Flatten That Curve

Now that Pinellas county is (hopefully) staying safer at home, we all have altered routines and new normals in our lives. I’m so grateful I’m able to continue working since my studio is located immediately adjacent to my dining room. I’ve still had to overcome some challenges though. Since the Creative Pinellas in person opening is on hold, I’ve added a photography series to my large seashell installation. Extra work? Sure. Super fun? Heck yes. The main obstacle here is that I normally shoot these on the beach, but, um, the beaches are closed. So I built a faux beach. And it’s totally doing the job. Here’s a little sneak peek at what I’ve been up to. Disclaimer – this image has not been fully edited and retouched as of yet:

My faux beach is built on canvas. My neighbors (who are all home now) must think I’m totally nuts carrying this giant canvas around outside looking for the perfect sunny spot for photographs. Normally I’d welcome them over to talk about the project, but we are total pros at social distancing so I have to settle for far away puzzled looks, waves, and nods. Fun fact – when you remove shells from a sandy canvas it leaves behind a giant sand painting:

When I’m not meticulously placing seashells on a canvas covered in sand like a crazy person, I’m finding plenty of other activities around the house to keep myself entertained. Some are hobbies I already enjoyed before quarantine life, like baking, yoga, jigsaw puzzles, and my coloring books. I have a ridiculously detailed book and I figure what better time than now to tackle an impossible coloring page?

I am a total puzzle nerd. My birthday is coming up on April 13th, and my awesome husband ordered a few gifts early for me. Two new puzzles came to the door this week! They kept me busy for a few days. And I’m totally gonna work them again.

Other activities are specific to Coronavirus life. Hand washing, cleaning, and disinfecting should probably be added to the 2021 Olympics. I have a faux hawk, and I normally get a haircut about every 3 weeks. Thanks to self isolation, I’ve had to get brave and cut my own hair. My husband helped me out in the back where I can’t see. Honestly, it’s not terrible! But I’m definitely going back to the salon as soon as freaking possible. For now, I’m rocking a ‘too tall but who’s gonna see me anyways’ faux hawk. Oh wait. You. You’re gonna see. 🙂

I can’t wait to share this new seashell photography series with all of you. I’ve got a date with my laptop, a dozen cookies, and about 15 lattes so I can get these images show ready. I hope you’re all finding your happy, safe, healthy places this week!



Roll With It

March 27, 2020 | By Steph Hargrove

Roll With It

I was all set to start attaching 2,511 painted seashells to fishing line for my installation at Creative Pinellas, and then coronavirus came along and changed everyone’s plans. A crowded art opening on May 14th in the gallery? Yeah, probably not happening. Fortunately, the team at Creative Pinellas is amazing and they’ve got new plans. We’re gonna have a virtual art opening.

Technology is keeping us connected while we shelter at home, so why shouldn’t it connect us with new art? Just one small issue… my installation is designed to experience physically. In person. In the gallery. What to do? After throwing around a few ideas, I’ve decided to go with a side project that still highlights the installation materials, but in a different way. A way that allows everyone to view it from the safety and comfort of their own couch.

My new focus is on a photography series using the 2,511 painted shells as subjects. There are so many patterns and textures to be had when playing with a giant pile of seashells, some natural light, and a camera. Mockups have begun and the seashell bins that keep the 13 different colors of shells organized have taken over my studio space. And a little bit of the dining room.

I’m super excited about this little creative detour. I depend on photography to capture my large scale pieces installed, so it’s a natural step to expand into visually playing with the materials in new and different ways before they become attached to a gallery wall. Or ceiling. Or floor.

Fortunately, I happen to be married to my photographer, so coronavirus won’t stand in my way of getting this side project underway. The official outdoor photo shoot will start this weekend when my husband Jason is available to help with building sets and taking photos. Until then, I have a few sneak peeks to share with you. These are mockups shot indoors with my iPhone:

Until next time, stay safe, stay home, and #flattenthecurve. 🙂


Weird Week

March 15, 2020 | By Steph Hargrove

Weird Week

This week brought some big changes for all of us in our daily lives due to the arrival of the coronavirus. My new coloring club is of course on hold until we can all once again socialize safely. Meetings in person with my mentor are also on hold. My other half is now working from home. Basically, like you, I’m spending the majority of my time at home for at least the next few weeks. My wiener dog thinks this is awesome.

