Tuesday, February 15, 2011

“Today is life-the only life you are sure of. Make the most of today. Get interested in something. Shake yourself awake. Develop a hobby. Let the winds of enthusiasm sweep through you. Live today with gusto.” Dale Carnegie (American lecturer, author, 1888-1955)

Shelling & beach combing are like any other hobby or interest. There are different levels that one can pursue. There is the casual sheller that is oblivious to whether or not the tide is high or low, the moon full or new, or the pretty brown speckled shell they just picked up is a 1 in a 1,000 find. 

The next level - the serious sheller has equipment - shell shovel, mesh bags, & aqua shoes. Names like tellin, donax, & murex just roll off the tongue. Mean low tides are celebrated with the enthusiasm of Mardi Gras as the parade of shellers head to the beach. I would liken it to a person who starts drinking wine. You like that nice little California Chardonnay but you sense there must be more. After attending a few wine tastings you discover the regions of Italy & France and all the little vineyards they don't sell in Publix.  Then one day you read your first copy of the magazine Wine Spectator and you start to develop skills of nose & legs that have nothing to do with your own body.

 Just like a wine connoisseur would go to a wine tasting - serious shell lovers gather together also in shell clubs. There are shell clubs all over the state of Florida.  We have some of the finest right here in SWFL. Most shell clubs have monthly meetings that feature a speaker on a shelling subject or some other interesting shell-related topic. They go on cool field trips to places like Sanibel, Marco Island, local fossil pits, & faraway places too. They bring shellcrafters together. Shell clubs are also a great place to share your new shell specimens & to help with their identification. Shell clubs each have their own club shell.
My local Englewood Shell Club has the Lightning Whelk

The Sarasota Shell Club  has Beau's Murex
Speaking of the Sarasota Shell Club they just had their annual shell show this last weekend. Their yearly shell show brought together the artistry of the shellcrafter & the science of the specimen collector.  There were also lots of vendors with shells & shell collecting related items for sale. 
The Sarasota Shell Club members collected, cleaned, & bagged 1,500 little shell favors to give to each attendee.

The frame to the left lists every item on this wrack wreath

Somebody was very busy picking up coquinas

Oodles of miniature shell flower arrangements for sale. Most were only 5 or 6 dollars.

Love the flip flops

No shell show is complete without the Sailor's Valentine

President Ron Bopp of the Sarasota Shell Club
Twenty Beautiful Shells display by Ron Bopp
Ron bought these shells for $1 each at last year's show in a grab bag box

I struck up a conversation with a very nice fella who was telling me all about the mission of the Sarasota Shell Club.  Turns out he is the President.  Ron Bopp moved to Sarasota from Oklahoma. He has a love for shells which brought him to the club. He had entered 3 exhibits in the show. His winning exhibit "What Can You Get For $20 Dollars" posed the question & answered with "a meal at Applebee's or a dvd of Sex in the City ?" ...no, 20 beautiful shells and an unequealed education. He had bought 20 shells at the previous year's shell show in a grab bag box for $1 each. He  turned those shells into a display for this year's shell show.  His other exhibit was fossil shells sawn in half with a bandsaw & their pictures tweaked on a photoshop computer program to look like x-rays. 

A shell lover with power tools & a photo shop program - unstoppable
Amazing displayof a personal collection of snails
A collection from the beaches of Longboat Key
These are all mini's. Each bottle holds tiny little perfect miniature shells
Guady asaphis from the Bahamas
The profits from the shell show are given to various marine research institutions & projects such as Mote Marine Laboratory, the Carefree Learner, and projects by New College & other students in the Sarasota area

If you are like me, finding the time to join any club is a challenge. But all of the shell clubs offer a wealth of resources through their newsletters which are located on their respective websites.  You also get access to their libraries of shell reference books with your membership fee. You can still learn more about shells even if you cannot attend the meetings.

Great news.There are more shell shows coming to SWFL.  The St Pete Shell Club is having their annual show Feb 26 & 27. The 74th Annual Sanibel-Captiva Shell Fair & Show will be held March 3-5 on the shelling mothership Sanibel Island. See ya there!