I’m one of those people who makes presents. Hand-made gifts mean so much more, in my opinion. And I’m a minimalist, so my lifestyle goes into my gift-giving choices. I’d rather wrap up something thoughtful than offer a bundle of “stuff” that is simply a gesture of giving to give.
Plus, I’m poor. (I mean, I use sticks to paint because they’re free.)
Enter seashell creations!
Beachcombing has become a hobby of mine, not surprisingly seeing as the coast of Long Island is full of interesting finds. I really have made the phrase “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” ring true. In fact, all of the islanders have. Why not decorate a washed up toilet seat with a beachy slogan and hang it above the commode for all to see? Pallets on beaches can be collected and cut into homemade furniture. I even found two flip flops that were my size (non-matching, of course).
Nestled among the golden garbage of the rocky coral and white sand are seashells aplenty. Sometimes I merely collect to collect. Other times I’m looking for specific pieces to complete my seashell creations.
It’s easy to get carried away. But without further ado, here is a compilation of my DIY seashell creations!
Having worked extensively with sea turtles, I am partial to these incredible animals. Thus, my first run of seashell creations was a conglomeration of turtle species. For the turtle carapaces, I used sea glass, “hamburger” sea beans, sea biscuit skeletons, a barnacle and even a marble that washed ashore. I dipped into my snail shell collection for the heads and also used the uniquely named Flamingo Tongue snail shell. The feet were small Augers and Florida Cones.
Fun fact about the Flamingo Tongue: it feeds exclusively on sea fans. The shells are spotted when alive.
I’ve had a soft spot for frogs ever since I was a kid catching toads in my mom’s garden. The first open bivalve I saw screamed “frog mouth!!!” to me, and thus my endless collecting of such clam shells began. I started to think outside the box as my number and size of frog mouths increased.
Frog bodies were made with sea urchin and sea biscuit skeletons, barnacles, cowries and closed shell clams. I used small snail shells, itty bitty sea urchin skeletons and dried pieces of sargassum seaweed for the frog eyes.
The tongue of the frogs is a piece of coral painted with acrylic. A “fly” sits on the end of the tongues symbolized by small snail shells and in one case, a teeny leaf that washed ashore. The “flower” bouquet was a favorite of mine to make because I think the mini shells are so cute and colorful! The plastic bow on one of the paired frogs did indeed come in with the tide as did the fishing line used for the campfire fishing frog. Fishing line also came in handy for tedious painting; I used it to paint “Coke” on the “soda can” in the above photo.
One of the frogs was made into a turtle instead to go along with the idea of shell collecting suggested by the snail shells surrounding the creature. A barnacle was used for this turtle’s shell (see below).
For “Island Treasure,” I actually sprinkled sand onto the wet acrylic paint. I also painted a piece of coral to look like a palm tree. The treasure chest is simply a small open bivalve with minute pieces of sea glass inside.
For the large treasure chest, I painted rings of coral and dried sand yellow and also included the mixer balls from inside the tops of liquor bottles that washed ashore. These “jewels” are mixed in among other pieces of sea glass, for which I made sure to add pieces of the coveted blue sea glass that seems darn near impossible to find!
The angel wings are the Atlantic pearl oyster and a simple bivalve. The one angel’s trumpet is a small conical shell. The angel body is a pen shell. The trumpeting angel is glued to a scrap of tile.
Cat & Mouse
My “Game of Cat and Mouse” came about as more of a play on words. The “chalk” sticks are pieces of coral painted with acrylic. I used fishing line from the beaches to make the whiskers and a dried ball of Sargassum seaweed for the cat’s nose. The kitty’s tail is a soft coral.
The bird on a log didn’t come out as well as I hoped, but he was worth a shot. I wanted to try a new animal. The small Turkey Wing shells I found were aptly named by scientists, so they became the bird’s wings. The log is a piece of coral and the beak is pieces of recovered plastic. (There’s a whole floating sea of plastic out there. It’s a disgrace to mankind!)
Often called butterfly wings, coquina shells already resemble the creature they’re typically used to create. Some of my butterflies have coral antennae. The bodies I made out of Augers, Ceriths and halves of a weird clam whose name I can’t remember.
The mouse started out as a hippo but ended up looking more like a mouse so some fishing line whiskers were added to complete the mouse get-up. His ears are mini sea shells and his chubby belly is a sea urchin skeleton. He’s pretty darn cute, right?
My imagination was focused on cute mammals, so a rabbit naturally came about when I started playing with the itty bitty pink and white coquina wings, noticing that they would make a great pair of bunny ears.
Some of the large white clams were so perfect I couldn’t pass them up on the beach. But they can look kind of drab if they’re just lying around somewhere, so I painted them (with sticks, of course!).
Snails Wearing Hats
When I sorted my sea glass, I found three pieces of bottle caps that looked like miniature hats to me. Thus the snails wearing hats series was born! The wood pieces are scraps of driftwood bamboo.
**Special PSA from an animal lover: please don’t ever keep shells, sand dollars or sea biscuits that are alive! Leave be the shells that still have tenants and place starfish and other animals that wash ashore back in the ocean if they’re above the tideline. It’s one small step you can take toward helping save our oceans.