Make your own shell picture frame in the style of Victorian sailor valentines. These old treasures were the equivalent of someone buying a loved one a souvenir in the airport gift shop on the way home from a trip. The original sailor valentines were believed to be made by craftswomen in Barbados and sold in gift shops that the sailors would visit before returning home. They are beautiful and delicate and mostly very expensive. But you can make your own version with these instructions.
Did you like collecting things as a kid? I was a shell collector. Living on the east coast we would make the trek “down the shore” every summer and sometimes have a winter vacation to Delray Beach in Florida. These times would be spent building sand castles and scouring the beach for beautiful shells. These were the days when there were many many shells on the beach. Today there are fewer shells on the beach for sure and why that is will be a research project for another day. So where to get some shells today? Well the thrift shop of course! My collection was mostly purchased second hand. Some were part of necklaces bought for a dollar here and there. Look for them in the crafts department too. You can fill out your assortment of shells with faux pearls or beads if needed.
Hot glue gun
The first thing you want to do is choose a suitable picture frame which has lots of areas on which to glue the shells. Mine had a velvet backing so I added some tape so the paint would not get on the velvet.
With your craft paint cover the frame surface where the shells will go with either white or a light color paints since it may show through once the shells are attached.
Once your frame is painted let it dry thoroughly.
While your frame is drying begin to arrange your shells to get an idea of how you want to lay out the design. I suggest that you keep it simple with the larger shells placed first and the rest placed to fill in as you go. This will also let you know if you have enough of that shell type to go around or you can rearrange them as needed.
I used some larger shells at the base of my pattern and did a symmetrical design with rows of smaller shells on the outside and inside edges. Apparently symmetry was important to the Victorians. (This could also be a research project for another day.)
Once you have your layout set you can start to glue the shells to the frame. Take your time to arrange them as best you can. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Lots of imperfections can be camouflaged with strategic placement of smaller shells.
Here you can see I have started to add the details in between the larger elements. Work in order of size from largest to smallest.
Some of the shells will not fit perfectly as you thought but just keep filling in as you need to and adjust the design as you go.
Remember to take a step back as you are working and examine your frame. Hold it up or rest it at an angle to get a fresh view of it.
Sometimes it is hard to know when to stop so I would suggest that you try to stop before you have added too much. You can always add more shells later but if most of the frame is covered and it looks good then you are done!
This is the perfect frame to hold those vintage photos of great grandparents who are gone but not forgotten.
I hope you will let me know if you make this shell picture frame craft! I would love to see it. 🙂