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Author: Marilyn

Springtime Here and There

Springtime Here and There

Tulips in garden before my trip

Early in April my garden woke up, and I was seeing clumps of bright tulips everywhere. My grandson, Vinnie, helped me plant them probably six years ago. I was surprised to see four to six blooms for each bulb we had planted. They seemed especially bright and happy with all the rain we had this winter.

My iris plants started to bloom the middle of the month as I was getting ready to fly to Portland to visit my son and three granddaughters who live just across the river. I was hoping they would still be blooming when I got back.

This trip was a nice change of pace for me without my usual “to do” list. We all went to dinner together on Sunday evening, and I met their two new kitties, Chester, a black long-hair, and Chuck, a shy, black short-hair. The two oldest girls are in high school and college who are either gone all day, or in and out every few hours. My youngest granddaughter is living with her mother.

My son and I had a lot of time to talk, which is such a gift when I don’t see him every year. Tuesday I had an appointment in Portland, after which we did a quick tour of Mt. Tabor, an extinct volcano that is now a park in the midst of neighborhoods.

Wednesday, when asked what I wanted to do, I said I wanted to see the Columbia River Gorge that I keep reading about from time to time. I had mentioned that I wanted to do some walking while I was there.

Trillium along the trail

My son knew about a mostly flat, short, hike to a river overlook on the Washington side. When we arrived at the river, another hiker was digging up huge dandelions just above the retaining wall. He said he wanted to give the native plants a chance to fill in the area.

Columbia River from Washington side looking east

After we walked back to the car, my son drove back the way we came and went over the bridge to Oregon. We rode up the original road US 30 along the river going east. We stopped at Vista House, a round stone building, built in 1916, where we could take photos looking up the river.

Vista House
View of the Gorge looking east

He pointed out the hillsides where the Camp Fire had burned last summer. We had some lunch before crossing back to Washington over the Bridge of The Gods. We saw the Bonneville Dam which provides the electric power for the Portland area.

Riding through wooded, hilly, windy roads all week was so beautiful. The fruit trees were blooming, as well as the dogwoods.

I got back to my Stockton home at 2:17 am on Friday morning due to a rescheduled flight. Later that afternoon, I was delighted to see that the irises in my garden were taking their time to come into full bloom.

Marilyn’s Iris garden

My rose bushes did their first “rush” to bloom while I was gone, and are now ready for some dead-heading. It’s nice to go away, but I really love and enjoy my own garden.

Iris in Marilyn’s garden
Close up of Iris
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Does Making Collage Help Organize Your Mind?

Does Making Collage Help Organize Your Mind?

Shortly before the beginning of March, the leader for my local art group sent us an email asking for ideas for projects for the next meeting or two. I reminded her about the time our group had fun making collage by starting a piece, and then passing it to the person on our right, who would add some elements until time was called, and the piece moved again to the right.

I provided 11” x 11” watercolor paper for the substrate, and brought an assortment of printed papers, old book pages, maps, corrugated cardboard pieces, and fabric scraps. Members were told to bring scissors and glue of some kind.

Several of our new members had never done collage before, but quickly got the hang of adding a scrap of color here and there before passing it on. We did this until we got our own piece back, with a chance to add some finishing touches.  I should have taken a photo of the collage I came home with, but I didn’t think of it until after I added a few more pieces.

Orange 3-D fan shape

I had started out with some large pieces of aqua colored paper sprinkled with white star shapes, and a page from a foreign language book. When it came back to me, someone had added a 3-D orange fan shape out of some stiff vellum, a small dark red shape topped with a yellow button, and a good size purple bird shape made of crumpled tissue paper. Someone added a fairly large piece of purple netting. Another member had found my name on one of the papers I brought, cut it into pieces and scattered them about.

Crushed tissue paper bird

At home, I sat it up on the end of my work table for several days, so I could glance at it through the day. What could I do with all these bits of color and shape so it didn’t look like the world was flying apart?  Eventually, I added a few dark pieces along parts of three edges, as well as a layer of green tissue paper over two sections to try and “pull things together”, which allowed the purple bird to be the main focal point.

Everybody added something collage

I must admit there are some days when my mind feels like this collage!

Two weeks later, our group met again and we each worked on our own collage. Some members had thought about what they wanted to make, and had brought papers to create their vision.

