Creating with the Bounty of the Sea

jewelry made with tiny shells

Kim Christian is a beachcomber and jewelry maker from Beaconsfield, Western Australia. When she’s at the beach, she loves to collect seashells, sand dollars, starfish, sea urchin tests, sea glass, pottery, beach pebbles and any other ocean treasures she can find. 

Kim has been collecting shells since she was a young child, stopping for a bit during her teens but picking it back up again as an adult.

Her favorite beach to search at today is Eighty Mile Beach, near Broome on the northwest coast of Australia. The long and gorgeous tropical shore gets a diverse set of washed up shells each day.

Kim’s dream find is a Paper Nautilus Shell, which appear very rarely in the South West of Australia, or a whole Sputnik Sea Urchin test, of which Kim usually only finds pieces and shards. Kim says that recently she’s been fascinated by the miniature ocean treasures she comes across, including tiny sand dollars which barely reach 6mm (.25 in) in diameter.

Kim goes to the beach alone so she can focus on the sea treasures, saying “For me, beachcombing is when I get lost in the moment—I love to lose track of time. I also find it quite meditative.”

After studying jewelry design and silver smithing, Kim started creating and selling her own jewelry in 2007 under the name Quiff Designs. Five years later, she felt she needed a change, and decided to pursue her dream of getting a psychology degree. After finishing her Bachelor’s, Kim became a social worker settling refugees in Perth. Still making jewelry for fun during that time, she started making it professionally again last year, which led to her creation of Rumma Designs.

jewelry made from wood and australian seashells

Though she’s been making jewelry her whole life, Kim only started making beach-related pieces in 2014. Her first piece was a ring containing sea glass found on the beach on Norfolk Island. A year later, she made a pendant using seaweed. Besides these two things, she didn’t really incorporate beach finds until she started Rumma Designs.

The creation of Rumma dates back to when Kim found a couple of tiny sea urchin tests. She made them into a pair of earrings, and loved how they turned out, posting a photo of them on social media. They gained a ton of interest and Kim knew instantly she could make more—and that she could make this into something bigger.

shell and coral jewelry

Kim has an Etsy shop and her Rumma jewelry is stocked in galleries and shops all across Australia. She also still works part-time coordinating an orientation program for refugees. Kim designs earrings, pendants, and bangles out of American black walnut, acrylic, sterling silver, and ocean treasures. The ocean treasures she includes come mostly from Western Australian beaches.

On her process, Kim says, “I spend a lot of time choosing what ocean treasures to include in each piece—I consider the colors, shapes, and textures. Every jewelry piece I make is unique. Once I am happy with the ocean treasure arrangements, I rivet the pieces together using sterling silver wire.” Kim’s husband, Adam, is a designer, and transforms Kim’s sketches into CAD drawings for cutting of the acrylic and wooden pieces.

australian jeweler who uses seashells and coralKim’s main inspiration is nature—she finds the natural pieces of art made by the ocean, plants, and animals incredible. She tries to be environmentally conscious in her business, including using FSC-certified wood, ensuring no shells she collects have living residents, and returning extra shells back to the beach.

periwinkle shells

On her nearby beaches like Fremantle and others, Kim says you can find sea pottery, sea glass, and a wonderful variety of shells, including scallop shells, pheasant shells, sand dollars, olive shells, starfish, dove shells, moon snail shells, cymatium shells, and southern spindle shells. Kim says to be ready to see a whole lot of tiny shells!

australian beachcomber

Kim says Eighty Mile Beach in the northwest and Moses Rocks in the southwest are her two favorite places in Australia to search. If you’re visiting, Kim says to check out Fremantle Markets, Rottnest Island, the Fremantle Prison tour, and to get food and a drink at the area’s iconic brewery, Little Creatures.

mutiny on the bountyWhen Kim started her company, she needed a name, and her choice has a fascinating and personal story behind it. It starts, as many beachcombing stories do, hundreds of years ago on faraway beaches.

Rumma means “to collect periwinkles” in Norfuk, the creole language spoken on Norfolk Island, east of Australia. This mixture of Old English and Tahitian was originally introduced to the island in the mid-19th century by a group of 200 immigrants from a different island, Pitcairn. These immigrants had an incredible story of their own, going even further back.

In 1787, HMS Bounty (yes, that Bounty) set sail on a course from Tahiti to the West Indies, carrying breadfruit. Two years into its journey, Fletcher Christian led the infamous mutiny of the Bounty. He, his fellow mutineers, and several Tahitian men and women wound up on the completely uninhabited Pitcairn Island. They lived there for many years, and their descendants were the ones who migrated 
to Norfolk Island in 1856.

Kim herself is a direct descendant of legendary mutineer Fletcher Christian, and says she was fortunate enough to spend most of her childhood on Norfolk Island.

pitcairn

Norfolk is a beautiful and unique place. A sub-tropical island in the South Pacific, it’s situated between New Caledonia and New Zealand. The island is home to Norfolk Pines, and there are fascinating remains of convict settlements from back when the island was a penal colony.

In addition to its lovely beaches, Norfolk also is a place for amazing snorkeling and gorgeous reefs. Kim recalls exploring the beach at Emily Bay when she was young, seeing wanas (sea urchins) and hihis (periwinkles), along with pottery and glass washed up from the convict era.

australian sea shells

This article appeared in the Beachcombing Magazine July/August 2021 issue.

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published