32 Seashell Crafts That Evoke the Beauty of Summer
A pristine shell is a special find, and that's true whether you pick them up at the beach or from a sustainable source online. These DIY ideas show off their natural beauty and lend a summery vibe to wherever you live.
The shells that the ocean drops at your feet during the summertime—the ones you thoroughly enjoy collecting—make lovely remembrances of the season; that's especially true when you put them to good use in some of our favorite crafts.
First, you'll need to find them. Many beaches—those on Sanibel Island in Florida, for example—are as famous for the quantities of shells that wash ashore as they are for their white sand and turquoise waves. But it's important to be very choosy: To preserve the ecosystem, the Sunshine State and others strongly encourage collectors to limit the number they pick up. (Please note: It's also illegal to remove live ones, including conchs, sand dollars, and starfish.) Shells foster more resilient coastlines and healthier aquatic life. In fact, nonprofits like the Billion Oyster Project work to restore depleted reefs by depositing empty ones. Consider Etsy stores, like Low Tide Bay and Beach Barn Art, for responsibly sourced ones, or hit farmers' markets and seafood wholesalers to nab empties for cheap (or even free).
To ready finds for crafting and display, scrape them out if needed, cover with water in a pot, and boil for five minutes. Let cool completely, and make the most of your oceanside finds: Decorate your walls and interior spaces, set the table with them as the centerpiece and napkin rings, or even turn them into wearable accessories like beach bags and pendant necklaces. Want to get your kids in on the fun? We have plenty of activities they'll enjoy, too. Seashell keychains are a great craft for little hands to work on, and they're the perfect accessory your children are sure to love.
In this gallery, we're sharing an array of projects you can make using all those seashells you've collected along the shoreline.
To display sand dollars, conchs, and coral like the treasures they are, set them under glass cloches (these are from IKEA and Jamali Garden). To prop up a specimen, use a three-inch acrylic easel. Or you can keep a shell upright by drilling a small hole in the wooden base, adding a dot of hot glue, and pushing the bottom tip in. Hold it steady till it sets.
Shop Now: IKEA Härliga Glass Domes with Base, from $10 for 7 3/4", ikea.com; Jamali Garden Glass Cloche on Wood Base, 10" by 15", $38, jamaligarden.com; Studio Décor Easel Mini Frame, $3.49, michaels.com; Brown Tibia Seashell, 4" to 5", $1, caseashells.com; Caribbean Triton Seashell, 7", $25, seashellsupply.com; Murex Ramose Seashell, 7" to 9", $20, buytheseaonline.com; Lions Paw Scallop Shell, 5" to 6", $2.50, caseashells.com; Mushroom Coral, 5" to 6", $10.50, seashellsupply.com; Coral Chunks, $3, caseashells.com.
The clamshells in this minimalist front-door greeting (or wall hanging) get their ombré effect from a simple soak in dye made from purple cabbage for varying lengths of time; the ones on top are untouched.
A seashell pendant makes a lovely natural backing for landscape photos. The images take on a dreamy, painterly quality when printed on decal film and smoothed onto the shells. Thread them with leather cord for necklaces that are far more stylish than your average seaside souvenir.
Striking white scallop and ark shells, hot-glued into place, give affordable rattan styles resort-boutique cred.
Save your oyster shells from happy hour or dinner, arrange a few on a plate, and pour in varieties like kosher, flaky sea, and pink Himalayan (which, fittingly, looks like sand from a Bahamian cove).
Shop Now: LowTideBay Large-Cup Oyster Shells, $11 for 6, lowtidebay.etsy.com.
For one-of-a-kind illumination, flex your mussels and cockle shells. Arrange them in concentric circles, and hot-glue them onto a basic wrought-iron hanging candle sconce—their pearlescent interiors will cast a special glow.
Many a summer meal ends with a pile of empty oyster shells. This table actually starts with one. The layered tones and textures effortlessly create a lasting centerpiece, and it won't blow over in the wind (but certainly add glass hurricanes if needed to protect the candle flames). We filled a galvanized metal candle trough with a raw bar's worth—this piece has built-in taper holders; however, you can set pillar candles down the center of any rustic tray.
Shop Now: LowTideBay Large-Cup Oyster Shells (in trough), $9 for 6, lowtidebay.etsy.com; Terrain Iron Candlestick Trough, $48, shopterrain.com; Root Candles Timberline Arista Single Candles, 12", in Platinum, $4.50 each, rootcandles.com.
To create a simple place setting, string real bivalves (these come with predrilled holes) on twine, and pull cloth napkins through.
