I think I’ve been in love with seashells ever since I first sat on a beach as a toddler and was fascinated by their endless shapes and colours, so lovely to hold and explore with little fingers.
I still love shells now and have lots spread around the house, singly and in wreaths and little arrangements. Plentiful and beautiful, shells have been used as jewellery and for decorating homes and as inspiration for patterns and designs for thousands of year.
Over the last few hundred years, various eccentric individuals have created grottos and caves or, as in the case of A La Ronde, a National Trust property near my home in Devon, a shell-encrusted gallery, said to contain nearly 25,000 shells. It is stunningly beautiful and now, very fragile, but well worth a look if you are down this way. (As it’s so fragile, visitors aren’t actually allowed into the gallery any more but you can view it in its entirety using a touch screen 360-degree virtual tour). The whole house is eccentric, having 16-sides and also a feather frieze, gathered from game birds and chickens, all laboriously stuck down with isinglass. But back to shells…
Decorating with shells is great fun! Whether you cover a jewellery box, or frame a mirror, it’s hard not to create something attractive. Whenever I walk on the beach, I always come back with a few shells in my pocket as I just find them irresistible. If you don’t live near the sea, there are always shops where you can buy shells and, of course, they are easy to find online now too.
As we all know, a glue gun is a wonderful thing and it is an excellent way to stick shells firmly and invisibly in place. As with anything crafty, you need to think about your design in advance and plan which larger shells to stick down first, and then fill in with smaller ones, but it’s really easy and very satisfying.
You can either be quite ‘freestyle’ and naturalistic, or go for more of a mosaic effect – I featured a small shell box in a blog last year, where you have lots of similar sized shells and create an intricate pattern. What I haven’t tried yet, but plan to do, is create something rather more ‘monumental’ that might involve using plaster of paris and actually setting shells into a structure.
I once visited a very grand house that had a folly in the garden, complete with a wonderfully whacky fireplace that had been covered entirely in shells in plaster of paris. It looked like a mad wedding cake, but at the same time, it was absolutely stunning. As we don’t have a folly in our garden (I know, but…) I might just shut myself in the shed one weekend and get creative – but don’t tell Richard, or I think he might just have something to say about it!