I have been shelling all my life. My grandmother loved to shell, my mom too. Am I an expert on shells? Absolutely not………but I have an appreciation of the ability of any organism to craft such perfection. Each shell has its own story. My shell story began with trips to the beaches near Marco when I was a toddler. My grandmother, never one to mince words, would look at the “treasures” I would bring her and, as she was throwing them back on the beach, she would let me know that my contributions were “garbage.” Harsh perhaps, but I quickly learned what was acceptable in her world.
Walk the Naples beaches and you will pick up lots of different kinds of shells. You will begin to notice that different areas often have different kinds of shells. This, of course, changes with the seasons, the tides, the storms, etc. After a big storm, hit the beach and you will most likely find a much bigger variety of shells. You may have to dig thru a bit of seaweed, but leave no bit of debris unturned!
If you have the opportunity to go to the beaches on Keewaydin Island, you will find incredible shelling. Also, the Cape Romano area is a treasure trove of shells. Pick up a shelling book (here is a picture of my mom’s book from 1974—the shells do not change) and start to learn about our local shells………..they all have names.
You will likely have names you give your favorites………..in my family, we call the little pink shells, toenails, the larger yellow clam-shaped shells we call buttercups……..not their real names, but make it fun!
I am including here a picture of the shells we collected on Keewaydin Island in walking just about 3 or 4 miles. And, believe it or not, we just couldn’t lug home the amounts of shells we saw. You will soon have your favorites.
When we bring home shells (please never take live animals – throw them back so they can keep growing), we first give them a good rinsing with a hose and colander……..this may take a few washings…….then, spread your beauties out on plastic or paper bags. After they are dry, give them a coat of acrylic sealer, something that makes them keep that “wet” look. Turn them over, spray the back side……….let it dry, voila! Shells for your collection.
I am adding a picture of a vase my niece filled…….some of these shells are from the Bahamas…….she is 10 and just layered the shells, adding a few open to look like butterflies. This is in my Mom’s house and she, of course, loves it! Thank you Jane!