Friday, August 17, 2012

Victorian Shellwork

Oh the good ol' summertime! And the joys of a vacation at the beach! The first glimpse of that beautiful ocean and any worry we may have had just instantly washes out to sea. 
I had so much fun with this post. I got my jars of sand out (sand from our Dauphin Island, AL vacation) went out on the front porch and emptied it all out on a blue table cloth so I could make it look like we were at the beach. The neighbors probably thought I was crazy out there, but oh well, it was so much fun! 
Victorians loved the seaside, and collecting seaweed, shells and pebbles became quite an obsession for many Victorian ladies. Including this "Victorian Wanna Be" lady! Below are a few seaside themed trade cards from my antique trade card collection to get us in the mood.

And below are some of my seaside postcards. On the bottom row, the card on the left is Hotel Arcadia at Santa Monica beach and the card on the right is Luna Park promenade, Coney Island, N.Y. Both cards are circa 1908.

The fascination with collecting shells led accomplished Victorian ladies to the hobby of shellwork, the art of arranging shells into intricate mosaics on boxes or in pictures. And because of my love for seashells and all things Victorian I have my own little collection of these boxes. (pictured below)

In the above photo, starting on the left is a horseshoe shaped picture/shadow box souvenir of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair with some seaweed and shells inside the domed glass, and then there's the box (looks like a dresser) with a little mirror with faux graining on the side and a drawer drawn on in gold, the rectangle box has on it a little picture of a ship out to sea and a little heart pincushion, covered with a tattered silk material (this was my first piece that I got for $2.50!), the piece in front of that is a souvenir toothpick holder, the holder is milk glass and then there's the little round box that has a Spanish name written on one of the shells. I got it at a garage sale for 50 cents! I was really excited about that one!

As much as I love the ocean/seaside, I have only been there four times. And those times I will cherish for always. And hopefully I'll have more to come! The first time I ever saw the ocean was when I was 16. 
In the photos below...the top two photos are taken that Summer of 1986, somewhere near Homosassa, Florida (the gulf coast). I was fascinated with those seagulls and how close they would come to you. We were having a great time until a funnel cloud came along and then our beautiful day was over, WE HAD TO GET OUT OF THERE! (as seen in the photo on the right)
The bottom two photos were taken in May of 1989 Santa Monica, California. At the young age of 18 my best friend and I packed up and moved from Missouri to California (I know we were kinda crazy) and so I actually went to this beach more then once. 

The next time I would see the ocean would be as a married woman and mother of 2 precious children. So in the Summer of 2003, we took a family vacation to Dauphin Island, Alabama, where we rented a little blue cottage for a week (a couple years later Hurricane Katrina took it away!). This would be my family's first time ever seeing the ocean. They were 3 and 6 years old and had so much fun! And so did I! Notice the basket of shells!!! 

Just like the Victorians I really got into this shell collecting business! I collected shells as a young girl but we always had to buy them somewhere, so to find them myself and for free was very exciting. But I got a little too carried away...I found that by the time we all got out to the beach all of the good shells were already collected by other people. So that forced me to get up really EARLY in the morning to have first pick. And it worked pretty well but by the end of the week I was so tired (from getting up every morning at 5 a.m.) and my neck hurt SO bad from always looking down that I was miserable! BUT! I had some shells! I know, call me crazy. My hubby did!

Below are two photos of our Summer 2011 vacation at Cocoa Beach, Florida. This time the kids were 11 and 14, so they were glad to be back at the beach again because they couldn't remember too much of their first ocean visit. We all had fun but as for my seashell collecting, it was awful! Just look at that pitiful little pile!  

Below is my childhood seashell collection. All bought from stores. It is so much more exciting and rewarding to find them on the beach yourself, then they seem more like little gifts from the sea (and God).

With some of the shells pictured above I did manage to make a few of my own Victorian inspired crafts. I saw the below photo of an antique dome (John Whitenight Antiques) and decided to copy it. It is 13" H x 11.5" Dia. with a walnut base.

