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Artist Creates Charming Animal Sculptures From Found Seashells at the Beach

Shell Art Animal Portraits by Anna Chan

Collecting shells and pebbles on the beach is a popular pastime for many, but for New York-based artist Anna Chan, it’s become “a bit of an obsession.” Chan is a jewelry designer, but just like many others, her work slowed down during the COVID-19 lockdown. She and her 10-year-old daughter spent their days at the beach, where they began collecting seashells and making animal-inspired sculptures from them.

“Having worked on a small scale most of my life, being able to use my entire hands to sculpt large pieces was truly liberating, especially during such trying times,” Chan tells My Modern Met. “I saw great potential with this new medium and was determined to keep refining my work, so I moved some sand and seashells to my garage and that is where I work today.”

The first sand and shell sculpture Chan created was a turtle, and now her portfolio boasts an entire array of land and sea animals. For one piece, she crafted a bird from scallops, mussels, clams, and horseshoe crab tails. In another, a lion’s mane is sculpted from large, broken seashells. Chan carefully chooses shells that match the real life characteristics of the animal she's creating. “The seashells are like little jewels to me, each one a mosaic piece finding its place in the big picture,” she reveals “I’m inspired by their colors, texture and shapes and even the broken pieces, I find beauty in it.”

What started as something to do during lockdown has now become a main focus of Chan’s artistic practice. “My sculptures are inspired by the materials I use. I have worked with clay, wax, metal, fabric etc. in the past but none of them are as intuitive as sand,” says the artist. “It is the material I feel the most connection to and my hands just know what to do when I’m creating with it.”

Check out Chan’s shell art below and find more of her animal portraits on Instagram.

New York-based artist Anna Chan sculpts elaborate animal portraits from found seashells.

Shell Art Animal Portraits by Anna ChanShell Art Animal Portraits by Anna Chan

She first began making them with her daughter during lockdown last year…

Shell Art Animal Portraits by Anna ChanShell Art Animal Portraits by Anna ChanShell Art Animal Portraits by Anna Chan

…but now the creative pastime has become “a bit of an obsession.”

Shell Art Animal Portraits by Anna Chan

Chan carefully chooses shells that match the real life colors and textures of the animal she's creating.

Shell Art Animal Portraits by Anna ChanShell Art Animal Portraits by Anna ChanShell Art Animal Portraits by Anna ChanShell Art Animal Portraits by Anna ChanShell Art Animal Portraits by Anna ChanShell Art Animal Portraits by Anna ChanShell Art Animal Portraits by Anna ChanShell Art Animal Portraits by Anna ChanShell Art Animal Portraits by Anna ChanShell Art Animal Portraits by Anna ChanAnna Chan: Website | Instagram

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Anna Chan.

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Detailed Animal Portraits Meticulously Painted onto Delicate Feathers

Emma Taggart

Emma Taggart is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met. Originally from Northern Ireland, she is an artist now based in Berlin. After graduating with a BA in Fashion and Textile Design in 2013, Emma decided to combine her love of art with her passion for writing. Emma has contributed to various art and culture publications, with an aim to promote and share the work of inspiring modern creatives. While she writes every day, she’s also devoted to her own creative outlet—Emma hand-draws illustrations and is currently learning 2D animation.
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