I didn’t plan ahead. I rummaged through papers when I got to the group and selected them mainly on colors that appealed at that moment. I paired them with some of my yellow handmade paper, torn into shapes to go with the large pieces. The paper substrate I was working on had a few black lines someone had painted long ago. I decided to let them show between the pieces I added.

Once I had the main elements pasted down, I couldn’t decide what to add next. Someone in the group encouraged us to use some tissue paper she had painted with watercolors. Adding a random piece to connect my larger shapes produced a really exciting element. After I got home, I added a small rust colored image about one third down the left side. Up close it is a set of keys tossed on a small tray.

March 2019  – Where Is Spring?

By April, our leader was full of new ideas for the group. Perhaps working with collage has an organizing effect on the mind.

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Decisional Conflict

Decisional Conflict

One of the companies making premium art mediums is Golden. They have Reps who give demos of their products to groups of artists at stores that sell their stuff. I’ve actually been to two of these, but it was some years back. The Rep talks about each medium, showing on a canvass board, what it is designed to do. This sample is then passed around the room while she demos another product.

By the end of the presentation the audience has oh-d and awed at the beautiful colors, the creamy gels, and special effects that can be produced. What we don’t see is how to integrate these products into a complete work of art.

I have a drawer of different gels in matte and gloss, with beads, will crackle, make a raised image with a stencil, or shine a different color in a certain light. I have papers, canvas, brushes, stencils, stamps, and almost anything else you can think of, but I rarely know with any certainty what to use to get the effect I have in mind.

During our rainy winter, I began reading a book about using these mediums and paints which is written like a workshop, so you can follow along step by step with the author. She started by covering her work surface with a variety of papers to provide texture, such as a page from an old book, a photo copy, corrugated cardboard, and crumpled rice paper. She also added some stencil images.

Section of collage showing title

I rummaged through my scrap box for similar items. I found some pages from a psych-nurse’s pocket guide, one of which was titled “Decisional Conflict” which in normal language means the person can’t decide between two or more options. I experience this quite often in my studio. I also found some corrugated paper from a cookie box, a strip of rice paper I could crumple, and a single Tarot card. They didn’t look like what was in the book, but close enough.

Arranging them on the paper was easy now that I have been doing a lot of collage.

The next step was to add paint. The book’s finished collage was crimson and orange with white and black accents. I had paint, just not the colors she was using. So I used what I had that I thought might be close to hers. Didn’t quite work the same way. The red color was close, but the yellow was too intense. She used a transparent yellow color which I didn’t have. The white paint she added to lighten up some areas was zinc white, which I also didn’t have, so I used an Iridescent Pearl.

Section of collage showing crumpled rice paper

One of my goals is to use up the acrylic paint I have so I can get some new paint. Of course, the colors I really like are pretty much gone. I rarely use reds and yellows, preferring greens and blues.

The yellow paint over the dark photo copy and the black on the Tarot card turned a green shade. I liked how that went with the red and yellow, so I added some paint in a lime shade here and there.

Completed collage “Decisional Conflict

Over all, I was pleased with the finished product. Looking ahead to the next project in the book, I saw that the author continues to use the zinc white and transparent yellow. In order to alleviate some of my “Decisional Conflict”, I have ordered them online because they are not available in Stockton.

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Spring in California

Spring in California

View of backyard as seen from my studio

This week Monday was the first day this year I haven’t felt cold. As in, wearing my boots cold. We usually have a week of spring-like weather in mid-February, but not this year. Even days with some sun have been rare.

The pink plant in the upper center of the photo above is a Fringe bush, which has been blooming since late in January.

The nectarine, peach, and plum trees are finishing their bloom and showing green tips on their branches. Likewise, the blackberry bushes are waking up.

My garden has been getting ready to put on its annual show, and over last weekend could wait no longer.

Tiny blue wildflowers

Given the tremendous amount of rain we have had, the wild flowers can’t grow fast enough. Tiny blue flowers are dotting the parts of the yard without grass. The little red flowers are starting to appear and will be like a carpet in a week or so.

Red wildflowers in the strawberry patch

In the back of the yard behind the garage where I store yard equipment, I already have a carpet of green plants that have a circular disk on top of the stem with tiny white flowers in the center of the circle. I don’t know their name, but at the first hot day they will burn up and collapse.

