What the Shell? Paula’s Newest Hobby!

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What the Shell? Paula’s Newest Hobby!

By Paula Deen

As if I need something else to do.  I already have so much on my plate between the show, the magazine, my books, this here website and a little thing called “family”—that I’m not looking to squeeze in one more thing.  But sometimes something comes along and hits you right upside the head, and you think, “I might could do that.”


It started with a bivalve.  Thousands of ‘em, actually.  I got wind about this artist, Cathy Jarman, who works with shells, creating these wonderful, decorative designs on walls, mantles, chandeliers and even busts.  Oprah’s magazine had done a piece on Cathy a few years back and that’s when I discovered that the artist was born and raised in Savannah and still lives here today, I just had to have her design a piece for my home.


Considering how much of my life is spent on the water here in Savannah, the fit was just too perfect.  I commissioned Cathy to make two gaslight torches for my patio.  But that wasn’t the end of it.  In fact, it was just the beginning.  As I watched her work, I was so fascinated by how she carefully placed all those little shells, colorful pieces of seaglass and tiny starfish just so, transforming something so average looking into a real work of art.  I got a little obsessed as I sometimes do.  We featured some of Cathy’s stunning shell art in my book, Paula Deen’s Savannah Style, and all the while I kept looking for more and more pieces to include in my home.  But the time and skill that goes into creatin’ these beauties comes at a high price, and I couldn’t help but feel a little discouraged knowing that I couldn’t put a piece in every room.  So I up and decided, “Hey, I can do that, too!”  Course, I knew I couldn’t—not without some help anyway.  So I went straight to the source: I called up Cathy and asked if she would teach me.  She was kind enough to agree and I haven’t stopped shelling since.


Some of my pieces that I’m most proud of include busts that I’ve shelled for my assistant, Brandon, my hair stylist, Jamie, and my makeup artist, Courtney.  I’ve also shelled a mirror for my niece, Corrie, and another one to go above my fireplace at home.  I’ve done picture frames, the handles on serving utensils—you name it, I’ve shelled it, y’all!


Since learning this art, I’ve even made a shelling station in my home where I can work when I find the time.  It’s really relaxing for me to be able to sit down, shell for a bit, and then put everything down and continue about my day.  It’s kind of like piecing together a puzzle, but I’m the one doing the creatin’ and the finished product is so much more beautiful.  There’s a little bit of mystery involved, too.  I never really know what a piece is going to look like until it’s finished.  I leave it up to the shells—they tell their own story as I glue each one down. Creation is a special gift, especially when you share it with someone else.  When I give someone something I’ve shelled, they are touched by the gesture and surprised that I did it myself.  Both these things make shelling a real work of art.

Want to try your hand at shelling?  I typically order my shells online, and get a lot of her pre-shelled artwork (busts, frames etc.) from junkin’, or going to antique stores and flea markets.  To adhere the shells, I use liquid nails, silicone glue and hot glue, depending on the size of the shell.

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Reader Comments:


I love sea shell's. I have got to go to the ocean twice but had to buy my shell's. Love to see more about your design's.

By Barbara Ballis on January 15, 2014


Another great reason I love Paula Dean! Beautiful work.

By Crafty Shells on January 08, 2013


I have been to Lady & Sons twice and also to Uncle Bubba's place but have not been able to meet you. I watch your cooking show each week-end I truly like when you and Jamie and his family are on the show. I use your recipes each time I get a change.I will retire in about 6 months and I am plaining another trip, sure hope to see you then. I enjoy cooking and I have been a lunchroom manger for 33 years at our school in Cameron Parish. After Hurrican RITA we went down to 4 school, pre rita we had 6 schools in the parish I am now at the central office I will miss the kids at the school but not the paper work there is so much red tape today and you can't fix what the kids want or like anymore. Looking forward to meeting you some day. have a blessed day, and May GOD bless you and your family. always Shirley

By Shirley Bonsall on October 31, 2012


I agree with Kandi below! These are simply beautiful! You are an amazing woman! But aren't we all!!! Keep inspiring us!! We luv ya Paula!!

By Jean on August 07, 2012


Hi Paula,, was wondering if you could help me I am type 2 diebetic and need some help with food.. can you tell me how you managed to lose so weight..I have been trying to manage to control it..Paula I was wondering if you have a new cookbook out to help people with type2 diabetes to cook better ?? Hope you and your family are well..hugs..Terry

By Terry Fauble on August 06, 2012


Love this! Paula, I don't know how you do all that you do, but You Da Woman!! : ) Savannah is my favorite city of all time. My hubby was stationed at Hunter-Stewart in 1969 for 6 whole weeks and we lived on Savannah Beach. Absolutely beautiful. My heart has been there ever since. We come to Savannah every chance we get. We live in South Central Il. and the "shell" thingy would seem kinda out of place here, but you have given me inspiration...again! I am going to start doing this w/our dried prairie plants/flowers and the flora from the timber around my home. Thanks for being such an inspiration to me! You are indeed a soul sister of mine. I have your hair color and LOVE to cook for my family and my grand kids tell me "Grandma, you are just like Miss Paula". LOL Cooking w/them is a joy to me and we all love your show. God Bless : )

By Beemergranny50 on August 04, 2012


I right with you on the Shell Art Paula. We travel to Navarre Beach once a year, and my trunk is full of shells. I LOVE making crafts with them, but the most fun part of it is finding them.

