Just Beachy

Installing 2,511 seashells in a gallery space is proving to be quite the challenge. And I’m absolutely loving it.

The biggest obstacle is actually getting my hands on 2,511 Pennsylvania lucine shells before the show in May. So far I’ve collected about 600… only 1,911 to go! *insert panic face emoji* Seriously though, I’m at the mercy of time and the ocean, neither of which I can control in the slightest. Not to worry, social media has been a huge help. I’ve connected with shellers all over Florida who are helping me locate the best beaches for this particular shell. They’ve also offered to collect shells for me and are willing to donate their finds to this project. Community possesses a special kind of magic, and I’m totally feeling the love.

Here’s a peek into my lucine shell box:

Next on the to do list is color selection. Last week I had a pretty good idea of where I was going, but this week I dialed everything in. That process involved painting shells in various shades of my selected colors until I found just the right hues. I started with 20 potential colors, and 13 made the cut. *Side note: 13 is my favorite number, so I took this as a sign of good luck. As I’ve mentioned previously, I’m a total weirdo.* After seeing my 13 shells painted in just the right colors, I still wasn’t happy with how they looked. Great colors, but the shells looked unfinished somehow. Time to experiment with finishes.

Paint tubes are taking over my studio work table:

Painting shells is not difficult. Painting shells and ending up with a work of contemporary art versus a big craft project is a whole different story. I considered a shiny high gloss finish, but it didn’t have the right feel. Matte was definitely too basic for this application. After experimenting with various glazing techniques (and multiple internet searches and numerous trips to the art supply store) I found a winner: Pearly iridescence. I can’t stop looking at these little seashell gems. That’s how I know they’re done and right and good.

There were other adventures in seashell art this week, too. My notebook is full of smeary (I’m a lefty) pencil sketches of possible installation designs. There’s smoke pouring out of my calculator from figuring out dimensions, weights, and various divisions of the number 2,511. Fishing line experiments proved successful. Trial runs of stamping with ink were a total mess, but finally yielded a workable solution. And of course I’ve been hitting the beach to hunt for more shells. Have I mentioned I’m absolutely in love with this project? Because I totally am.

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