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My art exhibit for the 2001 Sanibel-Captiva Shell Fair

Sanibel Shell Fair
Sanibel Art Fair

In January of 2001, my Guiltless Shells were born. I'd always known about the Shell Fair on Sanibel Island. I mentioned this to my husband, Phil, and he envouraged me to unveil my shells at the fair. Long story short, I was allowed in and for four days I was a seven-year-old in the body of a grandmother! This is the actual display with the original shells.

Shells in Shell
clam shell and guiltless shells

 Giant ceramic clam

and my polymer clay shells

In 1972 my husband and I took our two small children to Sanibel Island so they could experience this wonderful place as I had as a child. We discovered this tiny shop owned by an elderly lady who created  lovely clay artwork. We bought two pieces and I still have this one (In spite of all our many moves)  So placing some of my first shells I'd formed in 2001 was a no brainer. There's a lot more to this event but I'll save that for the book on my "GUILTLESS SHELLS".

wenteltrap shell

Natural and Clay Wenteltrap

Wenteltrap in Dutch means 'spiral staircase.' I myself am part Dutch and grew up in Holland, Michigan. This shell is very popular and tiny ones can be found on the beaches of Sanibel Island, where I first learned to collect shells. To form it, I use a negative space alluding to the ridges that spiral around the shell. 

wenteltrap shell
antelope made of clay


I realized that bighorn sheep and antelopes and all sort of animals with their horns spiral also. So it wasn’t much of a stretch for me take the spirals I was making and see how to express the essence of an antelope’s horns in Africa. A compliment from my dad was when he saw it for the first time “When I look at this I can see not just the antelope but the planes, the grass, the sky of Africa, even the lions. It was as if he was taken above to see the whole thing. It all connected.

Egg Case of a Lightning Whelk

lightning whelk egg case

The Gulf of Mexico is the home of many marine gastropods. But the Lightning Whelk is one of the best known. They lay an egg case an anchor it in the sand. Each section will contain many tiny embryos that will develop into snails with the spiral already begun.

snails made of clay

"Wood" Snails

 I love taking a lump of beige polymer clay, add some orange, pearl, black and brown to simulate the look of wood. For me the best part is forming the body of the snail. The very flesh that is able to create a shell. One of Nature's works of art.  

Hug in a Bottle

At the 2001 Sanibel-Captiva Shell Fair, I met two lovely women who invited me for dinner at their home in Fort Myers. We had a lovely time! I made them a tray full of shells and in return, they “hugged” me by presenting me with this precious bottle of Sanibel shells. 

shells in a glass bottle
Wood Snails
Hug in a Bottle
fossilized shells and shells made of clay

Fossils Meet Guiltless Shells

Shells can be found everywhere throughout my house. This is just a small display of white fossilized shells and four of some of my best shells. 

Unbroken Tulip

Land Snails

Land snails, unlike marine snails, deposit coloring directly instead of in a spiral on their shells. So instead of rolling the clay, I keep it simple

land snail shells made of clay
tulip shell

"Unbroken" Tulip

I took a broken tulip shell and created a “prosthesis” of polymer to complete the whorl. 

Land Snail
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