Tuesday, August 30, 2011


A long time ago I read a book called the Shack by Paul Young. I decided to create a pocket watch and in sea urchin spines wrote “The Gift of Life” and of course I had to squeeze in the words “Verbs & Nouns”, other wise the watch would be incomplete. Why you ask?  Sorry you will just have to read the book to see how he changed the verbs of life into nouns.

Monday, August 22, 2011


There is a story told of a sailor aboard a whaling ship in the 1800`s creating a shell mosaic similar to the one pictured here. (Sailors Valentines by John Fondas published in 2002)
The story revolves around this one sailor collecting shells from foreign shores and arranging them inside a compass case. Using some of the shells he wrote the words “TO MY VALENTINE”, as pictured here in this Traditional Style Reproduction of 2010, http://www.sailors-valentine.com/. There are those who claim the story is true and others say it is a tale of folklore.  For me we should never stray from this romantic story and for the moment imagine the size of the world in the early 1800`s. Your loved one is at sea in the pursuit of whales for their valuable oil. You know with luck he may be gone on average for four years and try your best not to think of the stories of men lost at sea. Each day you climb to your widows' walk with searching eyes over the vastness of the sea, at a loss as to what lies beyond the horizon and pray for his safe return. Then that long awaited prayerful day arrives with his return bearing gifts along with stories of foreign lands and an eight sided case that opens like a book. Inside protected under a layer of glass is an arrangement of the most colorful and beautiful shells ever seen, beyond anyone's wildest imagination, with three words spelled out in shells:“To My Valentine”. That moment must have been a breathtaking one filled with love and pride to say the least. As days went on the story went out “Did you get to see that sailor's Valentine gift”? So whether you wish to call it a Shell Mosaic or a Sailors Valentine is not important. The truth is it remains to this day one of the most precious and loving gifts one can ever create for another. I feel sure St. Valentine would agree.

                                                          VALENTINES from the 1800`s
                                                             Nancy P.Rosin Collection
                                                    Four Winds Craft Guild Nantucket

                                                          Sanibel Sea Shell Industries

Sunday, August 14, 2011

2011 / 2012 SHELL ART

You may think that Oct.1st and March1st are a long way off, but time does fly when  
you're having fun. In fact I`ve had it fly by when I`m not having fun and been grateful it went by quickly, but for now time is short and I need to move along with this blog.  

 A couple of months ago I was asked if I could create a pocket watch for the 2012 Sanibel Show raffle. I was asked if I could create it as I had for the 2010 C.O.A. Show.
Well my answer to them was,“Yes and I assume you would like it with sea urchin spine lettering to read Sanibel Shell Fair & Show 2012 with a small shell in the middle, correct?” To which they replied, “No we have decided on a theme for the show and are calling it Shellabration 2012, 75th Sanibel Shell Fair & Show with a small Junonia shell in the center.” I replied, “You have got to be kidding they do not make a pocket watch that large! The C.O.A. watch had 25 letters and you want 41 in it?” Then I heard the door close on the conversation, “Yes and we know you can do it!”
So as you can see I did it! Not bad for an old guy and yes you don't have to tell me I left out the words Shell & Fair, I couldn't find a shoe horn to squeeze in 9 more letters.
I did think about doing an extensive blog on creating it but would have been tempted to include all the swearing that went with it. Just kidding!
 But the truth is time is moving fast and I can see by all the orders for valentine cases lately that every shell artist is getting ready for the two shows. Time as it is I need to create five new pocket watch designs for the Philly Show by Oct 1st and  I only have two done so far. Best I get moving!
Listed below I have set up links to both the Philly and Sanibel Shows and will post information as it comes to my attention. Other than that I hope to see you at one of the shows if not both and yes you better show up at the Sanibel Show to purchase a raffle ticket! I spent a lot of time and effort creating that “SHELLABRATION” watch for YOU!

Monday, August 8, 2011


It has been said “In life everything has a reason and a purpose”.  So pictured here is a multi use device I created for use in my shell art. If you have been following my blogs it appeared in Did you know that sea urchin spines can spell? and again in  Tiny Shells Produce Tiny Flowers. In that blog I stated :“Well it’s an invention of mine and as long as I`m hand cuffed to this bench, I will do a blog on it before long, so stay tuned”, so now it has come time as they say to spill the beans.
  A number of years ago I was asked to do shell art demonstrations in an open tent at the Sanibel Show. While planning my demonstrations  I started to think about the Tacky Glue I would be using and how over time it skins over in the middle of a project. You have to stop everything and refresh it before continuing. Well I knew in an open air tent it was going happen ten times faster and that wouldn't be fun! I also knew the cause was air passing over the glue so I needed to create a device to shield it, hence the plastic cap and hinge in the next slide.

