Saturday, May 6, 2017

Beautifully Broken

I had an angel wing shell; pristine white and unbroken. I found it on Coquina Beach over 20 years ago and have kept it safe all this time. They are fragile, brittle things and finding a whole one is a rarity since they are usually broken by the rough surf. Recently I dropped it and part of it shattered. I was heartbroken. But as I looked at the damage I saw the exposed architecture of the shell within, showing me how it was made and how underneath that beautiful exterior it was more complicated than I had realized.

As you would expect, living on a barrier island I have a large assortment of seashells at my little house, both inside and out. They collect dust on various tables and counters and litter the yard underneath bushes and on decks and steps. Like fingerprints, no two are exactly alike. Some are perfect specimens with each gleaming ridge and surface unmarred. But most of my shells are beautifully broken, just as I am and like most people I have known throughout my life.

I have never strived for perfection. I do the best I can and for me that's just fine. If it isn't okay to anyone else, I really don't care. My house is never spotlessly clean, my hair is not without issues, and my figure doesn't resemble a sailor's vision of a mermaid. I can say the wrong things, fib, and become impatient. I am broken, not whole, incomplete.

In the same way I choose a friend or lover for their quirkiness and individuality instead of perfection, when I'm choosing a shell to sketch or paint, I am not drawn to the collector's specimen. I go for the broken ones; the ones with the slices, chips, worm holes and worn edges, exposing their insides for all to see. For they are braver than I am. They don't just sit on a table looking pretty. They require me to look deeper, understand what they are made of and accept them for what they are. For they too have a story to tell and just want someone to listen.

Here's a step-by-step look at a handmade book I created highlighting broken shells.

Admit it, you think they are beautiful too.

This book is available through my Etsy Shop.


  1. I love the way you said this. It struck a chord with me. Something I should try to keep close to my heart

    1. Thank you Ruth. I've changed this blog a bit; getting more courageous with my thoughts and how it relates to my work. Your words mean a lot.

    2. <3
      From Sally

  2. As courageous as a lion roaring in the desert at dusk as bold as a red-headed woodpecker hammering on the side of the house before dawn. I, too, love the broken, the damaged, the interesting imperfections we all carry (even if we try to hide them). Beautiful post today!

  3. Thank you so much Rhonda. And thanks for being courageous yourself!