Anne Morrow Lindberg said it best in her book Gift from the Sea, “The sea does not reward those who are anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. To dig for treasures shows not only impatience and greed, but lack of faith. Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach—waiting for a gift from the sea.”
I have always loved looking for shells and displaying them in my home. In an earlier post, I showed you my shell mirror and told you that I would explain how I made the “pediment” on the top. You see, I bought the actual mirror at a Navy Thrift store in Oak Harbor Washington for .99. The mirror was broken and that was the price believe it or not! Years later I added the pediment and now it hangs in my dining room.
Here is a close-up of the top of the shell mirror. I used shells that I had collected from Guantanamo Bay. We were stationed there for two years. At least once a week I would go out with friends to go “shelling.”
I started by cutting a piece of cardboard in the shape of the design that I wanted…an arch. I added about three inches to the bottom. So the overall arched shape was 11 and 1/2 wide by 8 1/2 high. The reason for the cardboard at the bottom is to tuck it behind the morror so that it will not fall.
I applied the shells with my glue gun and I chose the more colorful shells because the mirror had these colors in it. The large scallop shell is at the top because it is arched and my design was arched. This one was so much fun to make, that I tried another that is all white. At present, it does not have a home. Maybe I will make a mirror to go beneath it. If so, I will add a strip of cardboard at the bottom so that I can tuck it behind the mirror. You can put these shell pediments on an oil painting, or you can display on a plate holder on a book shelf.
We have a side porch in this house and I decorated it with manzanita branches that were spray painted with the most phosphorescent orange spray paint I could find. Then, I put them in a clear vase and when positioned in front of a mirror, they look twice the size. The idea is that they look like coral from the sea. They make a big impact for a little amount of money.
Here is a room that I found on Pinterest….love the red spray painted branches with the blue and white porcelain.
I had a red box that just called out for me to paint it white and add shells to the top. You may have a wooden box in your house, or maybe you can find one for pennies at the Goodwill. When I was finished with it, I put it on the mahogany secretary, and put shells on the shelves. It is really very simple to make.
First, I assembled my shells that usually reside in the garage. As you can see, I have lots that were collected from Guantanamo Bay and the craft store. My best shells are in a case. These are the “lesser” that I don’t mind using for craft projects. One day, I will show you how I have the best ones displayed. Assemble your shells, a glue gun, and a pair of tweezers to keep save your fingers from the hot glue.
The first order of business was to glue a border of small shells around the rectangular inset in the top of the box. Do your border first by positioning the shells to see how they will work…don’t start with the glue. Try to lay out the whole design to get an idea of what you want.
Then, you have to fill in the negative space with more shells. The ones in the middle are the base and really won’t be seen…just the ones on the edge. I put a large cowrie in the middle to give height to the finished design. Your final design should be more like a mound of shells and not flat.
Wish I could say that this shell frame was made by me, but I can’t. My daughter and son-in-law gave it to me for a birthday gift. One day, I will try to cover my own frame in this manner….just like what I did for the box. The photo in the frame was taken last Christmas. The precious little girl is sweet Tabitha and the handsome man is my husband, Mike. I display it on this piece of crocheted lace that is over 100 years old. It is a curtain panel that belonged to my grandmother. I like the fact that the lace has a sort of cut work design like the design of the shells.
Between 1830 and 1880, sailors who were in port in Barbados would buy what is called, “Sailors’ Valentines.” They are octagonal designs that would be taken or sent home to sweethearts. Lore has it that they were made on ships by the sailors, but recent research suggests that most Sailors’ Valentines were made for sale in Barbados and purchased by the sailors there. I fell in love with them after seeing some in a shop. This book about them comes in a heavy cardboard case . The book is by John Fondas and is a real treat fot the eye. On the left is the book’s case and on the right is the cover of the book. It looks three dimensional. Wish it was real.
One Christmas my dear husband gave me a sailor’s valentine. It is one made in the 20th century, but that did not matter to me. Mike is a sailor because he was in the U.S. Navy for 30 years. I like the white ones better than the colored…just personal preference. Mine hangs over the dressing table in the bathroom. One day, I hope to buy the form on the internet and try to make one myself.
When we were in Guantanamo Bay, our wives’ club needed to raise some money for charitable projects on the island. We decided to write a book about shelling…a way to introduce newcomers to the joy of looking for shells. This is a copy of the book that we wrote.
Here is what I wrote in the foreword of the book in 1988 “Did you ever stop to think how much shells are like people? Some are fragile, yet others are able to withstand a terrific pounding. Their sizes and shapes are as varied as their habits. They may have swirling bands of color or they may be plain. If covered with barnacles, they become beautiful when cleaned; their crusty exterior is just a mask. Some wash continuously with the tides while others find a place to lodge and stay there for a long time.” Do you wash continuously or do you find a place to lodge and stay a long time?
This last photo for you is from Romantic Homes Magazine. I like it because it demonstrates how easy it is to decorate with shells. Most of us have a cake plate. If you have two cake plates, you can stack them, fill them with shells and some reindeer moss from the craft store. There is no glue required and when you are tired of the display, just put the shells away and use the cake plate for a cake! How easy is that? This makes a nice centerpiece for a summer meal.
My creative friend Becky, the one who gave me the valentine copied from her first one in the 1950’s, lives on the beach and she collects many shells. She laughingly told me yesterday that so many are stored in the attic, they worry that the ceiling might fall. A few years ago, she made me this sweet heart picture made from shells. I think that she used parchment paper and put the design in a small frame. So beautiful!
Create and be happy!