The Suitcase Lady


August 7, 2011, 8:45 pm

Our beach is heavenly. But our shells are evil.

Crunchy piles of zebra mussel shells punctuate the Lake Michigan shore. This particular mollusk needs to go back where it came from, namely, the Caspian Sea region of Asia. Nature works best when everybody stays in their own homes, a.k.a., habitats.

Good shells cover the beaches on Sanibel Island, Florida, one of the world’s top shelling destinations. Being a die hard beachcomber, I occasionally get myself down to that idyllic island. On the last visit, I got lucky and the Sanibel Shell Show was in full swing. Half science exhibit, half art show and all fun, I was inundated  in shell culture.

The local sixth grade class provided the highlight of the show for me. The kids acted as docents to explain the living shells in their display’s aquariums. I am sure that some of those young ladies are headed for careers in marine biology.

The shell art  part of the show fell into three categories. First, shells glued together to look like anything but a shell- bouquets of flowers or rabbits, for example. Next, shells collaged over the entire surface of objects such as frames, jewelry,boxes, lamps and chairs. And, lastly, Sailor’s Valentines, a term I had  never heard. A Sailor’s Valentine is a mosaic picture created with a wide variety of seashells. These shell greetings first were made by lonely sailors to wile away the long hours spent away from home. Their girlfriends were the recipients. I immediately saw parallels with modern day prison art where confined guys use matches and  gum wrappers to create art.

Here are some examples of Sailor’s Valentines plus my favorite shell art piece at the show. It is entitled “Starry Night Shells” and was submitted by a sixth grader.


1 Comment for this entry

  • Joanie

    Thanks for the peachy article. We are enjoying our marvelous fruit right now – nothing like a peach on ice cream or even morning cereal. So sorry that those awful “m” monsters are invading the beautiful lake. Between the manure and the mussels you have your problems.