Four Generations of Shell Crafters
Making Waves is our salute to the residents, businesses and organizations of Southwest Florida’s island coast who make the community special
Since 1980, shell crafter Daphne Hunte has traveled from her home in Barbados to Sanibel to either enter her artwork or judge others’ creations at the annual Sanibel Shell Show, held at The Community House. However, this past March, her family set a milestone when a valentine made by her 8-year-old great granddaughter Marlie won second place in the children’s division, officially marking the success of four generations of shell crafters.
Hunte, who has a studio in Barbados, taught her daughters, granddaughters and great granddaughters shell art. “They are all artistic and creative and do many beautiful pieces of art,” she says of her eight students.
Hunte first became interested in shells as a young girl swimming and shelling at a beach near the Barbados sugar farm where she grew up. As a student, she began making shell earrings and necklaces for friends. After marriage and the births of her thr ee daughters, Hunte decided to enter competitions in Barbados and in 1980 she submitted her shell art in the Sanibel show, which is considered the largest exhibition of its kind in the Unit ed States. Her first entry, a stunning floral arrangement of seashells, won first place in its category at the
juried event, which celebrated its 81st anniversary this year.
She continued competing until 1991 when she was invited to judge the show; she judged it again in 1993 before turning her full attention to establishing her Barbados studio, with the help of her daughters and granddaughters.
“I have a vast collection of shells,” Hunte says, admitting that she doesn’t have one particular favorite shell. “My shell art is always inspired by the beauty and colors of the shells.” She also has a large collection of sailors’ valentines. “I have created many valentines, one for each of my daughters and granddaughters,” she says of the art form developed in the early 19th century by women in the Caribbean, particularly Barbados, from shells their beloved sailors brought home.
In 2003, Hunte once again became involved in the Sanibel show and judged it in 2004 and 2006. She encouraged her granddaughter Jessie to enter in 2008; her three antique watchcases with shell art won first place.
“I love coming to Sanibel to the shell show as it is so well organized and has so many absolutely beautiful shells and shell art,” says Hunte of the event. And her great granddaughter Marlie seems to be following in Hunte’s footsteps. “I was happy to enter the show and very excited to win second place. I plan to enter again next year,” the budding artist says.
The annual Sanibel Shell Show, held at The Community House on Sanibel Island in March, is a juried competition that attracts crafters and artists alike.
Top: Daphne Hunte with her great granddaughter Marlie, who won a second place award at the Sanibel Shell Show this past March. Bottom: Hunte with Marlie’s winning piece; Hunte’s creations include shell table tops, bouquets, and the seashell floral...