sided, etc).
Also - it's possible to make much smaller boxes that require much less time - so anyone who is thinking of trying the project, go for it - it doesn't have to be the mega project I made mine into!
My mom was wow'ed, I think. She's seen my other beadwork projects (which tend to be large and very time involved) so she knows it's typical for me. Mostly I think she marveled at how small and uniform the beads were (I used delicas).
Theres no frame under the beads - it's just beads and thread. The tension holds it all together. Each half was made as one piece. The bead on top - it stands up just through tension and several passes with the thread.
(Thanks for setting me straight on the stitch name, didn't realize there was badness associated with what I called it.)
As a beginner project - if you've done gourd stitch before, then you can figure this out (with the instructions) for sure. I'd suggest getting pretty familiar with gourd stitch first though.
I think the only thing that keeps me going on large projects like this is NOT knowing how many hours I've put in!! I started this easily a year ago, got interrupted by grad school and finally finished in May... easily hundreds of hours (usually in front of the tv).
In a way it does require patience, but I really enjoy it and it gives me something to do with my hands while I watch movies or tv.