When she’s not working as a full-time attorney for Brown University, you can find Jen Welch at Barrington Town Beach. With the intensity of a treasure hunter, Welch combs the sand and water for perfect shells to bring back to her makeshift garden studio, appropriately nicknamed The Shell Shed, and transforms them with gold paint and decoupage.
“I think I create art to justify my shell-hoarding tendencies,” Welch admits with a laugh. The hobby grew out of quarantine, when beach walks and finding a creative outlet became all the more necessary. At the time, she was living in Providence when her friend gifted her a shell and some art materials, which she used to create a little ring dish. “Soon, they were all over the house,” Welch remembers of her growing shell collection, “and I had to either start selling them or stop making them. The choice was easy.”
The process begins with the shell itself, typically quahogs, oysters, or, most recently, Atlantic surf clams. Sometimes, while beautiful, their use might not be immediately evident; for example, Welch says, in the months before the holidays she was taking home ones that were far too small to sell as dishes, but that were light enough to hang on tree branches as ornaments with drilled holes and string. Many are made into colorful patterned dishes for holding little trinkets and jewelry, and each one is made to order, so Welch can match the shell to the design.
Now living in Barrington, where her new home’s fully equipped backyard shed makes for the perfect studio, Welch’s pastime has turned into a successful side hustle on Etsy. “To think about the shells I make spreading joy is both crazy and amazing,” Welch says, slyly adding, “and ‘needing’ to walk down to the beach to find shells is also pretty incredible, too.” Find The Shell Shed on Instagram
(@theshellshed) and Etsy (TheShellShedShop).