Now don't ask me if the plastic cap I used came from the Shell Art &“Grog” blog even though it happens to be the perfect size needed. We artists have to have some trade secrets! lol
Here you are viewing the front or working section of the device. The cap is now flipped up in an open position and I am applying a drop of tacky glue to a piece of Scotch tape on top of a piece of glass I glued to the wood underneath. Stopping here for the moment, there a couple of points I need to address. One, it only works well in small shell art projects when large volumes of glue are not needed. Next, the device is only useful with water base glue such as Tacky.  The reason for the Scotch Tape is instead of having to clean the glue from the glass the next day I can just peel off the tape. Also the cup hook shown protruding from the hinge in the previous picture is used as an adjustment to keep the cap somewhat vertical when flipping it open instead of having it fall all the way back. I know some of you thought it was a way to hang it up when not in use. lol

In the beginning of this blog I did say the device has more than one use. In my  Did you know that sea urchin spines can spell? blog, it shows how I use it to cut Urchin Spines to achieve a constant length as well as equal width. In the following picture there is a blue/green remnant piece of Formica counter top glued to the device. The single Urchin Spine you see has been glued to the surface used as a sample for what ever project I might be working on at the time, instead of gluing it to the wood part of the devise. That way I can easily remove the sample later on with out destroying the wood.
As you can see I have attached the device to an old Oreo Christmas Cookie Tin with a dollar bill inside to give you and idea of the over all size. Last but not least on the upper far left are two small brushes I installed to clean off the tweezers when needed. God forbid I transfer any shell dust into my creations! All I can tell you is it worked great in that Show and in my studio it works even better. And yes if you do not already know I am addicted to the use of Tacky Glue as expressed in My Tacky Love Affair blog. So "WHAT THE HECK IS THIS",does have a reason and a purpose.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011



© 2002 The Heart of Illinois Bead Society

Deadly Beads....... 

This month, I wanted to share the story about some interesting beads. One of my student employees went to Peru over the summer, and because she knew I was interested in beads, she brought some back for me, including a necklace and bracelet set.
The jewelry was made with small seeds alternated with regular glass seed beads, strung on what looks like fishing wire. The seeds look like little ladybugs, bright red with a little black dot on one end. My student thought the seeds were naturally black and then painted red on one end. Looking closely, however, it didn't seem painted. When running a finger over the surface, I couldn't feel any ridge where the red ended and the black began.
My curiosity was aroused, and I did a search on the Internet for "Peruvian seed beads." It turns out these seeds are from the Fabaceae family of plants, scientific name Abrus precatorius, common names Rosary Pea, Coral Seed and Crab's Eyes. The seeds come from a pea-shaped pod, are hard-coated and glossy, a brilliant scarlet-red for two-thirds of the length, and black over the narrow remaining third.

What's most interesting about these seeds, however, is that they are highly poisonous! A single seed is enough to kill an adult human if ingested. It is rumored that farmers in India would make the seeds into blow darts to shoot at their neighbor's cattle, and occasionally at the neighbors themselves. Early in this century, 5 or 6 murders were registered annually with this bead listed as the cause of death. (I did entertain brief suspicions about why my student had given me jewelry made from these beads.) lol  Even today, a number of children end up in the hospital each year because they are attracted to the bright red seeds.
Other common uses for the seed are much less dangerous. In Europe, they were commonly used in rosaries, due to their consistent size and shape. (Hence the common name "Rosary Pea" and the "precatorius" part of its Latin name, which means "prayerful" or "praying.") In addition, the juice from the seed has been used as a temporary "jeweler's glue" to hold two pieces of metal together until they can be fused.
The seeds were even used as a weight measure, because of their reliable size and weight. Called a rati, each seed is equivalent to 1.75 grains. To get to this measure was an interesting progression before manufacturing processes gave cultures the ability to create reliable scales - three small poppy seeds equal one black mustard seed; three black mustard seeds equal one white mustard seed; six white mustard seeds equal one medium barleycorn, and three barleycorns equals one rati. Even today, dealers in precious metal and gems use the term "double rati" to indicate 3.5 grains.
So there you have it. A necklace and bracelet set from Peru, which took me on an interesting journey into "seed bead" history.

Footnotes (websites with more information):