While walking around pulling books this morning in the nonfiction stacks, I was thinking today about an estate sale I went to last week in West Meade. Do you ever check out preview photos of an estate sale or a listing on Craigslist and have one those pulse-quickening moments of "oooh, what IS that? Do I need that?! I need that, right?!". The Estatesales.net photos for the Thanksgiving weekend sale had two things going for them-- first, this was one of only two sales running that holiday weekend; second, there were four plus photos of shells interestingly arrayed in decorative groupings. The picture format was teeny-tiny, but I snagged them from the listing anyway so you could get a gander at what I'm talking about:
Yeeks, right?! Careful, you could get your eye knocked out and your socks blown right off your body by the sheer visual intensity of these displays. Don't they look like something a Victorian teenager would spend hours meticulously handcrafting, from a "nature walk" at a pristine, turn of the century shoreline? Leilani, from Thriftaholic, had mentioned on her website's Facebook page the other day that she'd taken an interest in 1890's pressed seaweed albums, via this link on CollectorsWeekly, and didn't that have my little feelers buzzing for nautical arts and crafts of a certain, centenarian vintage? I like anything that looks like it might have hung in a middle school classroom or a gilded age front parlor, and doesn't this fit both bills with room to spare?!
Unfortunately, I got there, and the boards weren't what you'd think they would be. Most of the better ones seemed to have drifted out the door on the first day of the sale, and what was left would have left you underwhelmed-- cracked or loose shells, cheap velvet boards, no case to protect them, and just....bleh. However! The IDEA of them still resonates with the vibration of my tiny heart strings, and I went to the internet to find (much more expensive, but much more appealing) versions of this antique handicraft.
Let's take a look!
|Victorian Shell Art, Shadowbox, Beautiful|
|Vintage specimen sea shell coral shadow box divers box nautical decor|
This seashell and coral shadow box may be my favorite-- how effective is the placement and the velvet backing? I think one of the mistakes the estate sale person's handcrafter made was putting the shells naked on this weird, stiff, cheap velvet board that had a kind of stand to it, rather than attaching them to a flat board covered in matte velvet and placing that in a frame. The glass would have protected the shells from the damage that shied me away from buying even a single tableau, plus, anything in a frame looks better than anything out of a frame. I love how the tiny clam-shells look like butterflies in the box above, and the pink of the coral contrasted with the yellow of the shells. Sign me up for one!
|Vintage 1930's Shell Basket Display - Large|
Etsy boasted a pair of shell basket displays made by either a seaside vendor or a tourist to Daytona Beach, Florida in 1939-- we can tell because whomever the artisan was, they helpfully added the date and place on one of the shells before enclosing the entire scene in its glass case. This display replaces the stark black velvet with sand, and isn't it cute! I might prefer the other for the more vivid contrast, but this medium gets points for relevancy to the subject. Plus, basket-- good idea for a decorative item when wall space is at a premium (pretend I wouldn't just hang this basket on the wall).
|Vintage 1930's Shell Basket Display|
Here's an interesting piece. A shop called Paulstaberminerals (say that three times fast) has a ton of split fossilized shells that are aching to be displayed in my home, en masse. Now, these shells might outdate the ones we're looking at by a cool couple million years, but what they lack in freshness, they make up for in a quality of serious psychedelia. See more here and here. Did you know shells look like that on the inside? I think I've only seen broken, non-fossilized ones, not carefully bisected fossil versions, and my, aren't they yar.
|Cut Split Pair RARE ANAPUZOSIA Ammonite wide body D-shape Crystal Cavity MEDIUM|
Last but not least, while trying out the search terms "shell display" and "shadow boxes", I came across a whole subset of collectibles called "sailor's valentines." While that might sound like a euphemism for some kind of social disease, they are in fact hand crafted, incredibly detailed shell art, primarily dating between 1830-1890 (though they're still made by craftspeople today). According to Wikipedia, these were souvenirs made up originally by women in Barbados, to sell to sailors visiting ports of call, who would then in turn take them home to their sweethearts. I had a vision when I first heard the term of a sweet, galunk-y forties' sailor stationed on some South Seas island, carefully collecting shells with his big, capable hands, and then trying like the devil to arrange them in these dainty, geometrical patterns for his "girl back home". The Barbados souvenir theory holds more water than my original idea, but it's still funny to think about.
|Sailors Valentine, Cameo Seashell Shadow Box|
That's all for today, but I'll see you back here tomorrow for Photo Friday! Til then.