Lisa Orlans is a beachcomber and artist from Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. Lisa says beachcombing has always been a favorite activity of hers, ever since her early childhood in Jupiter, Florida. When she was little, she’d collect anything interesting that she came across while walking the coast. Now, many years later, her family enjoys finding treasures in nature just as much as she does, whether it’s sea glass on the beach or shark teeth hidden in the Peace River.
A passionate antique dealer as well as a lover of nature, Lisa has a massive collection of everything from sea glass and shells to paperweights and miniature Italian art glass vases. Lisa admits she’s got quite a cluttered life, with beachcombing collections everywhere. She jokes, “I guess I do not subscribe to the Marie Kondo lifestyle. Or maybe it’s just that a lot of things ‘spark joy’ for me!”
Some may find Lisa’s dream beachcombing find to be somewhat unconventional: a Spanish gold or silver coin. Lisa explains that the Jupiter Inlet is and has historically been notoriously difficult to navigate. Because of this, there have been many shipwrecks just off the coast from as far back as the 1600s. Lisa says, “After a hurricane or large swell, finding a washed up Spanish coin would be just incredible.”
Lisa has also turned her love for collecting and nature into an artistic passion. Lisa explains that she and her kids used to love to search for painted rocks at local parks and would paint their own rocks and hide them for lucky strangers to find. In fact, they had so much fun doing it, Lisa says she got carried away and found herself in a house full of art supplies.
Lisa has also turned her love for collecting and nature into an artistic passion. Lisa explains that she and her kids used to love to search for painted rocks at local parks and would paint their own rocks and hide them for lucky strangers to find. In 2017, the Kindness Rocks project really took off and they all enjoyed painting and hiding rocks. In fact, they had so much fun doing it, Lisa says she got carried away and found herself in a house full of art supplies.
Painting rocks attracted Lisa because of how uniquely low-pressure the artistic process is. “For me, it is so much less serious and intimidating than staring at a blank canvas. It allows you to get creative, be whimsical, and just have fun with it.”
It wasn’t until more recently that Lisa’s art became intertwined with beachcombing. “When the pandemic started, I would run in the woods or wetlands instead of hitting the gym,” she says. While there, she started collecting empty apple snail shells along the banks of the rivers and lakes. And, with the snail shells piling up, it did not take long before Lisa started painting on them.
For some time, Lisa just gave away whatever she made. “Eventually, because so many people were interested, and because I was spending so much on supplies, making my hobby a business became a necessity,” Lisa explains. She now has an Etsy shop where she sells her pieces. Lisa is constantly amazed at how much easier it is for artists to connect with buyers than it used to be. “Social media can be a virtual art show and provide artists a wonderful way to connect with art lovers.” The ability to sell online has given her and her husband the flexibility to travel to antique shows for their antique business.
Living close to the beach has instilled in Lisa a deep love and connection with the ocean and all things nautical. She hopes that this love and her love for antiques is reflected in the pieces of art that she creates. “I would love it if someday people were to look at my painted shells and find something timeless in them.”
When she’s not making art or working, Lisa loves to get outside, run, bike, travel, and most importantly, spend time with her family. “Kids grow up fast, so my husband and I try to spend as much time with them as possible.”
Lisa’s process starts with collecting the empty shells, boiling them clean, and scrubbing them with soap. Painting them takes about six hours, after which she seals them with resin for glossiness and strength. Finally she adds pearls, studs, or rhinestones. When people ask what goes into her artistic process, Lisa responds, “A lot of time and a lot of love.”
“Nature always inspires my creations. The graceful lines and colors that can be found in a sunset, a shell, a butterfly wing, or the leaf of a fern… those are the things that amaze me most,” Lisa says. “In the relative isolation of the past year, I have come to realize just how much getting out in nature grounds me and keeps me sane.”
“Jupiter, Florida, is an amazing place to beachcomb,” says Lisa. “The area has undergone a massive beach restoration project recently, so the shells are amazing.” Lucky and thorough beachcombers may even find a shark tooth.
If you’re in the area, you’ll probably go to sightsee on Palm Beach, but Lisa says there’s a lot more to do. She recommends climbing the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse for an amazing view and a wonderful sense of history—the light’s been shining since 1860. “Visit Jonathan Dickinson State Park and take a canoe trip up the Loxahatchee River to visit Trapper Nelson’s,” she adds. She also recommends visits to The Loggerhead Marinelife Center, Busch Wildl
“For great food, tropical vibes, and live music, go to Guanabanas restaurant,” Lisa says. Lisa also likes Little Moir’s Food Shack and Captain Charlie’s Reef Grill for excellent seafood. If you want a great view and a couple drinks, head to The Square Grouper Tiki Bar.
This article appeared in the Beachcombing Magazine July/August 2021 issue.
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