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The Shell Ladies

Years ago I purchased a beautiful shell ornament in the shape of an Edwardian lady from a now defunct souvenir shop on the sea front in Margate. She has billowing petticoats, a tight bodice and sweet bonnet tied under her chin. Every part of her is made from shells. When I walk from my studio on Margate High Street to the sea front stores, I see they still sell the shell ladies, though now they are imported from China and Korea.

There is something about these seaside ladies that epitomises Margate - they have that 'Kiss me Quick' kitsch of this quintessentially English seaside resort, yet they are beautifully crafted with an air of the fine ladies and gentlemen who once inhabited the grand historical buildings that are central to the town. In addition to this they remind me of Margate's beautiful Shell Grotto.

When I was commissioned to make artworks for Margate sea front I decided to make twelve life-size shell ladies from real scallop shells collected from local fishermen during the scallop season. The charming ladies are a remarkable sight as they appear in surprising locations all over Margate at regular intervals over the summer months. Each shell lady has been named after a famous lady of Margate - from Baroness Orczy who wrote 'The Scarlet Pimpernel' to Phyllis Broughton, the famous gaity girl.

Read more about Mrs Booth and the making of Mrs Booth.

Ann Hill, Margate Sands

Shell Ladies, Margate Sands

Marie Corelli

Baroness Orczy

Ann Hill

On the Prom

Image courtesy of Guardian Newspapers PLC

Image courtesy of Guardian Newspapers PLC