Oyster art on the half shell: Local artist turns shells into artwork

Local artist turns oyster shells into wall art
“Whether it’s a mermaid or a turtle family or painting something on and having it sit. It’s become almost a canvas.”
Published: Oct. 11, 2022 at 8:34 AM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - There’s definitely an art to eating oysters, and there’s also an art in oyster shells. Oyster art has become a popular trend, and from chandeliers to jewelry, it’s all the rage, and it’s usually not cheap.

“They can be a lot of money,” Ana Brown said.

Brown knows. She’s one of many artists who have given the oyster shell a new purpose. Her attraction started about eight years ago.

“It was a weird thought for me. Why am I going to pick up something everyone walks over and discards?” she recalled.

She now makes beautiful art pieces — mainly wall art — out of oyster shells.

“Whether it’s a mermaid or a turtle family or painting something on and having it sit. It’s become almost a canvas.”

Brown prefers to leave her shells in their natural state, although they have to be bleached.

“When you get them from the beach, they’re sandy but they’re clean,” she said. “So the ocean completely cleans them off. I bring them home and bleach them, then sit them to dry out in the sun. "

She can design anything but typically creates something from the sea, like a turtle or a fish.

“I’ll draw it on a piece of paper, trace it onto plywood, cut it out, prime it with white paint. And then putting the oysters on is kind of like a puzzle because they are each shaped uniquely.”

Brown sells her artwork in TwoOysters, a shop on Racine Drive she co-owns with Kathryn Nixon, wife of former Boston Red Sox slugger Trot Nixon. She also owns SeaJulesNC, an oyster art business she named after her sister Julie, who died from colon cancer at 41. That artwork is done on commission with clients across the country. Brown has also decorated her home in oyster shells, from the front door to the backsplash on her built-in cabinets.

“That’s been fun. That’s been a new design element that I’ve never seen before. A lot of people put grass cloth behind their pictures and whatnot in built-ins or even paint it a different color. I love the idea of putting an oyster shell base in a built-in to give it a nice backdrop. That’s unusual.”

These days, you see oyster shell art everywhere. From necklaces to wall art, prices can range anywhere from $25 to over $500. Oyster paintings can cost over $2,000. You can find oyster art in just about every home decor store.

“I’ve put oyster shells around mirrors and napkin rings. It’s just something that really, really has taken off.”

She believes it’s the connection to coastal waters that reel in customers buying into the oyster art craze. Brown, who makes large crosses out of oyster shells, also believes it’s a blessing.

“I think it’s something you can take from the beach, so you can take it with you. It reminds you of the ocean. It reminds you of a peaceful place.”