Sailor’s Valentines

The first time Jimmy and I went to Marco Island (1997), Jimmy drove us up to Sanibel so I could go to the shell museum. There was a large display of sailor’s valentines there.

Sailors’ valentines are a shell art form developed in the early nineteenth century. Octagonal boxes served as frames for symmetrical and well-balanced compositions that artists created, in pointillist-like fashion, using small shells of different colors and shapes.

Contrary to myth, sailors’ valentines were not made by sailors in order to pass time at sea. They were usually assembled by female residents of Barbados and other Caribbean ports of call for New England whalers to purchase and bring back to their loved ones waiting at home. The craftswomen would often include romantic phrases such as “Forget-me-not” and “Remember me”. Recently this art form has undergone a revival amongst shell crafters.

Picture and description via The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum

The only pictures I took at the museum were of a carnival with animals and people made from shells.


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