Sentimental Seashells

Oh my, the things we do for our kids!  Eight day vacation to Florida.  Four at Disney world, four in Sanibel.  Having just turned 5, one would assume Disney World the highlight of his trip.  Nope, not our child.  Though mind blowing on many occasions, his unpredictable choices are strangely pleasant.  (Did I mention he wanted to be Phantom of the Opera at Halloween?  Never seen it, heard it, spoke of it in our home.  His request.)  Yep, Sanibel.  Nearly a year later, this is the only place he continually asks to return to.  Not Disney World (not that he didn’t have tons of fun there).

Disney World VS. Sanibel Island

Anyone who’s been to Sanibel knows it’s a nice joint.  Pretty, peaceful, secluded.  Everything an adult desires.  The attraction for Bentley was the shelling.  Though known for it’s shelling, we were not there during prime shelling time – not that one could tell by the loot we hauled outta there.  Everyday on that island as our family piled into the rental car, Bentley and I were armed with shopping bags.  Neither of us discriminating, our bags filled to the brim within mere footsteps onto the beach.  It’s no wonder we filled an entire suitcase with these calcium creations.  ENTIRE SUITCASE.  According to Bentley, no shell was to be left behind.  His entire suitcase was not only crammed full of the exoskeletons, but we even had to pull out the big guns and use the expanding zipper feature.  Nearly having to sit on the thing to close it, next concern was its weight being in accordance with the airline guidelines.  It was – barely.

Safely arriving to their new home, I was now faced with what on earth to do with all these?!?  Near 50 pounds (!!!) of shells, beloved by our (32 pound) Bentley.  Can this become educational?  Hmmm.  Can it be beautiful?  Beauty and brains, the ever coveted combo sought after by every woman (and men thought this combo was in reference to our body…)  Bentley’s love of science, plus Carries love of apothecary jars equal peaceful coexistence between mother and child.

Materials Needed:

How To:

To begin this project, first things first: clean shells.  I boiled the shells for about ten minutes per ‘batch’, then soaked them in bleach for a few days.  After soaking, shells were rinsed and laid out to dry for a few days.

Shells were then separated and organized into scientific categories using The Baileys-Matthews Shell Museum Website.  This actually took a bit of time to do because some of the shells are incredible similar to each other.  Not only is Sanibel known for shelling, but it is also home to the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum.  Their site is the best one I found.  It has the most extensive information, scientific classifications, and descriptive features that are far superior to that of any other site.  Scientific spoken in the English language.  The sites less scientific were selling shells, more scientific were too tedious to gain knowledge with a mere page glance.  Detailed pictures of both front and side of all shells listed, the site is organized well by its different types of shells, and provides for quick retrieval of information sought.  I did this with my child a few at a time.  He seemed to really enjoy it, and still asks to know their classification.

On Avery’s website, download an address label template that coordinates to your labels.  Type a scientific classification into each space, place labels on bottom of glass containers then fill with coordinating shells.

Labeled and Classified Shells


cleaner wiped off print


With Krylon Fusion black spray paint, spray paint brackets and covers.  Apply a few coats of very thin layers, using a smooth and controlled movement.  Allow  ample dry time between coats.

Spray Painting Brackets

Did I mention that my Dad is the best spray painter ever?!?  Thanks Dad!

Measure and hang shelves in desired location, making sure to screw brackets into bottom of shelf.  Top brackets with painted plastic covers.

Uncovered Bracket

From Naked to Dressed

Covered Bracket

Place and arrange apothecary jars on shelves.  I placed containers with the most shells on top, least on bottom.  I did this so the containers on the top shelf were more visible.  Arranged in a symmetrical pattern, shell color was also taken into consideration.  (If there was a hint of color, then it was used to break up the monotony of the many all white shells.)    For optimal visibility of all the containers, they must be arranged in a checkerboard pattern.  Here is the finished project:

Sentimental Seashell Display

Though I was content with this project, it was missing something – that ‘finishing touch’.  I went on The CSI website earlier this morning to check out everyone’s projects, and I came across the ‘finishing touch’.  Crafty {Scrappy} Happy had linked up the absolute cutest idea!  Her Meaningful Longitude and Latitude Decorated Pillow will help make this shell display feel more complete, as well as provide guests to our home explanation of the display.  Perfect.  Thanks Crafty {Scrappy} Happy!  Here is what my Sentimental Shell project should look like with the longitude and latitude:

Sentimental Shell Project with Longitude and Latitude

So, there you have it.  A peaceful coexistence between an organized and decorative mother, and a son with a near hoarders approach to shelling.  And, just so you know – the shells displayed are NOT all 50 lbs. of shells.  I have more glass containers filled with shells – it’s just they haven’t been placed in their permanent location due to “progress” being made where they will reside.  Problem solved…until September, when we will be returning back to Sanibel.  (Not sure whether to pack accordingly with ‘double’ suitcases prepared for the space they will occupy, or minimal space to limit the amount brought home…)

For more fabulous projects that are easy on the wallet, head over and check these parties out!


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