Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Well, Spring has officially arrived and residing here in Fort Myers, Florida, I really have to think back to the many Winters I spent in New England. When thinking back to those cold days, I immediately recall the color of snow. It was “GREEN”! It has nothing to do with the “Green Monster” at Fenway Park, but I can only attribute this to the fact that I owned a C-20 Chevy Truck with an eight-foot Fisher plow blade, hence the color of snow! After hearing from my family and watching this past New England winter on the weather channel, I feel blessed that it did not snow here, neither green nor white. So for me, the only thing on my mind is warm thoughts of spring.
While it may not be quite Beach Weather in New England as yet, I thought a spring flower might be in order to help wash away the lingering thoughts of the winter blues.

Before I continue with this blog, there are many shell artists who have their own unique ways to create their end result, however here I am expressing a system I developed and as you will see it worked out well for me.

So let me begin: First a list of tools that I used from my own personal “craft kit” including; Tacky Glue , Hot Melt Glue Gun, Tweezers, Clear Nail Polish, and a safety cap I removed from a gallon paint thinner container. And of course, last but not least, the “Star” of this creative piece…the Coquina Sea Shells.

Next I placed the cap upside down on a piece of paper and using the hot melt glue gun, I applied a small amount of glue to the outer edge of the cap. This served an important purpose, to hold the cap in place so it could not slide around on the paper.  Also you see nine Coquina Shells placed side-by-side which are all the same length to help fashion a uniform and symmetrical design.
Now, with the cap placed securely on the paper, I applied a couple of fair sized drops of the Tacky Glue in the center of the cap as pictured below.  Using a tooth pick or whatever was handy at the time, I spread the glue around to about the thickness of a penny. You need not panic about time at this point; you have a solid five to 10 minutes before the glue starts to set.

Next, I placed the hinge end of the Coquina Shell pointing downward as pictured into the glue arranging them evenly being mindful to keep them centered inside the cap.
In about thirty minutes, I was able to apply clear nail polish to the inside area of the shells to deepen the color. So, are you in Shell Shock YET?

As you can see, in the center of the flower, I have placed a round white shell I had on hand to try to make a dramatic statement, now the flower is in full bloom.

Lastly, on the following day, I started to strip the paper away until the flower dropped effortlessly from the cap. 

And there you have it, a Coquina Flower! The nice part is the flower will bloom all year round no matter where you live. I guess you might say this flower to me, represents the first sign of spring so I added it to my new beach hat.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


It is SO easy a CAVEMAN CAN DO IT!

Ok, well I think that is an over exaggeration, however, if you have been following my blogs watching the beach scene grow you might say “Wow, look at how fast that is coming together, I could do that!” Others might say, “Why it’s as simple as doing a jig saw puzzle on our dining room table”. Well, I`m here to tell you just how simple it really is. If I can do it, ANYONE can do it.

There are some misconceptions because, one of the first reactions/comments that I get from people is, “Everything you do is so "PERFECT!” And before they can add to that thought as they refer to ME, not my art, I immediately have to laugh and respectfully interrupt and say, A Perfect WHAT??? NOT ME. We can all have a good laugh and agree that there are many different meanings that can describe what “perfect” entails, if you know what I mean. Let me explain further.

Pictured here are three mother dolls with their children. A perfect union and quite frankly, IT IS! In the next picture you see a Mother and child side-by-side and you may say to yourself “they just look so sweet together they almost look life-like”. Well in one sense they are but in another they are NOT EVEN CLOSE.

Have another look. When I removed the child from the top of the bottle cap and set her beside the mother, there it was, staring me right in the face. I clearly under estimated the scale of this individual piece. The mother looked like the female version of the Jolly Green Giants wife, all decked out in her finest PINK DRESS AND BONNET and her daughter seemed as if she would need to climb "The VINE" just to whisper in her mother's ear, "I love you." See, if the scale and ratio of an object is not PERFECT, then one could miss out on the sweetest moments in life...like a whisper that says..."I love you!"

Did you say Perfect....well yes it is… A PERFECT MISTAKE. Well the good part is, there were only “THREE” mismatched pairs...just a minor obstacle, and such is life. So the only easy way out was to create three new Mothers that would be perfect matches to adopt the three children. Don’t worry, I used a reputable adoption agency and made sure they all went to very good homes. I am happy to report, they are all well adjusted and doing great in their new environments! Now don’t they look happy on the beach together picking up shells? That is a sight that comes very close to PERFECTION...mother and child, creating memories while be serenaded by this summer's Blockbuster Group, The SEAGULLS!

Sorry, I got carried away, so let me continue on. The comment we are dissecting at the moment is…how perfect I am. I decided to make a boat out of urchin spines. No matter how I placed it, it just didn’t look right on the beach. Next I tried to make beach grass out of a paint brush strands and eventually ended up using rope. One thing that I have come to understand when trying to re-create nature is it is all about trial and error, God knows I have made a few errors in my day, but the goal of PERFECTION is what I am keen on at the moment.

