Some of my very favorite times during our beach adventure were long, solo walks on the beach while the boys were napping. The beach at Amelia is full of wildlife--hatching sea turtles, burrowing crabs, seagulls looking for lunch, and thousands and thousands of beautiful shells. Jim and Big Brother had been collecting them by the bucket full, and by our last day there, I was a getting a bit nostalgic about going home and not seeing the ocean for another long winter, so I decided to take a beach pail along on my walk and snag a few of my own. Once I started looking, every one was more beautiful than the one before, and I just couldn't stop. Especially once I started finding sand dollars and pieces of conch shells (did anyone read Lord of the Flies in high school? "Passing the conch" would be a nice change of protocol in my wild house:)). By the time we arrived home, we had a veritable car load of shells, and I needed something to do with a lot of them.
SO I called in Martha Stewart, whose website is an incredible source of inspiration if you have some materials (like a million shells) and don't know what to do with them. Scrolling through pages and pages of shell-related ideas, I came up with this Clamshell Wreath and decided to give it a spin.
It certainly isn't as flawless as Martha's, but what is? I like it, especially because it makes a really sweet memento of our family vacation. One day, Jim and I will glance at this wreath and pine for the days when our precious boys were tiny and wild and wanted to be with us every moment of every day. Right?
Because Martha's instructions for this wreath are VERY brief and lacking a lot of helpful details, I've provided a step-by-step below. Before you jump in, though, a disclaimer: This project is not hard, but it is tedious. If you are a person for whom crafting is a calming, monotonous distraction from the hustle and bustle of life (I've been told knitting can be like this), you'll love it. BUT, if the idea of placing a few hundred shells and holding every one of them for at least two minutes while the glue dries sounds horribly boring, it might not be for you (although if you don't mind the mess, it's easy to do in front of the TV). Honestly, the process drove me a bit crazy. In the end, though, it was worth it. Which, in a way, means that this wreath project is a perfect analogy of our recent family getaway: not exactly what I was expecting, painful at times, but totally worthwhile. So don't say I didn't warn you.
12 inch metal wreath form (Michaels)
Decorative straw (I used two bags of a brand called Excelsior, from Michaels)
Bond 527 glue (I used a full tube, Michaels)
Light colored floral wire (also from Michaels; don't you love one-stop shopping?)
Shells (I probably used about 1.5 times the amount of shells shown below--Big Brother let me raid his stash)
1. Cover your work area with something that you can discard (it will get gluey). Position metal wreath form with metal side down and fill evenly with straw. I used one bag of straw to create a single layer, wrapped the layer with wire (attached on either end to the metal wreath form), then repeated with bag number two. Here's what it looked like after the first bag...
a close up of the wrapped wire,
and after bag number two:
The key with the second layer is to cover the outer edges of the metal form, so that you can't see any metal from the sides. This gives you a nice, full base for the shells (by the way, if you're wondering why Martha doesn't use a styrofoam base, I think it's because you need more texture to "fill" the shells in order for the glue to work. I guess you can make anything work with super glue, but I can tell you that with styrofoam, I would have been holding each of those shells on for a lot longer than two minutes).
2. Begin gluing shells to the wreath. To do this, cover the entire portion of the shell that will touch straw with glue, position, and then press gently for at least two minutes (or as long as it takes to make it stay put). My strategy was to begin by using my largest shells to make a "base" ring on the top of the wreath, the inner edge, and the outer edge.
3. Fill in the gaps with smaller shells, layering on top of the larger shells and hiding as much straw as you can.
And once you're exhausted, satisfied that it's exactly how you want it, or (as it my case) you glue your glue tube shut, you're done! Hang it on a nail and enjoy the natural beauty and the memories.
Here's what it will always remind me of:
Aaah, I really am forgetting the stress already:). Happy Monday!