How to pass the time? Since I already work from home, I’m still painting seashells and preparing for the next step of attaching shells to lines. Business as usual. Minor bump in the road – I’ve had some shells not make the cut for the installation so I need to go collect about 75 more. Fortunately the weather is amazing right now and there’s plenty of space on the beach for social distancing. Also I’m thrilled to be outside, out of the house, with other humans – at a safe distance.

Coloring club may be on hold, but that doesn’t mean coloring isn’t happening. I’m having a fabulous time digging through my coloring books, picking out my favorite pages, and spending some quality time with a latte and my new sharpies. This week I’ll post some free downloadable coloring pages at fromSteph.com for anyone who needs something to color while you’re stuck in the house. Some will be selections from my Must Add Color books, others will be new.

And finally, a bit of good news I’d love to share with you. All that pain I’ve been battling has drastically improved! Physical therapy has been difficult but absolutely worth it, as I’m pain free about 80% of the time now. Feels great to be able to function like a (mostly) normal human being again! Still have a ways to go, but I’m feeling great about the progress so far. Now if you’ll excuse me, my wiener dog is demanding more lap time. 🙂


The Next Part

The painting seashells phase of my installation for Creative Pinellas is nearing the end. Soon my living room will be overtaken with painters tape and fishing line, and painted seashells will be everywhere. I can’t wait!

To cope with with physical challenges of painting so many shells, I’ve been alternating between painting and coloring. If I keep switching up my activity (and my body position) I’m able to work far more hours. Recently I mentioned I had been dreaming up new challenges for my arts education project art4theppl. Years ago when I lived in Texas, coloring parties were one of the first events I used to raise money and awareness for my cause. We had so much fun, and I met so many amazing people. Sooooo, I’ve decided to start a coloring club here in Pinellas county!

I’ve started this group that’s open to any awesome human being who enjoys coloring. We’ll meet at coffee shops, hang out, enjoy a beverage, and color. That’s it.

Okay, I might have a little something extra up my sleeve.

Totally optional for group members: donate your colored pages to art4theppl so I can turn them into fundraising artwork and accessories. I have lots of cool toys, including pin presses and various die cut machines, that allow me to make some pretty cool stuff. I might even do something with colored seashells…

I’ll leave you with some of my finished pages from this week to hopefully inspire you to join the coloring fun. 🙂


Installation Plans

As I head into March, I’m on track to present a large and most importantly complete seashell installation at Creative Pinellas in May. Although some aspects of the piece are being kept secret so as not to ruin the big reveal, I’ve decided to share with you the numbers and ridiculous planning going on behind the scenes. Get ready for a big sneak peek into my sketchbook.

I’ll start with this overhead diagram of the finished piece:

And just for fun I’ll throw in the panel detail:

You’ve got it all figured out now, right?
LOL yeah I didn’t think this would ruin anything.

Maybe some additional information will help you out. There are 2,511 painted seashells being hung, which comes out to 110 pounds of shell suspended from the ceiling on 3,000 feet of line. Here’s a shot of my hang diagram:

Still have no idea what the heck I’m up to? Good. Because it’s gonna be a surprise and it’s gonna be freaking amazing and I’m so excited to get this installation built so I can share it with all of you!

I’ll leave you with a bonus pic of the shell bins. Keep in mind every individual shell had to be found, collected, washed, dried, painted, glazed, stamped, and counted to get to the bin. Sometimes I can’t believe I’ve actually completed this process almost 2,511 times. The bins should be full sometime next week, and then it’s on to line assembly. 🙂




This week my focus has been painting hundreds of seashells. I’m not gonna lie – this is the tedious part of the installation journey. The novelty has worn off, and it’s a physical and mental challenge to power through and just get the job of painting and glazing 2,511 shells done. The upside of mindless repetitive work is that my brain wanders off and thinks about other projects. As a result, I’ve decided to add new objectives to my favorite ongoing project, art4theppl.

art4theppl is a project I founded in 2014. The project provides access to art supplies, art experiences, and arts education to children and adults in need. art4theppl isn’t a non-profit organization. I sell my art and donate a portion of my profit to financially support the project. I’ve also made and sold handmade items, collected unused art and craft supplies for repurposing, and my amazing friend hosts a huge craft party annually to raise funds for art4theppl.