Wildflowers behind my garage

I’ve been outside every day in the last two weeks unless it has been showering or extremely windy. Field Madder is an invasive weed that was covering the strawberry bed, and I wanted to dig it out before it could bloom. It has a root that is about one and a half inches long and it just lays itself over the ground like a rug. The strawberry bed took five days to clean up.

I’ve cut back ivy on the fence behind the fruit trees before they leaf out. This is especially difficult where the huge fig tree comes over the fence. While cutting back the Pyracantha on the west side of the house, I found peeling paint on the house which needed to be repaired.

Close up of red-orange flowers in planter

In the planter next to the fountain are flowers that look orange in the photo at the top of this blog, but in the close-up the camera made them red. I bought one plant of this, years ago, and it grew and put down more roots, filling the planter.

These yellow flowers are a variety of what we used to call Freeway Daisy.

Freeway Daisy in the bed beyond the planter

So, for the time being, making art is on hold except for the group I attend every other Thursday. I’m so thankful to be where I am, with this wonderful display of color.

I hope you have a beautiful spring whenever it arrives.

 

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Time Management

Time Management

This is a topic we would all rather not think about. When we have a young family and a job, managing to get everything done can be a huge headache, and we long for the time when we will have time to do the things we love and enjoy. Once we reach that place, it can be a wonderful time if we are healthy and have enough income to meet our needs.

But there comes a time when many things take longer to do than they once did, and require more creativity in how to do them safely. We try to simplify our chores or find someone else to do them. We get engrossed in a project and can’t believe the day is over so soon. Managing our time becomes important once again.

Work table with spools of gimp

At the moment I have three projects on my three work tables. Last week, I worked with the palm bark I have been picking up in my yard all winter, stitching pieces together to make a shape, or combining the bark with circles of hand made paper. I’m using gimp thread to sew them together. This is a shiny round cord, probably rayon with some kind of center string. I remember my mother crocheting handbags out of this stuff. This isn’t her leftovers, I found it in south Stockton some years ago, in tan, blue, green, black, brown, and yellow.

Two pieces palm bark sewn together

After I make a few more, I will add feathers and beads to the cords. My other two projects are barely started.

Palm bark with hand made yellow paper

Even though we are still having winter storms, spring is proceeding in my yard. The apricot tree has finished blooming. The plum is in full bloom and the peach and nectarines are starting to come out. Weeds are popping up everywhere. The trick is to do the weeding and cleanup whenever we have a dry day, which makes every day’s plans tentative. I managed to get the iris bed cleaned up last week. This week is focused on the strawberry bed, because one of the weeds that invaded last year is just days away from starting to bloom.

As I wrote at the end of January, I have begun working on my shell collection. The shells are arranged in drawers by family, but many of them have not been identified as to their species. I print out my electronic record for a family, and check off each shell number. I also have shells in the drawer, that are not on the list. I have to figure out where the shell’s data is and move it on the computer to it’s correct place in the list.

Scallop shells to be identified

There are shells that I collected fifty years ago that clearly do not belong to this family. Many of the older shells are not in plastic bags, but scattered about in several drawers if it’s a large family. This has become a fascinating endeavor in my evenings, recalling the beaches where they were found. I get caught up in the process, and needless to say, I’m not getting to bed when I should.

Where all of this is leading is that I must make choices in using my time. I have come to the point where I don’t have new art to write about every week, and if I want to make better work, I need to let things develop on their own schedule. Spring and early summer in the garden always means more to do than time and energy available. I also have two out of state trips between now and the end of June.

I have been writing blogs each week for almost two years, and the time has come to write less often. I don’t have any particular schedule in mind, but when I have something to show I’ll post it. If you already get my posts in your email, they will show up there. If they don’t come to your email, sign up in the form on the lower right side of this page.

Palm bark with hand made pink paper
Contact Marilyn
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Walk-by Mixed Media

Walk-by Mixed Media

This began with a zipper style sandwich bag, containing a small slice of French bread, being left on top of a toaster oven. I needed some extra counter space one day and tossed it up there. Later that evening, someone else didn’t notice it and used the oven, resulting in a lamination of sorts. I was able to carefully peel the bag off the oven top, and immediately decided it would be included in an experiment of mixed media art.

