Origins of the Shell Ladies

Origins of the Shell Ladies

If you follow me on social media, then you may have seen that last week was the *5 year* anniversary of my shell ladies! So crazy to me. Five years ago, I was just starting my business, and it was still more of a side hustle at the time.  But these ladies were part of the catalyst that inspired me to start selling my art to the public.

(This was the piece that sat on my desk for over a year before I glued it. In 2020 she had a little incident at the shanties and flew off the wall during  a strong wind storm and two shells smashed. I fixed her up and then decided to keep her. This is the only lay with a starfish, that I found down in Truro!)

I was working on  a watercolor painting of some mountains that required dry time between layers. So while the layers were drying, I stepped away for fear of impatience and messing it up. I went over to my other desk, where I had a piece that had been sitting there for at least a year, that I kept shoving to the side and not finishing ( who can relate to that??). I had painted a face that I wanted to glue a shell crown onto, but hadn't quite figure it out yet. So, I had all of these shells laying on my desk.

(the first one I painted)

I took one of the shells and painted a little body coming out of it. I have always thought that scallop shells look like skirts. They're the OG scalloped  hemline. I have a background in fashion and fashion illustration so it was a surprise to no one that knew me that I turned these shells into dresses and skirts. 

I don't totally remember, but I believe I sent photos to friends asking if they like them and thought it was a cute or weird idea. I got a resounding  yes. Everyone seemed to really like them! So I share the picture on instagram. They got such a wonderful response that I started making a few more.

I think from early on my goal with them was to make them look more like a skirt that's a shell than a shell that's a skirt. I love when people see them in public an do a double take once they realize the skirt is a shell. I meticulously pick through my piles of shells to look for certain colors and shapes in the sizes I want. Sometimes I make a lady specifically for a shell that is very unique in colors and I want the shell to be the focal point. But most of the time, I'm matching the shells to the ladies. Because of the nature of their skirts I can use broken pieces and don't need perfect whole shells. 

July 2019, they made their debut at the shanties. That was my first time selling my art anywhere in public. I am so happy that they've been  with me from the start, and we've been able to grow and evolve together. Each year I try and add in a new twist to them: mother daughters were added in 2020, 2021 I started doing families and couples. 2022, I did the fancy collection as I call them. All shell crowns with gold foil. I introduced the "shell friends" and now offer the friends and many of the original ladies as prints and stickers. I'm excited to see where they go from here. 


2019 shell ladies

shell ladies at my first shanty week in 2019. 

I ended up keeping the shell lady on the far right. She stills sits in my studio :).

I loved playing around with the color palette I used on them. 

Mother Daughter shell ladies circa 2020.

I had a really advanced  set up for making them.

Just kidding, I started out making them in batches on my floor. Laying them on cardboard to glue and dry. 

Shell Friends making their debut at the shanties.

One of my favorites from the gold foil collection. A personal favorite of mine, seeing this one sold, was bittersweet. 
Don't worry my set-up had advanced to a table at this point.

Shell Lady circa 2023. Painting a shell lady holding holding a painted version of a bag I painted.  Loved this one so much. ( I could say that about most of them haha). 

2024 shell ladies to come this July!


See all the shell ladies available as prints here: Shell lady friends and prints


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