I originally created art4theppl to provide arts education to the ACK Madeleine School in Bungoma, Kenya (which I have done successfully since 2014). Most of the students at ACK are orphans, many of them having lost their parents to AIDS. For these children, the school is their only source of food and medical care, and students walk long distances to attend school. The primary objective of art4theppl is to implement and continue a curriculum that includes arts education and utilizes art supplies in hands-on projects across multiple subjects to improve student participation and success. Before any resources are dedicated to this endeavor, we must first ensure that all of the basic needs are met for each student and teacher. Fortunately, Orphan Outreach fundraises to provide food, clothing, shoes, clean water, teacher salaries, and medical care which allows me to supply funds for art supplies. Helping these kids gives me great joy, and I’m so grateful I’ve been able to bring the arts to ACK.

This week, while covered in paint and swimming in a pile of shells, I decided to add new projects to art4theppl that support people here in my local Florida community. I’ve begun researching potential groups in need, including kids and adults, and I’m building my network of people who can connect me with supplies for use in new art projects. I still have a ways to go with shell painting, so I have plenty of time to formulate new ideas. Here is the latest shell countdown:

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s glimpse into my artist brain. If you’d like to see items I’ve created for art4theppl, have a look at fromSteph.



2,511 Shells Fight Back

I am a super positive person. I absolutely love what I do. But I want to be honest and share all sides of the installation journey, and it’s not always sunshine and beaches. Building this shell installation is hard. Specifically, it’s physically challenging for me. I live with multiple chronic illnesses, some of which cause chronic pain. Shockingly, stooping over 2,000 times to pick up shells on the beach totally pissed off my muscles and joints. I’ve explained to my crazy hip pain that I’m done collecting shells and have moved on to painting, but my hip is still holding a grudge. Since I’m unable to tolerate pain medications (another pesky chronic illness makes me allergic to them) I have to find creative solutions to endure and push through. Currently that list includes ice packs, stretches, ginger candy, a heating pad, wiener dog snuggles, meditation, decaf lattes, mantras, hugs, good posture, and sheer determination (AKA I’m totally stubborn when it comes to overcoming this bull@#$%).

I enjoyed a beautiful sunset on the last official shell hunt for this installation. I did not so much care for the cold water spilling into my boots when a giant rogue wave caught me off guard.

Repetitive motions are especially challenging for me, so of course I’ve chosen a project that requires over 15,000 of them. Have I mentioned I love a challenge? Painting becomes painful after about 20 shells, so I’m tricking my brain and my body by changing positions and switching sides as I paint. And it’s working. I can paint over 200 shells in a day and not wanna die afterwards. That’s a massive success in my world.

My bin system has proved invaluable for keeping all the completed shells organized. When it’s time to start attaching shells to lines, I’ll be all set.

I get really happy every time I add more shells to a bin. It’s so exciting to progress through phases of this project and keep moving forward to the final goal!

Here is the official countdown as of today:

And finally, to anyone overcoming chronic illness and accomplishing your goals, you are a total rockstar. As we say in my house, “I’m gonna big fat do it anyway.”


Statistics Get Real

It’s no secret that I’m collecting 2,511 lucine shells to create an art installation at Creative Pinellas in May. But why 2,511? Yeah, um, that’s a secret. What I can tell you is that 2,511 represents a statistic involving water quality in the state of Florida. I’m using seashells to bring a statistic to life by creating a physical experience for you, the viewer. The installation can be viewed from all sides, and you’ll actually be able to walk in and through the number 2,511. As for the secret statistic, all will be revealed when the show opens.

Great news! Shell collecting has been a massive success, and I’m almost to my goal! This is the last week I’ll be featuring a collection countdown. The new focus going forward is getting all 2,511 shells painted. One countdown ends, and another begins.


My workspace is covered in paint, pearly glaze, and of course seashells. Organization is key when you’re making 193 shells in each of 13 colors across 2,511 objects. I use a spreadsheet to keep track of completed shells, and I’ve taken over my husband’s office with bins for each color. When it comes to a large scale installation, my OCD really comes in handy.