Laminated plastic bag

Over the last week we have had a few days without rain and I have been busy finishing up winter chores outdoors. Since my studio is in an open room right off the kitchen, I saw the toasted bag every time I walked past my work table. Knowing I wouldn’t have time to begin another extensive art project, I thought about how I might use this bag. I went looking for a base that already had something I started but never used. I found an 11” x15” cardboard with a black surface on which I had made a textured shape of a starfish using white plaster.

I put this on the work table next to the bag. After numerous trips past it, I got up one morning and decided to paint the plastered part with some Golden Ultramarine Violet acrylic. After more walk-by’s, I added some Golden Interference Blue to highlight the purple shape. To the left side of the starfish, I added a narrow tag board rectangle that I had painted last summer with gesso and a bit of paint which covers an ad.

Painted starfish
In this condition, it sat on my table for a day or two as I went in and out of the house walking past it uncounted times. It needed something else before I added the bag, but what could I do quickly that would pull things together?

Going in and out of the yard, and looking out my kitchen window, I watch my silk prayer flags flying in the wind all day. They have been shredded by the many windy days this winter. I’ve been picking up the shreds and bringing them inside to use in something.

By laying some pieces over the board, I could guess how they might look. I was hoping the starfish would show through somewhat. Three scraps were glued on with acrylic medium, which goes right through the fabric, so I just dabbed it onto the fabric as it lay over the plaster and the rest of the board. I covered it with wax paper and weighted it to dry overnight. 

I was somewhat disappointed that I couldn’t see most of the starfish the next morning, because the paint on the fabric was dense enough to block the purple. I added a hint of the Interference where I knew the plaster was. Then I glued on the cooked plastic bag with soft gel, weighted it again, and let it dry.

I set the piece up so I could view it from a distance. I thought it still needed a little something. I considered a thin white strip on the right edge to kind of balance the white on the left side. That would draw too much attention, so I added some scribble with colored pencils.

Plastic Ocean

“Plastic Ocean” had no design plan other than to use the damaged bag. It evolved as I walked by it many times a day asking “What if …?”  This doesn’t make great art, but keeps the mind working.   Art therapy indeed.

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The Dark and the Light of Growing Older

The Dark and the Light of Growing Older

For the second project in the online class I was working on in January, the instructor told a story about her grandfather, using photos of him as a boy and later as a man. She said she heard he had some troubles as a young man, and to illustrate this she pasted copies of the two photos she had on separate light backgrounds and mounted them on a dark board, leaving a space between them to represent the time in his life when he had troubles.

As I tried to think of a similar story in my family, nothing came to mind, but I have been aware recently how my own life is changing in ways I don’t like. At the same time, I have many things that I am thankful I can enjoy. I decided to tell my story of how things are right now.

Front side of box to hold the cards.

I didn’t want to make a book with these cards, so I borrowed an idea from Seth Apter, where he uses kid’s flash cards, works on both sides, and makes a case for them.

For the cards I used stiff cardboard from the back of watercolor tablets, cutting blocks that are roughly 4.5” x 5.5”.  I used pages torn from old books with printing and diagrams, to cover them on both sides using matt medium, and folding the sheets over the edges as the instructor had demonstrated.

After they were dry, I laid the eight cards on newspaper and covered them with black gesso on one side, let it dry, and used white gesso on the other side. On the sides with the white gesso, some of the printing on the paper shows through.

I made a list of what I wanted to put on each card. For each less than happy development on the dark side, I chose a positive thing about my life at this time.

The hardest part of this project was finding images to illustrate my situation. Magazines are loaded with young women. Even ads for products that older people might need rarely have a person who appears old unless they are face down on the floor and can’t get up!

I glued the carefully trimmed images to the cards with matt medium. I didn’t coat them with matt medium, but I probably should have.

I feel like my arms have gotten shorter.

One of the cards was about not being able to reach things in cupboards and closets, and not feeling comfortable on a ladder in the yard sometimes. On the back side, I acknowledge that I’m feeling ready to let go of things I don’t use, but I keep because they belonged to someone in my family.

 

After the images were glued, I printed out words to go with them. These were trimmed close and glued with Yes paste. The gessoed background had a bit of a gritty texture, so I decided to finish the cards with a layer of encaustic wax. I like the feel of the waxy surface.

