PHOTOS: Marco Island Shell Club Show 2012

Frannie Ryan is framed in a shell mirror by Jane Santini. The Marco Island Shell Club held their annual blowout show Thursday through Saturday, drawing thousands to the United Church of Marco with beautiful displays of shells and shell artwork. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

Photo by LANCE SHEARER // Buy this photo

Frannie Ryan is framed in a shell mirror by Jane Santini. The Marco Island Shell Club held their annual blowout show Thursday through Saturday, drawing thousands to the United Church of Marco with beautiful displays of shells and shell artwork. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

— The Marco Island Shell Club’s 32nd annual Shell Show was held Thursday through Saturday at the United Church of Marco Island on N. Barfield Drive on Marco Island. The three-day show, dedicated to everything shell-related, with the exception of eating them, celebrated the science, beauty, and artistic possibilities of the seashells we walk by every time we stroll the beach.

Mother Nature provides the raw materials. The Marco Island Shell Club takes it from there. In addition to the contest entries, club members created over 3,000 pieces to sell at the show. The action inside the parish hall at the church is divided into three main categories – artistic, scientific, and commercial.

You have the artistic creations, with artwork in a dazzling variety of styles and materials created from seashells, fish bones and scales, starfish, and driftwood, and entered into a juried competition judged by experts brought in from outside the area.

For many of the shell club members, this is where their hearts lie, and the result is some amazing creations. Not one but several cakes, including some with a slice cut out and sitting next to the cake on a plate, look good enough to eat, but are fashioned entirely from shells. There are many floral bouquets, with the flowers constructed from the homes of deceased marine creatures.

One particularly noteworthy category on display is the “sailor’s valentine,” elaborate panels that look like fine needlework from a distance, but which, on closer inspection, are made from a mosaic of shells. It wasn’t entirely clear if the valentines were (traditionally) made by the sailors for their ladyloves, or vice versa. Now, they’re made by shell enthusiasts, for the admiration of the public, and the ribbons of the judges.

Within the artistic division, entries can be in any of five classes: student for those ten and younger, junior for 11 to 17, novice for “anyone who has never before exhibited at any shell show,” hobbyist, where the majority of the work resides, and commercial, for anyone who sells or has sold their shell art.

“Remember,” said judge Betty Lipe of St. Petersburg, “most shell dealers don’t want to compete with their customers.”

In the scientific division, the commercial class is dropped, and the emphasis shifts from beauty to rarity and rigorous correctness. There was a major collection of cymbium shells from West Africa, their varieties, distribution, and uses, and closer to home, an exposition of the native Marco Island tree snails.

The reason a lot of visitors pay the two-dollar entry fee, though, is to hit the tables of stuff you can buy. For months, shell club members have labored with glue guns, wire cutters and tweezers to create fanciful and beautiful pieces of jewelry and decoration, including floral arrangements, Christmas tree ornaments – always a big seller – and whimsical animals in the “characters and critters” category.

While the most popular items are scooped up quickly, the club makes a point of keeping stock in reserve, and replenishes the tables throughout the three-day show, said Maria da Silva, neatening up the displays.

Proceeds from the Shell Show go to provide scholarships for students studying marine biology and related fields, and have provided an endowment fund at FGCU. The Marco Island Shell Club sponsors numerous activities, meetings and excursions in addition to the Shell Show. To learn more, go to www.marcoshellclub.com.

© 2012 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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