|We say ‘shell yeah!’ to a local artist and volunteer|
Q: You are a vendor at the weekly Siesta Farmers Market, selling your shell-themed decor you call a Little Piece of Paradise. The shells you use are found right here on the island.
For starters, what first brought you to Siesta Key?
A: I moved to Sarasota in 1981 from the Indianapolis area.
I love going to the beach and Siesta is beautiful and has always been one of my favorite beaches.
I have shelled and snorkeled here since I moved here and Siesta usually has some of the best shelling.
Q: How has the market in the Village, and your business there, evolved? And what makes it a special one?
A: The Siesta Market had been here several years before I started, in 2012. It’s a really good fit for me as all of my shells are from Siesta Key.
I also pick up driftwood here and use it on my crosses.
I have also taken on other requests from customers at my tent and ran with them — shell-covered letters, wine-glass charms, lamp finials, nightlights, and treasure bottles, to name a few.
The market has some unique vendors and will only allow one type of each vendor (one vegetable, painter, seashell, candle, etc.). It is a spot for both locals and tourists to visit and we have a lot of each, every Sunday.
We also have our local musicians and it’s fun to dance and sing along.
Q: What part of the Key is best for shelling, and why? And what time of year and conditions are best?
A: I don’t mind sharing my not-so-secret secret. I personally love the Point of Rocks or out on the sandbars when they are exposed.
I believe the rocks and waves at the Point of Rocks, in a way, help to bring in specimens — but that is just a guess on my part.
As far as the time of year, that’s a tough one. I enjoy shelling year-round and I believe you will get lucky on any given day. I personally look at tides and moons and think that is more influential to what you can collect.
Q: Your shell-framed mirrors are beauties. You see them it seems in most every condo on the Key.
Can you tell us about the creation process?
A: I have always done my mirrors and frames in the same basic way — I start with scallops, then augers, and then put on my larger shells. I then continue until all areas are filled in with smaller shells.
Each mirror or frame has 40 to 50 different types of shells from Siesta Key.
I do get requests for larger mirrors and I would not call it challenging, just time consuming. I always like to visit a home if a custom frame or mirror is requested so I can get a measurement. Then, with the help of my husband, I build the frame for the mirror.
One of the last frames I did had 1,600 shells on it — also time consuming to count!
Q: Speaking of custom work, what has been your most challenging and/or unique request?
A: My most unique request was a 4-foot driftwood cross for a wedding ceremony. It took some really large shells and some of the specimens I used I had found back in the ‘80s.
Q: We see that your dog, Ted E. Bear, joins you at your tent. Tell us about your special relationship with raising some special puppies.
A: Ted E. Bear is a career-changed Southeastern Guide Dog.
Beyond the sight-impaired, they also assist/service people with PTSD, children’s programs, Gold Star families (who lost a member during active military service), and even perform specialty jobs such as sniffing for COVID-19, illegal drugs, and arson.
I raised Ted as a puppy until he went back to campus for his advanced training (we call it college). He is one of several pups I have brought to the market with me if the weather is not too hot (or, believe it or not, too cold).
Ted was career-changed after he had finished both guide- and service-dog school as we were first navigating COVID-19. That’s when he picked up the nasty habit of barking, which he rarely does now. Ted loves greeting all his vendor friends and they love him as well.
Dogs Mason and Cherman also have come to the market with me, and soon Andre will be old enough to come, too.
I am a volunteer puppy-raiser for the organization (located in Palmetto). I get puppies at 8 to 12 weeks of age and my job is to love them and teach them the basic skills — manners, house-breaking, more manners, exposures, even manners, and impulse control.
Coming to the market is great for the pups. They get so many exposures in a very short amount of time. We have a lot of people, dogs, children, music, and they have to patiently wait until I set up and break down my booth.
I don’t bring the pups until they are almost a year old, but only if weather is permitting.
I have a donation container and raise money for the pups while I am at the market. All of them are given to the people at no cost.
So, it takes a very large village of people to make this happen.