Cards get a layer of encaustic wax

However, some of my images became transparent when I waxed them. The print from the other side came through, as on this image of a robe. It seemed to happen with images taken from a monthly publication from a nearby shopping center that uses a newsprint type paper.

Image about getting to sleep late

On this card you can also see the printing on the paper that was the first layer on the left side behind the clock, and on the right side behind the robe is a piece of a map.

While I was waiting for things to dry, I created a case for my cards. I have a big old garage with lots of storage, where I have a closet of small and odd size boxes and containers. I painted the box with black gesso, added some images and words, and covered it with a coat of a gloss gel medium.

Back of the box holding cards

Making art with friends

 

 

This was not a project I intended to put on display somewhere. It was a way for me to get my irritable thoughts out of my head, and remind myself of all the aspects of my life that I can celebrate. I get to stay home in bad weather, wear what I want, sleep late if I need to, read all kinds of things, and make art with my friends.

 

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Crafting a Valentine

Crafting a Valentine

A Stand-up Valentine

In February, for most of the last 23 years, I have made a valentine for my friend Robert. He is an appreciator of art, and I can say exactly what I want to say when I make it myself.

Last year was an exception. I was at Walgreen’s looking for birthday cards for two of my granddaughters, when I happened to find a beautiful valentine card that said what I was thinking, in a much better way than I could have said it.

This year, I didn’t know what I wanted to say, but the valentine started to evolve anyway. In January, the leader of my local art group asked us to bring some 4” x 4” square pieces decorated with hearts of some kind, to be mounted into one large piece.

Two of squares with hearts cut from decorated paper

I made my four squares on watercolor paper by cutting heart shapes out of scraps of printed papers.  The tiny hearts are sequins. However, the morning of the meeting to assemble the large display, I was too exhausted from yard work the day before and went back to bed. I took them to the next meeting, but she didn’t need them.

Last Thursday, the group was using spray paint and stencils on some paper hearts. I brought the squares and spray painted the back sides, hoping to come up with an idea of how to make these into a valentine for this year.

Fortunately, we have had a lot of rain days, so I had time to come up with a way to connect the squares together. Since both sides were decorated, I couldn’t just apply hinges like I would have if I had actually planned the project from the beginning.

I laid out the four squares so that the cut hearts alternated with the spray painted sides. I have a roll of white Tutu fabric from an estate sale, from which I cut three strips about 1¼” inch wide.

Hinge connecting two squares before Tutu fabric is trimmed

I glued half of a strip to the left side of the spray painted square with matt medium. I glued the second strip onto the right side of that same square. The third strip was pasted on the left side of another spray painted square. I had to let this dry, and then turn it all over in the correct order, so I could work on the other side.

I pulled the unpasted sides of the fabric between the squares and glued them to the spray painted edges on this side. I let them dry, with some weight, over night. In the morning, I trimmed off the excess fabric. This makes an almost invisible hinge that can be bent either way.

Spray painted squares with words

Then, I had to come up with some words, which I typed and printed from the computer. After cutting around each phrase as close to the letters as possible, I used “Yes” paste to secure them to the spray painted squares.

To soften the white printer paper, I used a pale peach color watercolor pencil to lightly tone the paper, and blended it with a damp paint brush.

This has been one of the simpler valentines I have made for my man. It stands up easily as a table decoration. The hardest part was deciding what to say.

The back side

Have a Happy Valentine’s Day

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The Woe of the Prophet Isaiah

The Woe of the Prophet Isaiah

Unlike my sons and many other people, I never got in the habit of playing music all day. Instead, I have a habit of running the radio while I do routine household chores. Last Friday, radio news reports were playing clips about new state laws regarding abortion, when into my mind popped a memory of a tapestry I had woven in 1981, about this time of year.

I had begun weaving pictorial tapestries based on verses of scripture in the summer of 1980. This idea grew out of a number of years of reading through the Bible in a year. I actually enjoyed the Old Testament more than the New Testament. I underlined verses that I liked, but I didn’t mark up page after page.

Isaiah 5:20 is one of two verses I underlined in the first ten chapters of Isaiah.