Shop Now: Cultiver Linen Table Napkins, in Slate, $45 for 4, cultiver.com; U.S. Shell Drilled Oyster Shells, 2" to 3", $61 for 30, amazon.com; Farmhouse Pottery Silo Dinner Plates, $95 each, farmhousepottery.com; Skandia Goa Flatware, $35 for a 5-piece set, wayfair.com; Bead Landing Jute-and-Cotton Cording, $6.50 for 30 yd., michaels.com.
Sand Dollar Mirror
Sand dollars are pretty on their own but when turned into a frame the results are spectacular. To make this seashell craft, lay the mirror on a flat surface. Starting with the larger size sand dollars, position them on the mirror before layering on the medium-size ones; continue by adding accents and fill in holes with the smallest ones. Carefully lift the base sand dollars slightly and apply glue underneath to adhere them to the mirror. Continue attaching the rest of the sand dollars. If you make a mistake in positioning, you can pry off the sand dollars and start again. Let it dry to finish.
Create a cabinet of curiosities with a few favorite specimens and simple wooden bases: Sea fans, organisms similar to coral, make for gracefully graphic displays. Glue them and other interesting shells to repurposed pedestals, such as the wooden egg under the sand dollar or the stack of toy wheels holding the corkscrew shell. A basic craft block or ball also does the job nicely. Thanks to watered-down paint, the bases look like weathered driftwood.
This display is all about contrast. Some pots are entirely ensconced in shells. Others have just an artful cluster of barnacles, as if the vessel survived a shipwreck and lay undiscovered for years on the ocean floor. If you can wield a glue gun, you can make these distinctive pots. Aim for a balance of color and texture as you adorn them.
Shell toppers turn simple boxes into treasure chests. Urchins and small conch shells are perfect for knobs. Just glue them to boxes you've given a couple of coats of paint (colored paint covered in white gives a chalky effect). The mosaic-topped boxes, meanwhile, shimmer with shards of abalone. As you make the mosaic, take your time, and work in small sections.
With this craft, your DIY seashell charms will stand the test of time. To make a pendant, choose a good-sized shell like a mussel or a string of smaller shells. We like using a pastel bead cord colors for a subtle look, and brighter hues for contrast.
Transform a scallop shell into a keepsake anyone is shore to love. Cut out a circle of scrapbook paper that's an inch bigger than your shell all around, then brush the back of the paper with découpage glue and press it on, starting at the center, and smoothing out any air bubbles. Trim the excess, leaving just enough to wrap over the edges, and let it dry. It's just the right size to hold a pearl (naturally) or any of her other little treasures.
Shop Now: Florida Beach Weddings Real Irish baking Scallop Shells, 3 1/2" to 4", $8.50 for 6, etsy.com; Recollections Double-Sided Scrapbook Paper, 12" by 12", in Teal Distress and Neutral Soft Floral, $1 per sheet, michaels.com; Recollections Scrapbook Paper, 12" by 12", in Teal Watercolor, White Floral Script, and Navy Leaf, $1 per sheet, michaels.com.
Sea Fan Sconce
A trio of sea fan sconces gives an entryway a modern (and almost otherworldly) look. Plus, they're a simple way to decorate a big blank wall. To make one, whitewash and sand a wrought-iron candleholder. Then glue on a sea fan, and insert a candle.
These candleholders serve as an instant conversation starter full of charm. In a well-ventilated area, cover your work surface with newspaper to begin. Apply two coats of spray paint to shells, and then let them dry. Then form foil into crumpled "cups" for support and nestle a shell into each one. Continue by melting candle wax over low heat in a pot before dipping a wick tab into the wax and then sticking the wick in the center of a shell. Repeat this same process with other wicks and shells, before carefully pouring the remaining melted wax into shells for the finished product. Deep shells, such as scallops, clams, and quahogs, work best and burn the longest.
Ombré Glittered Ornaments
A festive decoration during the holiday season, these sparkling ornaments are perfect for decorating your Christmas tree. Making this DIY is easy: All you need to do is drill a hole at one end of the shell and add a loop of metallic cord. If you're using spiral shells, simply hot glue a loop on instead.
Driftwood Star Tree Topper
A coastal-inspired tree is made spectacular with this rustic star topper. Befitting of a beach theme, this one is assembled with weathered driftwood sticks and pearly-white shells.
Kids headed back to school can savor a piece of summer all year long by attaching one of these seashell keychains onto their backpacks. Just make sure to have a craft drill and workstation to pierce the shells in order to make the keychain.
Koalas and Other Figurines
Transform your child's beach discoveries into an adorable shell creature that they can hold onto for years to come. We chose small scallop and clam shells to make the koalas and long razor clams decorated with ring-top cowries for the tree. Use small cushions of polymer clay, which is pliable and slightly sticky, to test out various arrangements. To assemble, use a quick-drying glue and build heads and bodies separately. Before joining larger parts, use a brush to glue on smaller ones, like beads for eyes, and clay to support creatures while the glue dries.
