I know, I know! The term “sea shell mirror” stirs up visions of kitchy-shell laced objects with dried glue and crusty crustaceans!
They’re usually pretty cheap, made in China, and there’s definitely nothing elegant about them!
I had NO DESIRE to get into the mirror business with my art, but, it sort of fell in my lap! I had been merrily making art with glass and resin on canvas when a local designer asked me to make a custom shaped shell mirror for her client.
I politely said, um, no thank you! She inspired me tho and she was patiently optimistic that I’d come up with something beautiful!
I did a TON of research and bought a ton of shells to see what I could do with them! The resulting mirror turned out amazing. It took my breath away! I couldn’t even believe that I HAD MADE IT!
The secret is just the right combination of just the right shells…I use their shape and their colors to make them work together! (Its sooo similar to glass…I take a shard and position in just the right way so that it conveys something we all recognize!!!)
Lots of people ask me if I’ve painted the shells. The answer is NO!
I couldn’t paint them if I tried! It’s amazing to see what mother nature’s created from the sea! Most of them have a rainbow-like sheen to them that is hard to see, unless you put them under water. And, when you put resin on them..OMG! It’s magic!
They glow the colors of the sea and the sky! And, YES! I have to buy them! Sure, I’ve made plenty of art and mirrors with local shells from beaches on my travels to the coasts and Hawaii…and I LOVE these creations! But, the shells from the Indian Ocean and Micronesia are beautiful too!
I started making my shell mirrors after that first one, because I had so many shells left over from the initial project! I didn’t know what to do with all of them!
I also turned it in to a fun artful thing to do with an artist friend of mine. Beeb lived in Seagrove Beach in a gorgeous oceanfront home. Her studio was the coolest place on earth. We’d get together once a week and have an “art day!”
She worked with wood, I worked with glass, and we both painted. We experimented with different products, we’d try sculpting with foam, wrestled with wire, collaged stuff, and sometimes, we just whipped the paint around to see what happened!
It was GREAT FUN! (and I REALLY MISS THOSE DAYS) Anyway…after all the paint splattering, I told Beeb that she should make these mirrors with me! Soon, our “art day” turned into “mirror day”. We cranked out a ton of mirrors like two kids in a shell factory! In time, Beeb moved to Tennessee, and I was left holding all the shells!
A couple of times a year, I offer a “Pimp Your Mirror” Class for students to bring in a boring mirror, and we dress it up with shells and bling. The process I use in this class is similar to my custom mirrors. It’s a full day of fun and the resulting mirror is always FABULOUS!
For my custom mirrors tho..it’s usually a solid week of work. I start by having my carpenter cut out the shape of the mirror. I prime and paint it and put on an aluminum french cleat that will hold all the weight AND allow the mirror to hang tight up against the wall.
I also add a special backing to the mirror that I believe is an integral structural part of the mirror even though you don’t see it!
Then, I use mirror mastic to glue on the mirror to the face of it. Next, I use beautiful glass mirror tiles on the profile edge of the mirror. Then, I frame the actual mirror with glass.
THEN..finally, I get to the shells! It’s different every time. And, this part takes a lot of time and thought. It’s definitely not easy, and can get frustrating…but, I stay with it and lay them out in a design that I feel is appealing. The end result still amazes me.
I hope this post inspires you to get out all the shells you’ve saved from your beach trips…throw in some glass and drift wood too! You’ll have a masterpiece soon!
Want to see more or my mirror artwork? Check it out here!
Peace Love Glass