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil     

            Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness;

            Who substitute bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”

                                                  (New American Standard 1975)

 

Tapestry based on Isaiah 5:20

My weaving shows lemon juice being squeezed into a pot labeled ‘Honey’, a light bulb that is black giving off blue light, and a fetus in the womb being attacked with a dagger. The word ‘Woe’ appears twice in the tapestry. The prophet Isaiah begins his thoughts with ‘Woe’ six times in chapter five.

While Roe v. Wade had been the law since 1973, the debate in 1980s, as I remember it, centered around the question of when did the “tissue” become human. Now, forty some years later, our country is still making changes in the way we interpret and apply this law. Personally, I believe abortion is wrong, but I do not think it should be illegal.

I think Isaiah’s words could be applied to many things in our present day. And, like in his day, our leaders pay no attention to prophets or history.

I’m not reading the Bible through each year any more, but regardless of our political affiliation or none, as citizens, we need to call out our leaders when they allow evil to be called good, and when they prefer secrecy and darkness to openness and light.

 

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The Shell Game — What I Picked Up

The Shell Game — What I Picked Up

Whelk shells from Mother’s Honeymoon

When I was a young child, my mother would hold the shells, pictured above, up to my ear, so I could hear the ocean. She found them on her honeymoon in February 1941, somewhere in Florida. The picture below, made with shells and painted, was a wedding gift to my parents, and it hung on our living room wall all the years I was growing up.

Mother’s shell picture

When I was about nine, we started to spend my father’s vacation at a cottage on Lake Erie, where I would occasionally find shells in the shallow water or at the beach. I’d put them in my pocket and take them home.

I might have become a biologist of some sort, if my high school biology class had not been such a disappointment. John Marshall High had two or three biology teachers but only one biology classroom.  I went to Jr. High at the high school, and the art room was just down the hall from the biology room, so I walked past it several times a day. All tenth graders took biology, and I had been waiting for three years to be in that class with all the wonderful natural displays. Unfortunately, my biology class took place in the physics lecture room, which only had roll-up charts of the solar system.

I was twenty-one the first time I saw the ocean, when my family stayed a night or two at a motel in Virginia Beach, Virginia, after a few days in Washington, D.C. where we visited the White House, the Smithsonian, and the Pentagon.

I was eager to see the ocean again when my husband and I spent two weeks touring through Florida on Ray’s vacation. Living in Cincinnati, we drove down the Atlantic side stopping here and there. Coming back north on the Gulf of Mexico side, I remember floating on the salt water at St. Pete beach. The beach was loaded with hundreds of shells. Most of them were small or broken but that didn’t matter – I wanted to take them all home.

I have been hauling home shells every chance I get for over fifty years. I learned how to catalogue what I found with an item number, the date found, and the location. Most of the shells I could identify from shell books. Now, my collection has over 4600 item numbers, but many of those items have more than one shell of that species with that location and date, so I know I have well over 5000 shells.

When I was working, I went on several trips with a small group of collectors where we spent every day collecting and cleaning shells. I collected in Baja, Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil, Panama, and The Bahamas. Also, from Santa Cruz to Seattle on the west coast.

Last year, I finally got everything I had collected, or otherwise acquired, entered into my log. This started as a hand written list, but is now also in a digital data base. The shells are housed in metal or plastic cabinets in my office room.

Some of the cabinets where I keep my shells

And then, given the size of the collection and my increasing age, I began to ask myself, what will I do with them?  While I haven’t found an answer to that question yet, I’m aware that some museums and universities will take donations of well documented collections, so that might be a possibility.

I can’t really answer that question until I know what I have, and what condition the shells are in. They are housed by families in the drawers. I have begun to print out sections of the digital record, one family at a time. I’m looking at each item. I’m finding a few shells that are not in the right family, as well as typos and formatting inconsistencies in the digital list, which I am correcting.

This is an exciting time to be identifying each shell with all the resources available on the internet. I can see wonderful images just by entering the scientific name of the shell.

When I attend the annual convention of the Conchologists of America, I’m often asked which shells I like best. I don’t have a favorite family, but I probably will discover one or two I like best while I’m doing this.

Big shells on top of a bookcase

This is my hobby that I enjoy after dinner. I’ve only just begun – this will be a long project with about 160 families.  I’m having so much fun seeing what I have, where they came from, and remembering the place, or the trip, where I found them.

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