she sells seashells


Blott Kerr-Wilson is a seashell artist living in Norfolk. she specialises in one-off art works and large-scale commissions like shell grottoes. her clients include Retrouvius, Chesneys and Belcombe Estate...

how did you first get interested in shell art?

as a child I was dragged around stately homes and gardens. I would get so bored until I came across the shell houses and grottoes. I knew one day I would have one of my own. when I moved to my council house in Peckham I turned my bathroom into a shell grotto. one day, The World of Interiors magazine ran a competition to design a room. I entered my bathroom and won. 

what do shells mean to you?

shells to me are the medium that I express myself with and lose myself in. my pieces are thought patterns. when I finish a piece of work I know that my story, over the course of those days, is in that piece. my collection of shells is really a collection of wonderful memories. I am very particular about the shells I use. I use hundreds of shells and each shell is picked for the place, size and colour. sometimes it can take ten shells to get the right one. 

what are you favourite shells?

I collect very few for my personal collection and they change over the years. my favourites are wentletraps (which I hardly ever use) and the edible mussel. when I started, the standard of a shell was so much better than it is today. nearly all the main shells I use come from the food industry but the shells that are washed-up on beaches are normally a much better quality. 

what has been your favourite project to date?

each project is so unique and I invest so much into that by the end of the project it becomes my favourite.  there are so many moments during a job when I think it is not going to work and I should take it down but someone once told me that there is always an ugly phase of a job and you have to work through it. it was a real honour to work with Retrouvius. I really respect and admire [Maria Speake, Adam Hills and the team's] eye when it comes to materials and objects. plus all the staff are so stylish.  

(Blott's bathroom for Retrouvius)

why do you think there has been such a revival of shells in interiors and fashion?

when I first started it was almost a sin to work in shells. kitsch was the most common word I heard when I tried to describe my work. luckily, there are many new shell artists who have have helped change peoples' association of shells with dusty and dank places. I think the Kardashians may have also helped because rumour has it they wanted to get married at Valentino's shell house in Wideville, Paris.

(the shell grotto at Valentino's estate in Wideville, Paris)