By Patti Betz on August 03, 2012


I saw Paula Deen my first time 2006 on TV while in the hospital recovering from major surgery that bought cost me my life....Paula was so full of energy, life as I once was and I enjoyed watching her cook.I then wanted to live not die as I thought that I would...My husband would come to see me after he got off from work and he would turn the TV on to Paula, kiss me good night and then travel back home...I have diabete and I understand Paula does too, I so want to get the weight off and control my A1C blood sugar levels. Do you think it would be possible for me to find out how she did. I think Paula Deen is a beautiful, amazing person. I would love to come to Savanha one day too meet her and her sons. Thank You & God Bless

By Sandra Maddox on August 03, 2012


These are really pretty! I've been admiring things like this for a long time. They are quit a change from the little mirror I made when I was 11 years old! I would love to give it a try again. Thanks for the inspiration! Now, don't forget to keep cooking!!!!

By Hope @ Fairhope Supply Co. on August 02, 2012


Dear Paula I have a problem . Sorry I am trying my best to do a good job in cooking but when I made your banana orange cake i didn't have wheat flour so I substitute it with just flour was this why when the baking time was cooked at 50 min. i had to bake it longer? Cause it was still gooey inside ? Well thanks for your reply . Any who my husband loved it especially when I made the berries and juice to go on it? Oh yes one more thing I did add walnuts to this recipe. it was very yummy . I loved the way you added yogert to this recipe also but I added greek yogert made with 2% milk so I am trying to watch how I cook also cause my husband has been diagnosed with diabetes also. So you do look great by the way. Good job on watching what you eat I have a really hard time with my hubby though he seems to always want candy. Lol so I decided to make healthy sweets for him so he can stay out of the candy . and let me tell you it is very hard to do sometimes. Well sorry for talking your ear off . Thanks so much Brenda

By brenda on August 01, 2012


You my dear are a inspiration to many, Thank You! you give me hope.

By candace c klatt on August 01, 2012


Miss Paula I just LoVe~Love~LoVe thisshell creation! I am a mixed media Artist, and have created a Mermaid bust which I recently sold!! I look forward to exploring this site! Thanks Paula for sharing you are such an inspiration!! Have a beautiful day! http://www.etsy.com/shop/GoodCharmVintage

By Kandi on August 01, 2012


I admire you for taking all the guff about your being diabetic. My diabetes is in remission through diet. You are my hero for giving back right at 'em!

By Natalie Angeles on August 01, 2012


Thank you for sharing your new hobby; it sounds and looks exciting. I am in the middle of moving and organizing but after this, maybe I will give it a try. Have a wonderful day.

By Minerva on August 01, 2012


I have loved watching Paula Deen cook since forever and this is no different. I have a ton of her magazines and follow anything she is on. I recently saw as a guest taster on food network star. People said she was so down to Earth Iand I truly believe that. I am planning a trip with my husband to Savannah for our 10 year anniversary in October just to eat at "Lady and Sons" I adore ya Paula! Keep on doing what you do! My mom is from Tennassee and says us southern girls Need to support each other. Thanks, Katherine

By Katherine Hoover on August 01, 2012


Lovely Paula. A gentile spirit in you And talented/

By Tricia porter on August 01, 2012


I found your article very interesting. There are a lot of people into Crafts with shells. It's very Sweet of you to share how it is done with all of us. I like to work with with Stuffed Teddy Bears. I make a Bride & Groom Bear with lace & little flowers. I decorate bears for Little Girls. Love You & Your Family & The Shows. Thanks for Sharing. Kyran Ross

By Kyran Ross on August 01, 2012


The bust with the shells is just lovely! What a wonderful hobby! I think nature always adds peace and beauty to a home and every shell is a tiny miracle. I took my two 15-year-old girls, that I adopted from China as a single mom, to the beach for the first time at Tybee Island last year. Vacations are not in our budget but I just had to get them to the beach for a couple of days! They had been excited about picking shells off the beach and I was disappointed for them that we could only find little shells. But they were thrilled, and as I looked at them, I realized they were right - even those tiny shells were amazingly detailed and beautiful! We can learn so much from children. We still treasure our jars of little shells from Tybee.

By Jan J. on August 01, 2012


Paula, I love the ideas you have for using shells! I once took a bunch of small clam and scallop shells and painted them to look like Santa Claus. My current new hobby is making jewelry from polymer clay. I've done cookies, butterflies, cupcakes, and more just from the clay. It's a lot of fun! Happy Crafting!!!

By Michelle Lagstrom on August 01, 2012


Paula, Love your restaurant in Cherokee at Harrahs, Love your recipes, Have most of your cookbooks, Admire what you've done with your life, Now you're shelling, I guess I'll have to try it too. Keep up the good work,Girl.....Nancy

By Nancy Colburn on August 01, 2012

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