Shell Dragon in Colored Pencil
Jack Of All Trades
News for April
Working With Gold Leaf (Or, Wombats Don't Poop Gold)
The Secret Obsession of an Apathetic Crafterby Lorna Cowie
I love shells. I do! I love the very tiny ones (especially if they are joined so they look like a butterfly), I love the big ones that smell lightly fishy no matter how many times I clean them (my cat adores those) and I love the swirly ones that usually come with a glob of something in them. Okay, you can see where this is going.
Ever since my parents used to take me to the coast (Kent, UK) I have been obsessed with shells. When I was younger I used to beg and plead for either some glue to stick them together into a weird shape or for some responsible adult to drill a tiny hole in so I could string them on a length of garden string.
I don't know why I have this obsession, though I am sure a psychiatrist could tell you that I am wishing to go back to my youth of lazy semi-hot summers on a crowded beach that smelt of sewage whilst I picked shells out of the sand, but I also collect pebbles too!
The shells go through the same process my pebbles do. I gather them like a squirrel harvesting for nuts, I bring them home in plastic bags and throw them into a bucket outside, I leave them for about a month to try and magically clean them off through the power of fairies. I remember I didn't PAY the fairies so I have to clean them myself. I fill said bucket of water (it makes my day if it has rained recently) and with a squirt of bleach I set to scrubbing.
Several hours later my arm aches, I am wet, I am grouchy, I usually smell slightly of fishy bleach but upon there floor is a lovely gleaming pile of gunk-free shells. Joy! The things I could do with them! I could drill tiny holes (being that I am apparently a responsible adult and can use tools like that now) and string them on a stick to make a rustic wind chime! I could hot glue (again, adult) them to a piece of painted cardboard and make a lovely picture made of shells.
Oh I could stick lots of them together and make a really really weird paperweight, or I could mosaic with them, turn them into jewellery that I could sell at a crafty market (though that would involve buying all the things you need to MAKE jewellery), and so on.
Yes! I have shells! Clean and shiny and pretty. I set to making them dry. Airing cupboard, radiators on a towel or two, kitchen paper even works (though more effort) and after a few days (and several of them involving the mutterings of my better half about shells on radiators and 'what's that smell?') I have pretty dried shells.
Now, pretty dried shells are like pretty dried pebbles. Bland and not shiny. Suddenly the magpie in me emerges and I know that a shell plus varnish equals a shiny thing. So after putting down newspaper I set to varnishing the pretty shells. Clear nail varnish works as well, by the way, but I would use tonnes of it so I gave up and bought some clear varnish from the craft store.
Once varnished and once more laying in lines like shell soldiers I am rather chuffed. They look beautiful, like pastel jewels from a mermaid king. I am extremely happy and cannot wait to use them! When they are dried I carefully put them into a tissue lined shoebox and… Well… I do nothing with them. Not. One. Thing.
The box gets its lid and gets put to the side of the sofa (my 'to-do' pile of things goes there), then it gets moved upstairs into my work room. Then it gets placed on a bookcase and after that it finds its final home in the attic or in the shed to live out the rest of its life.
But the good thing is I still have a bucket of pebbles outside waiting to be cleaned. Stupid fairies. Why don't they take cheques?
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