The World is Your Oyster

Discover This Local Pearl



We sat around the boardroom table in our monthly creative meeting brainstorming how we could be creative for our “Be Creative” issue. We didn’t have to look any farther than Main Street, Hilton Head, to find a community of artists and an abundance of creative opportunities just waiting. We decided to take a Pink Team field trip to participate in an Oyster Shell Crafting class at Art & Soul.

It was there we met oyster shell aficionado, Pamela Steele, whose ties to the island and oysters go way back. Her uncle, John Taggert, earned the nickname “Captain Oyster,” back in the 70s when he won a shucking contest against a bunch of Lowcountry young guns. 

After the annual oyster roast, her uncle used to save the shells, teaching her how to turn them into lamps and doorhangers. She took to the idea and began making all sorts of things—oyster angels, Christmas trees, votive candle holders, picture frames, crosses, wreaths and anything else you can dream up. 

You may have even seen Pamela down at Mitchellville Beach collecting oyster shells. She makes sure to use what God and nature provide, never taking any living thing, only abandoned shells. She soaks them in bleach water overnight and sorts them according to color and shape. 

You will find her unique creations for sale at Art & Soul, or you can make your own, which is what we decided to do. Normally an oyster wreath might take a newbie around six hours to complete, which is two classes. Our mission: Complete oyster wreaths in less than three hours. Pamela helped us out a bit, getting our wreaths started before we ever arrived. In a unique twist, Pamela hid a small heart shaped shell in each of our pieces, something she often does. To her they are reminder of how God’s love for us is expressed through the beauty of creation. 

She handed each of us a kit filled with items we would need, including band-aids—just in case. (We had bets that Elizabeth Millen, our publisher, would be the only one who would need one.) I started out content to take pictures as she gave a short tutorial. First choosing the perfect oyster shell and then using a knife to dig a small hole in the foam ring. She showed us how to fill the hole with hot glue and then insert the end of the oyster shell at a slight angle, holding it until it began to cool. After a while, I decided to take a shot at it myself. I don’t think I uttered a word for the next two hours as I jumped into the project wholeheartedly. It was the most relaxing afternoon. I never spent so much time looking at oyster shells, noticing the variety of colors, shapes and textures. 


Lost in my own world of wreath making, occasionally I had to look up to make sure I wasn’t the only one in the room. In addition to the Pink Team, there were two other students in the class, a grandmother/ granddaughter duo, who came with their own creative ideas. Ms. Camilla brought in a wooden tray, which she wanted to decorate by assembling and gluing oyster shells in the shape of a crab. Her granddaughter, Alyssa, began by making a Father’s Day frame embellished with shells. As soon as she was done, Pamela, like every good teacher, had a number of fun projects for Alyssa to choose from. 

It was fun to see how we each tackled our projects differently. While I was deep in my creative zone, it felt like time and space to get lost in my own thoughts without interruption. Elizabeth was busy getting to know Ms. Camilla, asking her a million questions and brainstorming future story ideas. I’m fairly certain our intern Natalie was counting out oyster shells and visually measuring to make sure that they met precisely in the middle. Our Art Director, Lindsay, who is equally left and right brained dug through buckets of oyster shells to find the perfect curve and color to fill each space of her masterpiece. 

When we were finished, we took the wreaths outside and sprayed them with the top-secret/you gotta take the class to find out what it is/special glaze, which brought out the colors in each of the oyster shells and left the wreath looking polished and ready to hang on the door of any Coastal Living home. 

I love that the class structure allowed each of us to be ourselves and enjoy the process in our own way, and in end, we all left with an amazing product we couldn’t wait to show off. It was a great day, a reminder of the blessings of living in the Lowcountry and working with a great team of women. 

You can join Pamela for Oyster Shell Crafting classes at Art & Soul, located in Main Street Village, HHI, on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1-3 p.m. Sign up for a fun girls' night on July 13th or July 25th from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. for a special Wreath Making and Wine Sipping class. The evening is BYOWine and includes soup, salad, light appetizers and lots of fun! Reserve your spot today by calling 843-802-0015.

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