An interview with Jeannine Zwiebel. Her role: Shell designer.
1. What kinds of things do you make with shells?
I started with flowers. Then someone said to make jewelry. My friend who got me started in it, Kitty, took one of the flowers she bought and put it on jewelry she bought at a thrift store. So, I saw that, and thought I can make that and started to make the jewelry. I got a book on how to make the animals.
2. How did you get started doing this?
I line danced with this lady, and she wanted me to type up and print out this poem so it looked nice for a shadow box. As a thank-you, she gave me this flower arrangement. The flowers were made out of shells. When I saw that and told her Iíd like to know how to make those, she told me Iíd have to go to the beach, so I did.
3. How long have you been doing this?
It was 2005 when I started.
4. Is it a hobby or a business?
Itís a hobby, but I would like to sell them because I have so many really.
5. What kinds of supplies do you use besides the shells?
I use Styrofoam balls, hot glue, and tweezers. I use artificial flowers and tear them apart to use the stems and the calyx ó thatís the part that sort of holds the petals. If you donít use that the flowers donít stay together as well.
6. Do you collect your own shells or do you buy some of them?
Oh yes ó I collect all my shells.
7. How much time do you spend collecting them?
Weíll spend about three to four hours several times a week collecting when we are in Florida. We go very early in the morning ó before the sun comes up really. When I first went with my flashlight, I thought Iíd be the only out there, but there were a lot of flashlights moving around. I usually like to go to the beach at low tide. The tellin shells, I only collect about three times a month because that is the only time the tide is low enough to find them.
8. Where do you get your ideas?
First of all, I had a book. Kitty told me what book to get. Ö I donít look through a book now ó I do my own thing.
9. Do you have to do anything to the shells before you use them? Do you paint them?
The process of preparing the shells takes longer than doing the projects. I have to soak them in a mix of bleach and water. I leave it in there for several hours. Then I rinse them off and dry them on a screen in the sun. I then sort them into different boxes based on right, left, and size. If you get a clam type shell, there are two directions a shell will go and sometimes you want one way or the other, so I sort them first. That way, when I go to do a project they are all ready. I also spray them with a clear acrylic spray when I do a project, so they wonít yellow and you can wipe them off.
10. How long does a project take you?
It really depends on what kind of project Iím doing.
11. What is your favorite thing to make?
My favorites are the flowers. I like the apple blossom shell flowers the best because they look like roses. My second favorite is the pink tellin because they are so pretty.
12. How do people buy these from you?
They can email me at email@example.com. My prices are very reasonable. A magnet is $1 and a flower is $3. They were selling them down in Sannibel, Fla., for $15 each.