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  • Ruth

Shell collection symbolism: secrets hidden within illustrations

Why I chose beach treasures for my tissue paper illustrations and what they mean to me.

I’ve been enjoying wrapping up your orders with my new illustrated tissue paper and wanted to share with you the deeper meanings I have hidden within the oceanic illustrations.

The coral, oyster and scallop shells belong to my collection of beach treasures, and they all symbolise a stage in my business journey.

Coral: the past / legacy

The fragment of coral comes from my grandmother. When she passed, I helped clean out her art room, and in that sunlit, dusty space, amongst pencils, sketches and clutter was a small fragment of white coral. I don’t know the story behind this piece, but it was important enough for her to hang onto, and I now look after it in her memory.

The coral pays homage to the knowledge and wisdom of what precedes me. It also reminds me of the gifts my ancestors have given me and the importance of continuing that legacy the best way I know how.

Oyster shell: the present / change

I collected the oyster shell near my new home. This part of the foreshore is tricky to get to and is a lunch spot for birds, who discard thousands of oyster shells here. Despite bordering on suburbia, not many people come down to this spot, and it is a place of contemplation I’ve only shared with the birds.

Recently, I have experienced many changes, and I hope to implement positive changes in my business. I wanted to draw this particular shell to mark this place of change I find myself in, and amongst that chance, where my business is right now.

Scallop shell: the future / path

To be honest, I fell in love with the scallop shell for its aesthetic, but it didn’t bear any special meaning to me. Upon researching the symbology behind scallop shells, I felt like I had stumbled upon a secret, and it became very important for me to use it in my illustration.

The scallop shell symbology has Mediaeval roots and is the emblem of St James. It relates to the two layers of the human condition: the physical and spiritual, and the journeys of life on these multiple levels. The grooved lines on the scallop shell represent the different paths pilgrims travel, with all trails leading to one point.

When pilgrims carry the scallop shell, it reminds them why they are walking and that each person has an individual path to discover. It is a reminder that we are all more similar than we are different, with our roads leading back to each other.

When I look towards the future of my business, I love the thought of approaching it like a pilgrim. Each day, I put one foot in front of the other, having faith that this path will lead me toward a higher destination and back to myself.

The past (legacy), present (change) and future (path) all play a part in my business journey, and it feels good wrapping every single online order up in a design that encompasses the things I find hard to put into a few words.


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