Kintsugi Style: Repairing Seashells with Sea Glass
By Ginger Bowman
You know that feeling of being the first person on the beach early in the morning, before the sun crests the mountains—maybe even before there’s a hint of the sun’s welcoming placid glow. The world still sleeps, but you set out with purpose, in search of sea treasure.
On one such morning, I walked along the shoreline and saw a white clam shell, happy to find that it was very large. I had the satisfaction of finding the treasure before someone else. I did notice, however, that the shell was broken. I kept it thinking it would look nice in a bowl of my shells.
When I got home, I placed it next to some sea glass. That’s when it came to me. Why not put the two things together and repair the shell with sea glass?
I placed painter's tape on the back of the shell so the sticky side was on the part that needed to be filled. I then added the sea glass pieces in place, like a puzzle. The tape held it in place as I used E6000 glue to attach the pieces. After the glue was set, I removed the tape and…it worked! I’d never seen this done before, and it looked amazing when I set it in front of lights.
After posting my finished shell to a local Facebook group, I learned from a few people that it reminded them of kintsugi, the ancient Japanese art of repairing broken pottery using a liquid gold mixture. I quickly wanted to make more and went through some broken shells I had. I came across some moon shells and some abalone. The moon shell was a little tricky, as I had to recreate the curves. By adding lights, these make great night lights.
I have not sold my shells, as I get more satisfaction when I give them away. The ocean gives me these gifts, and I am only too happy to re-gift them.
And yes, I keep some, of course!
Seashells repaired by sea glass—a match made in the sea and reunited on land as art, kintsugi style.
This article appeared in the Beachcombing Magazine March/April 2021 issue.
Learn more about seashells
Learn more about identifying shells, the history of seashell collecting, great shelling beaches, and the lives of the animals who make the shells we find on the beach. Articles ›
No live shelling: Be sure shells are empty and sand dollars, sea stars, and sea urchins are no longer alive before you bring them home.