Sailor’s Valentine – Part 4, The Valentine Box has Arrived!

(clicking on images will enlarge them for better viewing)

This was one of my early versions of a Sailor’s Valentine minus the box, of course! The pattern was OK but too bland. In pictures, it really washes out!  At the time I created this ‘masterpiece’ most of my shell collection consisted of mixed bags purchased from Hobby Lobby and a few shells I actually collected from Florida. I keep this one and a similar one purely for the value of lessons learned.

I learned many essential lessons while creating this. The first and harshest was hot glue will melt your skin! I gave myself so many blisters before I began to master the use of a glue gun.  For a time, I almost gave up because of the pain in my klutzy fingertips. But perseverance, persistence and stubbornness are a strong part of my makeup.

I also learned there are no short cuts and size does matter. It takes a lot of shells just to find a few that might work. It seems like forever while you’re sorting through shells. The color needs to match as well as the size and variety. Some shells even have a left/right cast. I don’t know about others, but I dry fit everything. Even back then I knew enough to do that. The finished product I could visualize, it just takes patience to get there.

I’m just going to give the briefest update on this Valentine. As I said in the earlier post, I needed to improve the background on this one. The border pattern faded out too much. It should have appeared like a lacy frame to enhance the interior pattern. After removing the back from the frame, there were many options for me to try. After much trial and consideration, I simply scattered more tiny pink and purple shells around the edge.

I think the look has improved but I am still thinking about adding more. The extra tiny purple shells actually emphasize the spirula better. Overall, the Valentine has more life but I think this one is still a work in progress.

But the important point of this post is that the new Valentine box came in!! I was so excited when the UPS driver knocked on the door. It took longer to get this box than I had anticipated but it was so worth the wait. Poplar has always been my favorite wood, but it may take second to purpleheart. It is a beautiful, rich color. The wood is going to make a lovely contrast to the shell design.

This is a back loading box which I prefer working on. After marking one matching edge, I took it apart. I like to make sure the back goes back on the same way it came off. Believe it or not, it does make a difference with handmade products. You would think that an octagon would have eight evenly matched sides, but that is not the case. I also measured the depth of the inside lip so I would know my boundaries when gluing my shells. After measuring, I lightly penciled my pattern on the wood.

It doesn’t show in this picture, but I did add a few notes before I started working. My pattern will have a top/bottom only because the center cardissa shell. The heart-shaped shell will be the focal point. Since not all shells are exact, in my dry fit I also numbered the some of the shells and their place on the wood. Then, I set up my work area.

My dining room table is my favorite work area. I must have the laptop, of course. If I take a break, it’s handy to play a game or read the news. Plus my music is in there. My husband nags me because there is a stereo a few feet away from me, but I like the music I have in my library. Mostly piano, but it’s soothing and doesn’t distract. When I am I working my mind is constantly racing. I never watch TV when I’m working because it’s too distracting. Some days I wish I had a workshop or private room. When I am ‘in the zone’ so to speak, I hate interruptions. I talk to myself steadily, sometimes. OK all the time. Cussing, words of encouragement, questions, name calling. My family laughs at me so I guess I’m quite entertaining on occasion.

Once I became enthralled with shell art, I ceased buying from Hobby Lobby. I found dealers on eBay for some shells, but mostly I ordered wholesale. I would keep what I needed, then sell the rest. Right now I have around a hundred varieties. But as many shells as I have, I still had to get a few more. I don’t have many shoes but I have thousands of shells. Guess I know where my priority lies!

While waiting for the box, I sorted through hundreds of shells to get the sizes I wanted. I put these in the baggies you see lined up. There are three types of glue I use. Tacky glue, 527, and the hot glue. If you use 527, do yourself a favor and get a glue bottle. It is so much easier to use. The needle type just disperses a tiny dot or remove the needle for a larger amount. The hot glue is for the cardissa that will go in the center. I want to make sure the cardissa stays attached to the glossy, brown Hawaiian rice shells. Although I may need to use it for a couple other shells. I’m using the tacky glue in for the ground shells.

In the very center, I drew a circle. The star-burst type pattern I’m using for the rice shells will leave too much wood showing through. I pounded some damaged orange jingle shells I had saved. They are slightly glittery and I thought they would enhance my design. I pounded the jingles with a hammer. That is one tough shell! I have some pieces that will be perfect for a mosaic in a future project. For now, I smeared a thin layer of Tacky glue in the circle. I put the crushed shells in a tea strainer then sifted them over the circle. Only the shell powder was distributed. After gently pressing the powder into the glue, I took the backboard outside and blew off the excess. This morning when I checked it, the jingles look like gold glitter beneath the rice shells. Very happy with the effect.

In the beginning, the ground shells look a little milky. The tacky glue dries clear so tomorrow the sparkle will shine through. After gluing the rice shells, I went around them with white umbonium and spirula. (The cardissa is just sitting there for the pictures. It is not glued yet)

So far, it has been a breeze. But then I’ve had weeks to perfect my design while waiting for the box. I’m still continually telling myself to go slow. Haste makes waste and all that. I had already marked the shape and place where I wanted the green cup shells to go. But first I glued tiny sand dollars on the lines to form a square. Then the cup shells were glued in a sort of triangular pattern. The sliced strombus shells will be attached later with the hot glue gun. For picture purposes, I placed the shell so you would know where I plan on putting it.

I called it quits for the night after gathering the tiny white littorina to fill the interior of the square.


About leggygillin

I make Sailor's Valentines, Seashell flower arrangements and other shell art. Blogging about them helps me improve the quality of my work. By looking at my progress through images, I'm able to view the pieces differently. I think also it helps others who may be wanting to learn. Not that I am a teacher, by any means. I'm still learning, growing, and developing my art with each post.
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2 Responses to Sailor’s Valentine – Part 4, The Valentine Box has Arrived!

  1. judy dinnick says:

    Hi, Your art is lovely ! just wondering who makes your boxes.

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