Monday, July 11, 2011


For those of you who think my Shell Art Addiction began from combing the beach for sea shells you would be wrong. It started when an up and coming artist asked if I could make an eight-sided case for her art work.  And my very next question was, "what kind of art work?" Her answer was, “They're called 'Sailors Valentines' and I create shell mosaics inside them”. So the next thing I knew I was delivering cases. Upon delivery, I would see flowers made out sea shells that almost looked real with beautiful mosaic shell patterns that were uniquely formed inside the cases. They were stunning to look at and each time I delivered them I was pulled in deeper and deeper until I was hooked. So here I am nineteen years later with stacks of lumber, a wood working shop, a website, a weekly blog and sea shells wall-to-wall, and so I guess you could say I am completely addicted!
From the very beginning it was important to me to create a case that would be of the highest quality and strength. The finished case in itself should be at the least equal to the art work inside and have the ability to hold together in a home environment for many years to come. There have been times when I have been asked to make what is called a bottom loading case where the artist will create his/her art work on the plywood base then glue it to the eight sided frame. In the following picture to the left of the black line is how this finished installation looks from the back side of the case. Now that is all well an good for those who are used to this type of system as many cases in the 1800`s where made in this way. But my problem has always been if the plywood decides to twist for some reason it will end up creating a pulling pressure on the joints of the frame and over time some of the glue joints will fail.

In the next picture you can see how a “bottom loading” case from the 1800`s looks when I receive them for restoration.

So here is another case design I prefer, so to the right of the black line in the next picture is the back of top loading case where the plywood is notched into the sides of the case.
Now in this method of construction, it is a stronger application due to the fact that the plywood base is slotted and glued into each an every one of the eight sides of the case. The next two pictures are showing a cross section of this method with the plywood in place and the last picture the back of the finished case.
So to close out this blog, I going to talk as if I’m a piece of wood in a Valentine Case. If I feel cold, I will shrink in size and the colder it gets the more I will shrink. If I’m placed in direct sun light my color will fade inside and out and in the right conditions sometimes condensation will form on the glass inside the case. If I end up in a hot humid area, I will expand. So as piece of wood all I can say is, all I want is my freedom to be the way I want to be. These experiences I have expressed means I am always in a constant battle with the glue that holds me in place. So I will leave the answer up to you as to, which style case will loose the battle quicker.
“The finished case in itself should be at the least equal to the art work inside and have the ability to hold together in your home environment for many years to come.”

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