Then I thought, what was missing from a “normal” beach scene…AHH… sand castles. What a great idea! WRONG again! No matter how I made them they just didn’t fit in for some reason or another. Next, I went on to make a “perfect” lamp out of a small glass bottle and shade crafted out of urchin parts with a Mahogany base and it is “Perfect”. Would you like to know why? Because it is premature to install it to find out if the scale is indeed correct.

Well, as you can see in the following picture, “THE VINE” is starting to bloom with lilac sea shells. After all, it is spring you know and in the next few weeks the “PERFECT” Shadow Box Beach Scene will be done. Last but not least if you are still concerned about the three mothers’ who lost their children, don’t worry or lose sleep over it…they will make an appearance in the near future with their new families and perhaps a new blog. So the next time you see me and tell me that my work is perfect, you know what the answer will be….Maybe a PERFECT “Shell Artist” ???

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Relaxing Sounds & Musical Beats at the Beach: Lead Singer – Seagulls?

When people think of beach songs, they might think of those classic hits from the Beach Boys or Jimmy Buffet, but I am talking about those sounds that are produced by Mother Nature with her own “natural” instruments. Close your eyes, imagine sitting on the sand in the early morning, with the gentle breeze, the waves crashing on the beach and the seagulls searching for an early catch as they gawk through the air….

That is right, I said it, what would a true representation of a beach scene be without seagulls gawking through the air. So instead of having my head stuck in the sand looking for sea shells, I looked up and there they were, flying back and forth looking for their breakfast…after all, all of God’s creatures need to eat. Seagulls! Annoying to some, but to me, it is like music to my ears, and that is when I started to think….how can I capture these birds in-flight through shell art.

I kept looking at their outline in the sky trying to figure out what shell could I use to create and mimic their wings in-flight from my already growing collection of seashells. Like all great artists, I turned in for the night, hoping that I would have a vision of how I could make this work. To my delight, I think I did it…divine intervention or master of my craft?

The next day after pondering what I had witnessed at the beach, I drew the shape on a piece of paper and low and behold there they were…the shape of the ones flying and a second of the wing shape of them in the process of landing.

And there it was! Did you know that pencil lines = Sea Urchin Spines. Now I am no mathematician, but it proved to be a perfect answer to my dilemma. As in a previous blog, I explained that “SEA URCHIN SPINES CAN SPELL?” And with that in mind, I thought, “Why not let them fly?” And to my amazement, they CAN. The best part is, it was faster and not as demanding as doing urchin spine lettering…That was MUSIC TO MY EARS!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

BEACH SCENE UPDATE: A Mother & Daughter Bond Unfolds

As you can now see, the "Beach Scene" continues to hold most of my attention. After the "Vine" was completed and up to my standard, which of course are very high, I started to lay the foundation for the rest of the scene...the grass! Well, all of what I call beach grass is installed, and I didn't even run out of rope! There are many different types of materials that I could have used for the grass, and many people have shared their own opinion of what I could or should have used. To my surprise, one criticism was, I used the wrong kind of grass and should have used the kind people "smoke." However, for me, it was a wild enough experience without getting into something like that. I get my creativity from other sources...my passion for my craft, my family and my friends.

I digress, to help put this into perspective for you, this is a shadow box that is not much bigger than the size of a VHS tape, if you can remember when those were actually used to watch other forms of art unfold on the "big screen." So to say that this takes time and finesse is an understatement.

With the vine and grass installed, as the family man that I am, I couldn't let this BEACH SCENE continue to mature without incorporating two very important figures, a mother and daughter. With the same pride I had watching my own kids grow up and go on to have their own daughters, my granddaughter, I knew that this landscape could not be complete without sharing and honoring that special bond between a mother and daughter. How fitting with Mother's Day just around the corner.

Now it’s on to the next stage and at this point I`m not sure what it is but I will work it out.  See you again in the next “BEACH SECENE UPDATE”.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Creation of the FRUITFUL VINE!

Many people ask me questions like, how long does it take to make my sailors' valentines or pocket watches and for me, that is very hard to answer because I first have to get inspired. So, where does my creativity spawn from? Where do I get my inspirations? For me, it is very simple, NATURE. All I have to do is look outside my door, because it is there where I am able to lose myself in the beauty around me and envision what I can take from the earth to piece together for my next project.

So I ask, where do you get your inspiration from?  Today, all I had to do was step outside my front door, because there I found these small broken twigs and got to thinking - which can be a scary thing sometime :) For many, these would have been whisked away by a passing breeze or scooped up and put in the trash. For me, I see beauty. I start to realize, hey - I can  recycle these twigs and give them a better destiny...like a new fruitful, BLOOMING TREE. Like every tree in nature, all it needs is a little TLC (tender loving care) before it comes the "fruitful vine" that you always envisioned it could be.

For this project, I am very grateful to have nature outside my door.  Many people marvel at the results but for me, it is very simple. I gathered up a few roots, touched them up with a magic marker, nail polish and before I could say hand me the glue, I had a vine growing up the inside wall of my shadow box. I guess the only thing now is to get busy and make it bloom. Stay tuned because I will show you just how this "Vine" will soon become the focal point and very important piece to the overall "story" that this landscape has to tell.