Guess what we did last summer? My little campers made the most magical shell collages ever! I beach comb wherever I go, collecting shells and rocks and all sorts of treasures. Most of these shells are from different beaches around the world. (Ok, that makes me sound so much more like a world traveler than I actually am. But over the course of ten years, I have been lucky to visit quite a few beaches.) I was so excited to finally have enough shells to share with the kids.
Actually, I used to collect shells when I was little. I was such a little collector. I collected everything from Nancy Drew mysteries to shells to everything gnome. I remember my shells distinctly because I had these cards that I could glue the shell onto, which already had the name of the shell pre-printed and the the shape on the back. I remember scallop, cockle, and whelk. And the little think shiny pink ones. It was really fun to share my stories with my little artists. They all had stories of their own, too. It’s what I love most about art class, the socialization and sharing of our lives.
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Supplies needed to make shell collages
~ Shells (if you don’t have any collected, or any access to beaches, you can buy shells at craft stores or here on Amazon)
~ Pieces of wood approx 8″ x 9″ (I got mine cut at Home Depot and then sanded the edges)
~ Tacky glue (I researched glue that would dry faster and this is what I found. You can certainly use regular Elmer’s, too)
~ Liquid watercolor and brushes
~ Eye screws and wire (optional)
This is how the kids made their shell collages
1. First, they glued their shells on in whatever way they wanted.
2. After they were finished, I cleared the table of all the shells, then I set out the liquid watercolors in ocean colors. I also set out a little gold for sparkle (or sand, as someone pointed out). The glue was not fully dry but it didn’t matter. The shells didn’t move around while they painted them. The tacky glue worked really well.
3. Some kids painted the shells, and some didn’t. I did try and encourage them to paint the sides of the wood.
4. The next day, after they were fully dried, I added some eye screws and wire so these beautiful shell collages could be hung on the wall.
We are going to do these again in art camp tomorrow! I was scrolling through Instagram the other day and saw these shell collages painted with rainbow colors from art teacher Elizabeth Lyle. I love them! I will have to decide last minute if I put out all the colors or stick with ocean tones. Hmmm… so hard to decide.
The blue colours on the wood grain give an amazing effect, is like a piece of ocean. Simply wonderful! And you have a nice seashells collection. Really nice collages.
What a fun way to make and preserve beach memories!
Hi there! I just wanted to say that I loved your idea. Seashells are so pretty, but somehow I never thought about making a collage with them. Thank you for posting about it!
I shared this in a preschool teachers group from Mexico and it is so popular! Everyone loves this idea for the summer 🙂 thank you!!
So Cool!!! I Love it All!!!!
Where did you get those big white shadow box frames with a handle?
I Love them!!!!
Have a Great Day!!!1
I Love this!!! Wonderful!!!!
What a Great Idea!!!
I just went to Michaels tonight and bought some supplies.
My grandkids and I are going to play and do this tomorrow!!!!
Have a Great Day!!!!
Thank so much,
A great idea! I was wondering does it it work on a small canvas? 🙂
Yes! You may want to use a glue gun. But otherwise, yes!
I have a large seashell collection. Will be making
some of this pronto!!!
Where did you get the tray for sorting the shells?
I think I got it on Amazon, but years ago. Search “compartment wood tray” and you will find lots of great ones (if not this one exactly). have so much fun with this! xx Bar
Brilliant idea! I love process art that turns out to be a great product as well! Thanks for sharing!
Thanks for sharing. I’m gg to do this activity with my grandniece tomorrow when she need not attend after school care. Am sure would be wonderful result.
Been looking for ideas for my summer camp for my 3-6 year olds. This is fabulous. I think because of the shells, one should stick to ocean/beach tones. So cool!
These are beautiful! Do you dilute the liquid watercolors when you do this?
hi Marissa, sometimes I do dilute the paint depending on the brand. some brands are very strong, some are weaker. hope this helps! xx Bar
What is the brand of watercolors you used in this?
hi Kristina, we used liquid watercolors. Click on the red words that say “Liquid watercolors” in the post and it will bring you to the source.
Hi Barbara, When I click on the liquid watercolors link it takes me to a lot of different ones, can you share a picture of the ones you got?
Hi Maria, I use the Sax liquid watercolors. Here is the link: https://amzn.to/3l87lhH. Have fun! ~ Bar
Do you think this would work well on a canvas instead of wood?
Hi Tina, hmmm… I would be afraid of the shells falling off. Maybe with a glue gun?
This activity looks awesome!
I think I will try it with my special needs high school kids.
We have regular watercolours at school, do you think I could make do with them? Maybe if we painted a layer of water on the wood first? Also wondering if the gold was a watercolour or an acrylic?
Thanks for the inspiration!
Hi Nancy, painting the wood with water first would be a great idea! I think that would work! And yes, the gold is a liquid watercolor but no reason it can’t be an acrylic. Good luck! ~ Bar
Where did you get the pieces of wood and what size is it?
hi Josie, I went to Home Depot and they cut some pieces for me. They were about 8 x 11 inches.