Being right on the Sanibel beach as we are, with all that is True Sanibel close at hand, West Wind Inn is naturally drawn to all things relating to seashells. We thought this news from the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum would interest all of our guests – past, present and future.

The Museum Store has signed an exclusive agreement with Susan Black, a Colorado shell artist, to offer her Sailors’ Valentines art in kit form. After meeting with the artist while she was on Sanibel for a recent visit to Sanibel’s 76th Annual Shell Festival, the museum store agreed to be the exclusive outlet for her do-it-yourself kits. Ms Black designs, assembles, and sells the kits for re-creating Sailors’ Valentines.

Susan Black portraitAccording to Ms Black, “The history behind them is fascinating.” Seafarers of the 1800s couldn’t easily send valentines home to their sweethearts. Their solution was to bring home with them elaborate shell mosaics made by craftspeople on the Caribbean island of Barbados, a frequent stop on the maritime trade routes of the time. Ms Black’s interest in Sailors’ Valentines was heightened when she first spotted them in a Nantucket whaling museum. “The antique versions can cost thousands of dollars,” she said. “That’s when I decided to design kits inspired by them.”

Each of the kits sold at The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum Store contains dozens of shells, along with instructions, a pattern and a handmade octagonal wood shadow box with a glass front and brass hinges. Ms Black’s nine original patterns use geometric or floral motifs, including hearts, stars and rosettes, and sentimental messages spelled out in shells. The Shell Museum is working with Ms Black to develop kits that reflect the islands of Sanibel and Captiva, their shells, and the Museum’s permanent exhibit of Sailors’ Valentines.

Such activities are further evidence of the unique qualities of Sanibel & Captiva. The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum, accredited by American Alliance of Museums, features more than 35 exhibits of shells and mollusks from around the world. Exhibits are devoted to shells in art and history, shell habitat, rare specimens, fossil shells, common Southwest Florida shells, and more. The learning lab features a hands-on play area for children, displays, games, and a tank with indigenous mollusks. Two half-hour videos, “Mollusks in Action” & “Tales and Trails,” are shown throughout the day, and a children’s video is shown continuously. The Museum Store offers a wide selection of shell books. The Museum is open 7 days a week, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.  and is an excellent diversion for children an adults drawn to Sanibel by an interest in shells.

Fortunate for those who stay at the West Wind Inn, we are the closest beach resort to the Sanibel’s Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum. A stay with us places you right in the middle of shell heaven.