I was introduced to the world of seashells as a child during my family’s summer vacations at the seaside in Russia. It never occurred to me then that seashells could be used to create wonderful works of art, or that my childhood pastime would evolve into an art form and hobby years later.
I moved to Southern California 16 years ago. Though educated as an engineer, I first started out making sugar flowers and bouquets for wedding cakes, which turned out to be a useful ability for making flowers from seashells. The drawing and drafting skills I’d developed as an engineer come in handy when I am trying to come up with more complex and intricate designs and patterns for my shell art. It was an episode of the Martha Stewart Show about shell shows and Sailor’s Valentines which inspired me to start making shell art in 2008. It’s funny how a simple TV show could change my life so radically. That was where I first heard about the Sanibel Shell Show. After doing some research and buying a book about the history of Sailor’s Valentines, I wanted to try my hand at making a piece. However, I decided to put my own spin on things, develop my own style, so I started out by making contemporary, non-traditional valentines in rectangular boxes instead of octagonal ones. I drew a pattern and just jumped right into the work, teaching myself as I went along.
In March 2009, I participated in the Sanibel Shell Show for the first time, where all three of the works I showcased were awarded ribbons. Since then I have won awards at the show each year, and have expanded my work to include other kinds of home décor, such as mirrors, picture frames and mosaics.
I enjoy working with seashells because they are pieces of natural beauty. The designs in my work showcase the individual beauty of each shell, and, accordingly, the combination of those shells creates beautiful designs. I don’t want my work to be the kind that people simply glance at and pass on by. I try to create complex patterns so that not only the work as a whole will captivate viewers, but so their eyes will also be drawn to little intricate details in different parts of the work.
What I love the most about being a shell artist is that I never quite know how the work will turn out at the end. My curiosity to see the end result motivates me to keep working and fuels my creativity. Everyone hopes to leave their mark on the world, and this is how I want to leave mine – my art will be my legacy. One of my goals as a shell artist is to spread awareness and appreciation of this little known genre and beautiful art form which has now become not only just a hobby for me but also a passion.