And here is my copycat version of it. I added some real (but dead!) butterflies and bees to it though.I thought it turned out pretty good, so I am happy with it, although I would totally love to have the real deal! Then on the right is the frame that I made with an ocean themed trade card inside.

Well that is it for my seashell post. I do hope you  enjoy the rest of your summer and if you happen to go to the beach/ocean I hope those "little gifts from the sea" call out to you and you find yourself picking them up and taking them home and making something creative and beautiful out of them just like the Victorian's did.
Thanks for visiting and have a great weekend and let me know if you go to the beach! Until next time...

I am joining the following parties and hope you will join us.


  1. Hi Gina,
    This is an excellent post. I love the beach too. You have many beautiful sea shell collections and memories from the ocean. I love your Victorian cards, also a very favorite of mine! Yes, I have been to the beach! FL gulf coast and Atlantic many times and I was lucky enough to get to Hawaii twice!

  2. Gina,
    First off, thanks for your visit and kind remarks about my little bathroom makeover!!
    And thanks so much for bringing back so many childhood memories for me with this post. You see, I went to WildWood, N.J. on vacation every year and sometimes twice a year from the age of 2 y/o until about 14 years ago. I loved the beach and the ocean but when Joe first started to work for the Post Office, for the first 6 years, he was not able to refuse overtime so life as we knew it, ended. He worked 6 days a week and up to 60 hours a week for 6 years. No vacations or anything during that time. Then all of my health issues started and I now suffer from sun sensitivity so a trip to the beach , at least in the summer, is out of the question. I do miss the beach and the ocean and I hope to be able to see it again but I am not sure that I will.
    Thanks though for bringing back all the wonderful memories!!


  3. I love your version of the Victorian dome. You did a great job on both items!!

  4. What an awesome shell collection, Gina. Your copies are really nice, so creative. Thanks for sharing all these beauties and you have a lovely family!

  5. Hi, Gina. Your beach themed trade cards are charming. I imagine it was fun playing in the sand arranging all of your treasures for the perfect background. Too funny! Just today I was thinking about taking some doll photos outdoors but I planned to strategically park the car so the neighbors wouldn't see! The things we creative types won't do for a good photo. I would love to see that Hansel and Gretel house you mentioned in your comment.


  6. Beautiful collection of shells, I love looking at them. A lovely family you have and nice memories of vacation at the beach. My husband and I were talking the other day about hitting the Alabama beaches. We just got back from Nags Head and the only shells I found were teensy. Lots of seaweed. I saw a lady collecting it, but what do you do with it? There is always plenty of that stuff. I love your seashell frame and the seashell flowers. Thanks much for sharing - Betsy

  7. Hello Gina,
    I'm so glad you stopped by! I practically live at the beach being an Islander and all. Our sand is quite a bit redder than the sand you have shared today but we love it. Your shell crafts are lovely! It just amazes me the folks who would like to visit the Island! It is paradise this time of year! We don't care for it much in the wintertime but then a lot of people don't like snow.
    Glad to 'meet' you and I'm your newest follower. Have a wonderful weekend.


  8. Gina,
    You really are a Victorian! That copycat dome is fabulous! I've been lamenting not being able to find one, never thought about making one. You're a genius! Great job.

  9. OMG!! Now I'm squealing like a little oinker! Lol! What a beautiful shell flower dome!! Girl is there anything you can't do?!
    I live one block from the beach (Puget Sound) and can't imagine not living near the water so it's so interesting to hear that you've lived so far from the sea and seen it so rarely....Makes me realize I've taken it for granted, and I need to get me to the beach and find me some shells! *winks* What a beautiful family you are!....Oh and I pinned your shell dome to pinterest. I hope you don't mind? Vanna

  10. I found your shell post. You have a nice collection. It's surprising how much impact the ocean can have on people who don't get there often.

    Visiting from

  11. You have an amazing collection of shells and I love your boxes, they are beautiful! I was wanting to collect some shells on our trip to the beach but it rained the whole time...never were able to go on the beach. :(
    Thanks so much for sharing at AMAZE ME MONDAY!