Sunday, May 10, 2009

Shell Season and Maine Artist Brian White

It's that time of year when I start thinking of the ocean and the beach and reminiscing about past vacations. Texas beaches are easy to get to, relatively speaking, and I have very fond memories of family and friend trips to Port Aransas and South Padre beach. I have collections of shells, like so many of us do,which evoke all kinds of memories and serve to decorate parts of my house in jars and vases and atop stacks of books and on bookshelves.

However, I have a "shell story" like no other. Here it is......................

Ten High Street in Camden Maine

A few years ago my husband and I were vacationing in Maine. We stayed in the charming town of Wiscasset and each morning I would get out the map and my guide books and we would determine which direction we would drive that day .

Typically, it was either north or south - one way or the other, up and down the coast. One day we headed north up the coastline and found ourselves in Camden, Maine. We pulled in to the most charming looking gallery - a lovely complex of old buildings, all freshly painted and the grounds landscaped perfectly. We had stumbled upon "Ten High Street" .

Now, Mike is a great sport, and he likes galleries and antique shops to a point..........but eventually he opens up the sun roof of the car, reclines his seat and pulls out whatever book he is reading and tells me "You go ahead - have a great time"!

If someplace is really special, I will come back to the car and get him to share it with him.

This particular day, I think I began to hyperventilate the minute I stepped in to Ten High Street. The gallery was full of the most fabulous mix of new and vintage folk art, country antiques and great contemporary art that I had ever seen! Being one who likes a lot of different things, I was crazy about the beautiful way the owners had combined this collection.

However, the thing that literally took my breath away was an exhibition by an artist named Brian White. He had created both small framed collages of shells, as well as shoes and dresses and shirts of shells! Brian uses a few other materials, often to actually hold a piece together, but his main material is shells. I cannot even begin to describe exactly how they look - you must see the photographs.

Brian White with two of his works of art (Photo from Ten High Street)

Photo from

After running back to the car to get Mike, I tried to compose myself and walk casually back into the gallery. I was having fits over a lot of the things there ( I still remember the most fabulous pie safe with original old crusty green paint).
He agreed........this place was like no other!

"Lobsterman's" shirt of shells

We met the very charming Sarah Ames, married to John, owners of the gallery. She told us of John's "discovery" of Brian White. The gist of the story was about John visiting Brian to buy some antiques from him and the two having a conversation about art. Brian casually mentioned that he "makes stuff" and then proceeded to show John his works of art. The rest, as they say, is history.

Sarah explained that they had just had an opening for the exhibit and that most of the pieces were sold. There were a few pieces still available, and if ever there was anything in this world I wish I had bought, it would have been a shell sculpture of Brian White's.

Exquisite shell wedding dress, shoes and veil made of shells
Photo from Yankee Magazine

Brian is a local artist who lives in Union, Maine. His work was acquired by the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland, Maine shortly after the show at Ten High Street. The ensemble shown above was to be shown at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts in 2008.

Another absolutely stunning dress made of shells
Photo from Ten High Street

Dress in the permanent collection of the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland, Maine

Brian is currently part of an exhibit at the Farnsworth called Four in Maine , running from March 7 through May 24. If you are even close to the area you should really try to see this exhibit - I would give anything to get there!

I have seen a lot of shell art over the years, some fine and some not so fine, but I am not sure I have ever seen any sculpture that captured my heart so, and was so exquisitely crafted as the work of Brian White's. Seeing this show was the highlight of our trip to Maine that year and I can only hope that I get to see some of his unique work again some day.


  1. Wow those are amazing! One can always count on your blog to find something new and different! Thanks for sharing

  2. What amazing work and such great story of you finding Brian White and this place. Isn't just getting in the car during a trip like that and seeing what you find so much fun?!

  3. These shell dresses -- and shirt -- leave me in awe. Incredible! I am a shell person (no surprise there, eh?!) I have never=ever seen anything like these. I have a shell man. Well, I think he represents Neptune, actually. I'll have to post him sometime. He's not in the same league as these but still very wonderful. I got him a silent auction. Thanks for reminding me about getting older (smile). When I come in, hand clutching my back, my husband is also quick to remind me. I'm hiring movers; I will do the light sutff. ha. BTW: My friends are near you in Boerne. They're the ones I was going to see this past spring but it canceled. We had bought a dinner there at an auction...Maybe this fall.

  4. Those are stunning...I cannot imagine wearing one though!
    What a trooper your hubby is...kudos to him!

  5. wow! I LOVE that last one the best i think! I would love to see these in person. I have the prettiest shell pin - it looks like a pink rose. I should you get you one the next time I'm in 2620 where they sell it. funny - we talked about shells on Mother's day. we were born sisters I think!

  6. WOW Ann, I always love reading your blog BUT this one on the Shells is extra special! You brought the artist and the gorgeous pieces right into my home! Thanks for telling a cool story - would love to visit his exhibit.
    Love, Alice

  7. how incredibly stunning! Thank you for visiting my little blog:)

  8. Growing up on the coast, seashell art has always intrigued me-- GREAT post!
    Sorry, I missed you at HEB (the FBG "social scene" is SO exciting!)-- I am the most oblivious person when it comes seeing people in public. I am usually in my own little world, typically talking to myself, to trying to get in & out of HEB without causing too much trouble.

  9. Ann, this artist is AMAZING! Such incredible works of art. I don't think we can make it before the 24th, but I wish we could! Love this post!

  10. really loved this article! Midcoast Maine is a pretty interesting place there's no telling what you'll find, ill make sure to tell my father you liked his art. :)



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