I never really thought much of slipper shells before. They seemed too common, piled by the hundreds all over the shores of Nantucket Sound. They’re not particularly beautiful on the outside, actually rather dull on first glance. Their shape is kind of interesting, but I always left them alone in pursuit of the perfectly worn oval beach pebbles, a piece of sea glass, or the occasional oyster or scallop shell.
I rarely picked up the jingle shells either, though they make a pleasant tinkling sound when you clink them together. Some of them look like crusty old toenails, while others are shiny and luminescent shades of apricots, pearls, and daffodils. After examining the jingle shells more closely, I am positive they must come from enchanted sea monster toes. And the slipper shells are a beautiful shiny pink on the inside. I’m in the early stages of planning a Fairy Tale Gate for an upcoming environmental sculpture exhibit and have decided that the two kinds of shells combined will make delightful lady slippers – native orchids that scatter themselves all over the Cape Cod woodlands in May.
Each detail of the gate is inspired by one of my favorite children’s stories. These seashell orchids will represent the Native American legend told by different tribes to explain the existence of lady slippers, or moccasin flowers. Though different versions of the tale exist, I particularly like the one written by author Kathy-Jo Wargin. Partly because she writes so many stories about my home state of Michigan, but also because of the lovely illustrations and phrases in the book like “She was so swift and light-footed that starlight seemed to fall at her heels.”
The fairy tail gate is still in the early stages, though I’ll be posting more pictures and stories as I go. When it is finished, it will be on display in the gardens of Highfield Hall during their Portals & Passageways exhibit during the summer of 2014.