I have to admit, I’m a little sad to reach my collection goal. Obviously I’m thrilled to have all the shells I need for this installation (and with lots of time left for painting and building), but I love the shell hunt! Once I reach my collection goal for this project, I’ll jump right in to collecting for future installations. I’ve got two projects already in progress, and two more hanging out in my sketchbook. The hunt goes on!


Beach Better Have My Shells

Progress on the seashell installation took a huge leap forward this week. At a meeting with Danny Olda in the gallery at Creative Pinellas, we determined where I would be installing my 2,511 shells. Once the location was decided, I was able to design an installation based on the architecture and size of the space. This means I can officially say I know the dimensions of the final installed piece, and that’s a major milestone in the installation journey!

After my gallery visit, I was super excited to meet with my mentor, Don. We discussed my installation plans, including all the little (but important!) details regarding heights, weights, plus look and feel of support materials. As usual Don was a wealth of information and I’m so grateful for his input and assistance throughout this journey.

Processing thousands of shells has resulted in a constant mess in my space, but my OCD self doesn’t mind this type of mess. I prefer to think of it as organized chaos. There are shells waiting to be cleaned, waiting to be dry, waiting to be painted, waiting to be glazed, waiting to be stamped, and finally waiting to be glued. A quick look around my place and it’s pretty clear I’m fully immersed in this seashell installation.

These buttercup lucines are hanging out on my bathroom counter waiting to dry:

Let’s not forget the fundamental step in all of this – finding the shells! Some days I hit a beach and after an hour of walking I come away with around 10 shells. Other days that same beach could yield over 100 shells. Trips to the beach to hunt shells are always a surprise, and I’m always happy to be outside in the sand and surf (as long as it’s least 55 degrees out).

There were some impressive waves at Sand Key this week:

This morning was the best surprise yet – the beach was absolutely covered with buttercup lucine shells. I worked a small section of beach for about 45 minutes and managed to grab over 350 shells!! Here’s where I should share that I deal with chronic pain issues, and stooping over that many times put me at my limit. No worries, I’ll go back later with my husband and he can help me grab more. I’ve officially made it to triple digits on the countdown!



Chasing A Number

The pressure is on to find and collect 2,511 seashells for my installation at Creative Pinellas in May. This week I decided to up my game and visited numerous beaches in search of shells. I searched high and low, as in Honeymoon Island all the way down to Fort De Soto. As luck would have it, Pennsylvania lucines just aren’t prevalent right now (this time last year there were tons). I previously mentioned there would be challenges along the way as I build this installation, and this is a biggie. The clock is ticking and I have to get these shells collected, cleaned, painted, glazed, stamped, glued, and hung. Um, that comes out to just over 15,000 steps between me and a completed installation. Yes, I’m a bit frustrated, but the view from my “office” lately is pretty fabulous:

Not to worry, because all of that beach exploring throughout Pinellas county yielded a solution: buttercup lucines! Every beach I visited featured these lovely cousins of my highly sought after Pennsylvania lucines, and visually they are pretty similar. The buttercups come with a bonus – they tend to be a larger shell, which means that much more area to occupy space in the installation. Buttercups are officially in! Decision made, challenge overcome, on to the next! Here is shot of the two types of shells next to one another:

Of course I was dying to get back out to collect my new buttercup shell friends, and then the big bad cold front arrived. I’m super dedicated to this project, but shelling in 38 degree weather is not for me. Fortunately we live in a beautiful, magical place where cold weather doesn’t last, and I was back at it in no time. I strolled out onto the sand this morning, excited to gather all those buttercup shells I had seen a few days back, and wouldn’t you know it – they’re gone! It’s as though a big cold front came through, kicked up some waves, and completely changed the beach landscape. Again, not to worry, because do you know what I found all over the freaking beach?… Pennsylvania lucines! LOL! Obviously I’m completely at the mercy of the ocean and I’m trusting in the journey and the process, and I seriously laughed out loud, alone on the beach, as I picked up close to 150 pristine Pennsylvania lucine shells in the span of about 30 minutes. Thanks, universe!

As of today, here is the current shell scoreboard:

Weather and ocean permitting, I intend to make a significant dent in that number between now and next week. I’ll take all the good vibes, good luck, and good juju you care to send my way!

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