Sea Shell Shadow Boxes

IMG_5510I don’t know why it is that something as innocent as a sea shell can suddenly grab you by the throat, and become the most interesting thing in the world, but it happens. Perhaps it was when I ran across a box of sea shells on a dusty shelf in my craft room, and suddenly realized how beautiful they were, or perhaps it’s when I picked up an old book about shells, whatever the reason, lately I’ve been into sea shells, specifically, making sea shell shadow boxes.

IMG_5032The box of shells came from various family vacations in Florida, and I suspect that many of us have such a box and are not quite sure what to do with it. I’ve enjoyed sorting them and displaying them in shadow boxes, and will show how I made them here.

IMG_5093The shadow boxes themselves can be picked up at garage sales, and also  purchased at craft stores. My best source so far, though, has been the local Goodwill store. Among the frames were a surprising number of shadow boxes, and I purchased some for $2.99 each. There used to be a fad back in the seventies for displaying decoupage scenes in shadow boxes, so maybe that’s where they came from. My most expensive shadow box is the one shown here–but I bought it at a 60% off sale.

IMG_5030Aside from the shells and the shadow box, you will need paper to cover the back interior of the box, and some glue (I used an airplane type of glue). To make the labels, I used cream-colored paper (manila can be used), a typewriter, a Pigma Micron .05 black pen, and a pair of scissors. There are different types of shadow boxes–the type shown here has a removable side, but it’s not necessary. Also, a sea shell identification book is helpful.

TIMG_5034hese were the sea shells I chose. There’s a variety of colors and texture, and I liked including the little piece of coral. I recommend using an odd number of shells.

IMG_5035I took some time trying various arrangements of the shells, to see what looked best.

IMG_5036Using my old shell book–a sea shell tome, really-I identified the shells to the best of my ability, but wasn’t worried about strict accuracy.

IMG_5038It was fun using this old book–an old copy of a Golden Book of Sea Shells would be nice, too.

I measured the inner back of the shadow box, and cut out a piece of cream-colored paper to cover it. Manila paper would work, or a nice piece of smooth watercolor paper. It doesn’t have to be cream colored, but it does add to the antique look. I glued it to the inner back of the shadow box, using Yes! glue. Then I glued the shells to the paper, using an airplane-type glue (clear).

IMG_5039Then it was time to make some old-looking labels, to help the shadow box look like it had been found in a dusty corner of an ancient natural history museum. I typed the shell names on some manila paper.

IMG_5040Then, using a pencil and ruler, I drew a box around each word.

IMG_5041Then I drew a box around these delineated words.

IMG_5042Then I colored in the double lines with a Pigma Micron .05 black archival pen. (Look for these on sale with scrapbooking supplies.)

Forgot to photograph the last step! But just cut out your label, and glue by your specimen using Yes! glue.

IMG_5526I have to warn you–once you make one of these little shell worlds, you will want to make another! Here are some that I made.

Shown below, limpets and turkey wing shells.IMG_5542

IMG_5543A closeup of the above.

IMG_5540Beautiful scallop shell.

IMG_5532Sea shell shadow boxes.

IMG_5535I always wondered why I had held onto this sea shell frame! Now I know why! I painted a conch shell, and framed it with this special frame.

IMG_5517And I watercolored some of the shells themselves.



IMG_5531An even closer closeup!

IMG_5546Friend Bonni from work brought me this little sea shell full of even littler shells. They were still wet with sea water.

Tomorrow I will post a recipe for sand dollar cookies, to keep us all in the sea shore mood. Namaste. Fran

2 thoughts on “Sea Shell Shadow Boxes

    1. Thank you, Anya! I appreciate hearing from you, and am glad you enjoyed the butterflies. They were fun to make, and I hope to make more this fall! Thanks again. Fran

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