Beach Combing Projects Part One, Making Your Own Mini Beach.

January 19, 2015

A couple of Easter's ago, my family, Ben and I went to Florida for nearly three weeks and had the best time ever. The beaches are so beautiful out there, and if you stay away from {whispers tacky} Orlando, you can find some real gems. Anyway, travel blog post on that coming soon but today I wanted to talk about making artwork from some of the shells and amazing sand dollars we found on the beach there. Beachcombing is like a national sport in Florida where people come from all over the world for it's shells. We visited for the sunshine but the shells were a bonus and we've used some of the ones we bought home as artwork which makes for a nice feature in our bathroom and makes me think back to that amazing holiday. 

Florida beaches are known for the best shells, both in abundance and variety, in America because of it's geography with the Gulf of Mexico and shape of the seabed. We stayed on Marco Island and were a five minute bike ride to Tigertail Beach, shown below, one of the best for shelling and finding sand dollars in the country.  I've always loved walking along the beach and listening to the sea so wandering along in my bikini in the sunshine looking for shells made it even more special. My Dad and brother were not interested in the slightest but Ben and my Mum shared my love of shells so we would leave them fishing and walk for miles along the seashore looking for treasure. 

The sand dollars were my favourite and unlike any shells I've ever seen before. Some people call them sea cookies. They're the skeleton of a type of sea urchin and when they're alive look brown and fuzzy moving across the seafloor. These white round discs are the washed up hard skeleton shells of them. They're so pretty with an almost flower/star shape etched into them. They can be quite hard to spot as they're often lodged or hidden under the sand but between the three of us we managed to find quite a few to bring home. Some are chipped or broken in half from being washed up on the beach, it was so frustrating to find a really big pure white dollar but as you pull it out from the sea realise it's broken! Some people have huge bags full of dollars after a morning on the beach. It can get really addictive. 

There were lots of your 'traditional' seashell too, round ones, fluted shells, conch shells, big, small, coloured, sparkly, smooth, you name it. 

The best time to go out looking is at low tide, but we spotted them all day long when we were walking along the shore/sunbathing/going in and out of the sea. There really were an abundance. We were careful though not to take any live shells, which are animals, and only take our favourites home. Removing live shells from Florida's beaches is a criminal offence and can damage the eco-system.

Back at our villa we washed our shells and let them dry in the sunshine for a couple of days. Some people bleach their sand dollars in a clorox mixture before letting them dry to toughen them. We wrapped them super carefully in shoe boxes and kitchen roll to bring them home. As well as our beach combing finds, there was a gorgeous interior's shop on Marco Island that sold shells, I really can't remember the name of it but I hope it's still there. It had things like mason jars and cute little blackboards, I loved it and me and my Mum couldn't stop visiting for the week we were there. They also had framed sand dollars on display that Ben and I particularly liked, we might get round to making our own someday but feel it would be a bit too seasidey in our bathroom. They had some cute jars made up in there with sand, starfish and shells so I decided to make my own when I got home. I bought a mixture of shells for it, sand dollars, starfish, twirly pearlescent shells and again carefully wrapped it all up. 

We bottled some of the white Floridian sand up to bring home and set about making our own mini beach jars as soon as we got home. 

I had a big glass jar from H&M and a smaller Mason jar bought back from Florida. We put a layer of sand at the bottom, you could do as much or as little as you like and then placed a few shells in the sand. Think about which angle your jar will face so as to arrange them in the best way to see them all.

I tied some brown string around one of the jars but really they look just as good plain. They now sit in our bathroom to add a bit of decoration that reminds me of the beach without being too OTT. 

Also, if you want to feel like you're by the seaside, try Jo Malone's wood sage and sea salt candle. I'm addicted to it.

Have you got any seaside trips coming up? Do you like beachcombing?

I was going to show you our framed coral from the same trip but realised this post is too long as it is so I'll save that for next week.

R <3 xx 

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  1. Such a pretty "make" and they hold such lovely memories! We live near the Great Lakes in Ontario Canada. Not a lot of shells here, but tons of sea glass and driftwood. Looking forward to the warm weather again so we can get out on the sand again!


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