In Art, Decor on
July 14, 2022

Shell Week: Artisan Inspiration

Woburn Abbey's Shell Grotto

It’s Shell Week here at Stuffy Muffy, a play on the cult classic Shark Week with a slightly more sophisticated take on oceanic wonders. From ancient seashell mosaics to Mid-Century Grotto style furniture, the mollusk has been mesmerizing aesthetics enthusiasts for millennia. Conchylomania, known as madness for collecting coquillages, remains as fervent today as it was in primitive history.

An ardent interest in acquiring sea shells peaked amongst the upper crust in the early 17th century when colonial trade between Europe and the Far East afforded access to an exotic assortment. Since then, these natural treasures have been woven into the fabric of almost every decorative element from fanciful follies to formal flatware.

Shell Decorating

Over 200,000 kinds of shells exist, many of which adorn ornate decorative works by master artisans. Below are some examples of architectural embellishments, historic and contemporary, extolling the allure of natural shells. (The featured image of this post depicts the shell grotto of Woburn Abbey, circa early 17th century. About 200 of these follies dot the English country side today, many open to the public for tours.)

The spectacular Shell Bar at London’s 5 Hertford Street by shellwork and grotto artist Katherine Lloyd.
Chateau de la Bastie d'Urfe shell grotto.
Chateau de la Bastie d’Urfe, a 16th century grotto in France via Katherine Lloyd.
Linda Fenwick Shell Design
Linda Fenwick Shell Design: A curvature detail from a decorated fountain in a private home in Baker’s Bay, Bahamas. Interior design by Amanda Lindroth.
Sea Shell Art Mantle by Irwin and Lane
Close up of a grotto-style sea sell mantle by Irwin and Lane.
Shellman Scandinavia shell mirror art
A detail from Shellman Scandinavia‘s latest patterned mirror, Strictly Diverse.
Marbella Club shell mantle
A shell mantle design by EMCI Design Studio for the Marbella Club Hotel in Spain.
Margate Shell Grotto
The Margate Shell Grotto, discovered in 1835 in Kent South East England, is as mysterious as it is exquisite. Consisting of a subterranean altar chamber and passageway bedecked in mosaics featuring 4.6 million shells, it remains uncertain who commissioned it and what its purpose was. Photo by JourneyVerse on Flckr.
Polychrome pebbles and shells decorate the Nymphaeum, a sight to behold at Villa d’Este on Lake Como.

Shell Art

Whether hanging on a prominent wall or placed in a prized locale, these works incorporating mollusks create coastal harmony through movement, color, and plenty of creativity.

A work of art entitled “Tutti Frutti” by Lulu DK.
Shells on stripes, a soon to be painterly series by artist Lia Burke Libaire.
Needlepoint shell collection by Isla Simpson for Plum Design.
Needlepoint shell collection by Isla Simpson for Plum Design.
MGS Shells collage
A piece by MGS Shells featuring found delicate specimens.
Watercolor scallops by artist Caitlin McGauley.

Do it Your-shell-f

Stuffy Muffy's Guide to Sea Shell City in West Palm Beach
My own shell stash from Sea Shell City.

I couldn’t help myself! If you’re a project kind of gal, collecting your own varieties and creating a one-of-a-kind piece may speak to you. The best beaches to search for mollusk inventory will take you to far flung locales like Shell Beach in Western Australia, Sulu in the Philippines, and Jeffreys Bay in South Africa. Domestically, shells abound on Sanibel Island, Florida and booking a shelling boat tour through Sand Dollar Shelling in San Marco will guarantee a bountiful haul. For direct-to-you treasures, Sea Shell City in West Palm Beach has an excellent assortment and will ship upon request.

Did I miss any must-shell places or talented artists? I would love to add them to the list! Make sure to drop by again tomorrow and Sunday for a curation of sea-inspired pieces for your closet and home.

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