Seashell Welcome Sign Tutorial

Do you have a bunch of seashells sitting around from that last trip to the shore?  Make a beautiful Welcome Sign using your seashell collection, foam board and a bit of paper mache!  Want to know how?

seashell welcome sign tutorial

This project has a funny background story.  Bear with me:

A few years ago, we took a trip with my parents to Mexico Beach, FL. It was a pretty adventurous trip as Mom managed to break her arm while trying to get a good photo of a pelican…long story. We still managed to have a good time in spite of it.

We couldn’t believe how many shells were on the beach and so much variety. Immediately, all kinds of projects came to mind and I started amassing them in plastic grocery bags. I was walking down the beach early one morning and got to talking to another shell collector. She mentioned that there was a beach a little further down the road that always had a bigger selection of the nicer shells.

So while driving around with my husband and parents, I mentioned the beach and asked if they wanted to check it out. The road to it was not well marked, and was for the most part unpaved and one lane. We drove down it and finally came across a nice sized parking lot that actually had quite a few cars in it. The beach was not visible from the parking lot as there were more dunes to cross via a nice raised wooden walkway.

I was a bit bummed as I figured with the number of cars there, the shells would be picked through. We got out of the car and contemplated whether or not to do the walk and check it out anyway.

At the beginning of the trail stood a sign. It had a lot of unusual warnings on it. It warned of undertow and the absence of water rescue, beware of stingrays, toxic shells, jelly fish, discarded fishing hooks, dangerous wildlife, microbiological health hazards, sharks and alligators (of all things). ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK! It really made the beach sound like a toxic waste dump. We were just about to go back to the car when one of us noticed the last line on the sign. NUDITY IS PERMITTED.

Now I don’t know about you, but that is something that I could not pass up. I have never been on a nudie beach! I immediately started up the walkway.  Mom was already quite a bit ahead of me, trucking along at a good pace, broken arm and all with Dad right behind her.

Amazing what energy the prospect of seeing a bunch of naked people can give you!  My husband followed reluctantly behind me. He said, “Suzy, going naked on a nudist beach makes you a nudist; going fully clothed just makes you a pervert.”

Oh well, pervert I am then.

As mom cleared the final dune first and says, “I see a man and… he has a shirt on”!  You could hear the disappointment in her voice. I finally catch up with her and check out the beach. It was a relatively busy beach with lots of families; all fully clothed. Mom and I looked at each other, totally disappointed. Our quest for nudity was unfulfilled.

My husband, poor thing, just looked relieved. I don’t think he has any pervert in him.

We got back to the parking lot and looked a bit more closely at the sign. It appeared that someone has painted over the word NO in front of “Nudity is Permitted”. I guess in our excitement, we kind of missed that.

I know… we’re perverts.

ANYWAY, now that I’ve given you the back story of our seashell collection, let’s do something with it! I wanted to do this project with my mother as she had helped collect the shells and even had a pelican related “sports” injury to show for it.

For each sign I used:

Welcome Sign – You can find a similar one here
1/2 sheet of foam board
Gorilla Glue
Instant Paper Mache
Acrylic Paint
Assorted Seashells
White sand
White glue
Hot glue
Clear Acrylic Spray

seashell welcome sign tutorial

I had found these Welcome signs at the dollar store several years ago and stored them for future use. They have now found their calling…
seashell welcome sign tutorialseashell welcome sign tutorial

I wanted to create a base to set the Welcome signs on that would act as a “sand bar” to hold the shells. But I didn’t want it to weigh much as the shells can get heavy. So a sheet of foam board was perfect. I cut (2) 2 1/2″ x 12″ pieces for the long sides, (1) 4″ x 12″ piece for the bottom, and (1) 3″ x 10″ top piece for each sign, using a straight edge and a craft knife. (These measurements were to fit my welcome sign).

I glued these together with Gorilla Glue, the narrower piece on top.  I cut the long side pieces at an angle on the ends to match the ends of the top and bottom pieces.

seashell welcome sign tutorialseashell welcome sign tutorial

I then cut (2) side pieces for each sign 2 1/2″ wide x 4″ long at the bottom, 3″ long at the top.  I glued these on at an angle and trimmed any edges that didn’t quite meet.  This doesn’t have to be perfect because we are going to be covering the whole thing.  This is just the base.

seashell welcome sign tutorialseashell welcome sign tutorial

I wanted some height in the background, so I cut out a sailboat using a template that I had out of the left over foam board.

I then mixed up a batch of instant paper mache. You can find it in most craft stores. It is a little expensive at $8.00 a box, but I’m a bit lazy about making my own paper mache. You just add water to this and go for it. So, I managed to find a coupon, got a good discount, and still have tons left over for other projects.

seashell welcome sign tutorialseashell welcome sign tutorial

The sailboats and the bases have been coated and are ready to dry. The box said it would take 24 hours to dry. Due to the humidity, it actually took mine about 4 days. So plan ahead.

Once the paper mache finally dried, I painted the welcome signs white, glued them onto the top with Gorilla Glue and painted the sailboats and glued them behind the welcome signs. Gorilla glue is awesome for this particular part of this project because as it dries, it expands. That fills in all the uneven places between the sign and the paper mache. And it is a very good bond.

seashell welcome sign tutorialseashell welcome sign tutorial

I then loaded up my finished bases and showed up at Mom’s house so that we could both put together our signs. Turns out we had more shells that we could even begin to use. After I perused her refrigerator for my fill of “mom” food, we went to work.

At this point, we switched to hot glue because we needed the “instant” glue factor if you know what I mean. Just be careful not to glue anything accidently to your arm. Not that I would know anything about that… Anyway, we started with larger shells and worked our way around the base, glueing away and adding smaller shells in as we went.

seashell welcome sign tutorial

After the shells were glued on, we moved outside into the million degree weather to add sand in between the shells. For this, we used white glue, painting the glue on where we wanted sand, and then sprinkling the sand on and tapping the extra off.

seashell welcome sign tutorialseashell welcome sign tutorial

Finally, we sprayed them down with several coats of clear acrylic varnish to bring out the colors of the shells, and protect the final project. We are both very happy with the final project. Perfect for a mantel, a windowsill or maybe a bookshelf.

And it even comes with a story. A naked story.  Can’t beat that.

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