Victorians’ love of the sea meant gathering shells and using them in decorative ways. Playing in the sea was such a treat that they traveled an entire day for the opportunity.
“What a curious feeling!” said Alice. “I must be shutting up like a telescope!” And so it was indeed: She was now only ten inches high, and her face brightened up at the thought that she was now the right size for going through the little door into that lovely garden.
—Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
There is something about the notion of miniature—pocket gardens, mini chocolate chips, newborn kittens—that never ceases to delight. Perhaps it is that sense of being able to hold the world in one’s hand, if only for a moment. When we think of saving pictures and souvenirs, we usually think of large, conventional photo albums and scrapbooks. But even the most significant events can be treasured and relived in a small package.
Victorians’ love of the sea was captured in seashell albums that children and grownups of the era lovingly created as part of their journey to the seashore. Playing in the sea and discovering the many fascinating life forms in the sand and amongst the rocks was such a treat that they traveled an entire day for the opportunity. Children gathered the prettiest scallop shells they could find, then brought them home with bits of seaweed and a sketch or two. Later, they glued their mementos onto pages cut into the shape of the shells to create a tiny book.
You can make your own using a two-piece shell like the 3½- by 3 ½-inch scallop shell pictured. Trace and cut out shell-shaped pieces of vellum and use ribbon to bind it. Drill two holes on the flat flaps at the base of the shells for threading ribbon and binding the pages. Punch corresponding holes in the paper. Also, you can place a very thin line of glue on each page’s left edge to bind them together. You can also drill a hole in the center front of both shells and thread a ribbon closure through it.
Decorate the pages before binding them; we used real sand mixed with glitter to make “waves.” Your souvenir from the sea becomes a miniature scrapbook to display in an open cabinet, in a shadow box or as part of an artful arrangement on your table.
By Erika Kotite
Photography by Rusty Reniers