Shop Now: Creatology Assorted Beads Tub, $11.49, michaels.com.
Decorate stationery, postcards, or a travel journal using shells, stones, and other tokens collected on a recent beach trip. Begin by covering your work surface. Then, add one teaspoon of acrylic paint to a small spray bottle, filling the bottle halfway with water and shaking to mix. For a clearer solution, add more water. Next, arrange some shells or pebbles on note cards or another paper item before spraying the paint mixture over the shells or pebbles. Let the shells dry for about 30 minutes before lifting them up.
After a day at the beach, re-create an oceanic habitat with the treasures you've collected. You can make this possible by using a nautical map as the backdrop to your marine-like décor. The special part of this deep-sea decoration is that you can add as much detail as you'd like. For an intricate design, try featuring blue waves made out of blue paper. If you're feeling even more adventurous, try your hand at adding free-floating fish to the aquatic display.
In a rainbow of colors, dyed seashells make a great way to add some creativity to your summer. Whether you're looking for a craft for the kids or simply want to make your own colorful ocean keepsake to pass the time, you can create these bright-hued shells at home.
Mussel Shell Wreath
Made from a clambake's worth of mussels, this wreath is the perfect summer decoration for a front door. Master this craft by gluing shells between the wires—tucking the heel of each under the one set before it. Then attach two more courses of shells, one on each side of the first, arranging them in the opposite direction. Use monofilament to hang the wreath securely, and cover the cord with a ribbon tied in a decorative knot.
Shop Now: Celebrate It Grosgrain Stripes Ribbon, $4.99, michaels.com.
Even when vacation's over, these pretty soap dishes will give your bathroom a seaside feel. Wash one big shell and one small shell. Then make a ring of crumpled newspaper to cushion them as you work. Attach the big shell to the small shell back to back with a dab of two-part epoxy glue. Place the shells in the ring of newspaper with the small shell facing down, so the paper supports the top shell and keeps it from slipping out of place. But be sure the epoxy doesn't touch the paper. Let the craft dry thoroughly.
Shop Now: Gorilla Epoxy Glue, $5.98, homedepot.com.
Add a summery touch to your reading room with bookends made of seashells. Start by filling a tub halfway with sand. Nestle a shell in the sand with the opening face up. In a disposable cup, mix casting plaster. Spoon the plaster into the opening of the shell until it is completely filled; let the shell dry in this position. With a pencil, trace the opening of the shell onto the back of a piece of velvet (use a color that complements the shell). Cut out the shape, and use spray mount to attach the velvet to the plaster-filled opening.
These inexpensive "lion's paw" shells create a peaceful ocean ambience. To create this craft, fill a shallow tray with sand, arrange pairs of your prettiest specimens, and place a votive candle at the center of each pair (leaving room for the flames to flicker safely). Set the tray on a low table, and enjoy a quiet drink on the patio.
Shop Now: Richard's Seashells Lion's Paw Shells, $3.50 each, etsy.com.
Nautilus Shell Vase
A wide-mouthed, spiral nautilus shell can double as a pearlescent vase for bedroom bouquets. To create your own, place a piece of floral adhesive on a plate (use just enough to hold the shell upright). Stick the shell to the adhesive, and then place a weight—a fishing sinker, for example—inside to help hold it in place. Next, fill the shell halfway with water and add flowers, like purple scabiosa and white phlox. For the last step, arrange pebbles around the shell; they'll add a finishing touch and help stabilize the display.
Shop Now: Ashland "Mini River" Pebbles, $7.49, michaels.com.
A string of beach treasures casts a dreamy glow on a patio or porch. Decorate a string of small white lights with clean, dry shells. Tape a 2-foot section of lights to your work surface with bulbs lying flat. Apply a thin layer of epoxy along the hinge edge of a shell, and press into place at the base of a light. Repeat for each bulb. Let dry about five minutes before continuing with the next section.
Trade an ordinary nightlight for a delicate beach keepsake. To begin this craft, rinse the seashell clean or soak it in a bucket of water containing a capful of bleach until the shell just turns white. After letting the shell dry completely, add epoxy glue to the night-light clip, and then press it onto the flat part of the shell. When the shell is dry, attach it to the socket.
Shop Now: Gorilla Epoxy Glue, $5.98, homedepot.com.
Shell Wind Chimes
Any beachcomber will enjoy this project—you can even add the finished product to your porch for a reminder of your vacation even after it's long over. Start by finding two sticks that are about three inches in length. Then use cotton string of varying lengths to tie one end around a shell or piece of sea glass and the other end to one of the sticks. Use two same-size pieces of string to connect the sticks and tie a 24-inch string to the top one to hang it up.
Shop Now: North Shore Shells Hawaiian Sea Glass, from $15, etsy.com.