As an artist I often observe small and intricate objects and wonder how they might look if they were blown up in scale to enormous proportions. My studio is close to the sea and on my way in to the studio one day I saw in the window of a seaside souvenir shop a little shell ornament in the shape of a Victorian lady. I loved her billowing petticoats, tight bodice and sweet bonnet tied under her chin – every part of her made from shells. What, I wondered, might she look like if she was seven foot high?

When I got back to the studio I set about making my larger than life size shell lady. I planned to make her completely from shells (just like the original) and seven foot tall (not like the original). First of all, I welded together a metal skirt structure onto which I hung scallop shells in flouncy layers to give the feeling of a billowing skirt. For the body I used a giant Voluta shell, which has curves in all the right places. This, I topped with a melon shell which I found ideal for the head with its smooth texture and peachy tones.

Jumbles of old shell necklaces were dismantled and rearranged to a hand held bouquet and hair decorations. The part I enjoyed most was painting the features on her face, that’s when she really came alive.

I went on making twelve shell ladies, each one with its own personality and named after famous seaside ladies like Baroness Orczy who wrote The Scarlet Pimpernel and Phyllis Broughton the famous sea side girl. The charming ladies are a remarkable sight as they stroll along the sea side promenade or relax on the pier.

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A walk on the sand

Marie Corelli

The shell ladies walking on the prom

Baroness Orczy

Manouvering into positions

At the Flamingo

Victoria Sangster by the boating lake

Anne Hill

Anne Hill enjoys the view

Baroness Orczy at the Flamingo

Sheltering from the sun

It was a good day! Now back to the studio