MARCO ISLAND — If you don’t already know it, a trip to our local beaches on any given day will produce a treasure trove of souvenirs, all without cost.
“A combination of weather, winds and tides all play a part in producing the best shelling in the world on our beaches. On almost any visit, you will see the beach loaded with beautiful shells,” said Marco Island Shell Club President Jae Kellogg.
And to bring some of the bounty up close to the community, since November, dozens of ladies and a few brave men – 60 to 80 shell club members – have been busy crafting art from shells to be sold and displayed at the Marco Island Shell Club Shell Show.
From March 8 to 10, shell art aficionados who numbered over 2,600 at last years’ event, can delight in the juried show and visual exhibition of art created with sea life and shells of all types and sizes, found on local beaches.
To date, members have prepared and made more than 80 flower arrangements, 100 various table flowers and stemmed flowers, holiday ornaments and decorations, special occasion décor, critters of all types, mirrors, wreathes, jewelry, bagged shells, coral and specimen shells.
Local shells used in the art include large white clams, olives, cats paws, cockles, jewel boxes, dosinias, buttercups, white tellins, jingles, bubbles, tulips, horse conchs, cones, whelks, fish and gar scales and the more exotic pink tellins, purple clams and donax.
All types of sea life are also used to enhance the mirror and photo frames like sand dollars, sea urchins, fish scales and greenery. Various beads are used for the critter art and jewelry designs.
And hard at work, every Tuesday morning in a spacious room at the United Church of Marco Island – Disseler Hall – the dedicated members of the shell club separate into groups to work on their unique creations in one of two divisions.
Not just for the pleasure of crafting, the shell club encourages serious research into the origin and particular properties of each shell for the scientific division. Specimens must be labeled with their full scientific name (genus, species, or subspecies, author, date) and the locality of collection.
Four classes within the division include student (10 years and younger), junior (11-17 years, novice (first-time exhibitors) and hobbyist (crafting for fun).
On exhibit is everything from a single shell that is self-collected to fossils that are thousands of years old to miniature shells, anomalies like freak albinos and major exhibits of collections worldwide.
The artistic division requires exhibitors to provide easels or stands and also include the same classes as does the scientific division along with a commercial class. Those in the commercial class have previously sold their shell art through galleries, shops, shows, or from home, regardless of volume or income.
Categories in this division range from simple flower arrangements, mirrors, lamps, needlepoint or sewing, to wreaths and even apparel decorated with shells or sea life.
Two judges in the scientific division, Homer Rhodes and Bob Lipe and Phyllis Gray and Betty Lipe in the artistic division, all well-known exhibitors, authors and judges in the shell world, will take on the task of selecting winners.
Eleven trophies and first, second and third place ribbons for each category of the two divisions will be awarded at 2 p.m., March 10.
Two national awards in the scientific division include the Dupont trophy given by the Delaware Museum of Natural History and the Conchologists of America Award for the most outstanding marine mollusk exhibit.
Proceeds from the shell art sales and donations will be applied to a $25,000 endowment for tuition and scholarships and towards two other ongoing competitive research grants for Florida Gulf Coast University students.
Not ashamed to admit it, Kellogg said she has been obsessed with shelling for over 40 years.
“I try to find the unique, the rare and the most beautiful of the common shells. It isn’t always about creating an arrangement or making a picture frame,” she said.
“Sometimes it is putting that shell in a scientific exhibition to showcase the shell so that it’s beauty can be admired.”
If you go
Marco Island Shell Show
When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m., March 8 to 10
Where: 320 N. Barfield Drive, Marco Island (United Church of Marco Island)