(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.