When I go shopping or buy gifts, I am conscious of buying local products, supporting local business or sourcing handmade, sustainable, pieces. As we walked around the Byron Bay Design festival, I made a point of lovingly and stealthily telling my husband that he could buy my Christmas present from one of the creatives at the festival. I met Victoria from Mermaid Collective as I was admiring her unique shell jewellery, the vibe that this beauty radiates, made me want to grab a colourful, fruity cocktail and hang out on the beach with her. Her whole being pulses with happiness, her smile lights up her face and the enthusiastic way that Victoria expresses herself made me think that she would be the life of the party, but also a chick that would be able to have a deep and meaningful over a glass of red. She was excited and generous in wanting to tell me the story of her jewellery.
“Firstly I sit and day dream on a beach somewhere and I think about the pieces. The ocean is my medicine and inspiration. For me all the things that I loved as a kid, I still love even more now. I have always loved wearing sea shells, but as I got older I realised that they weren’t as elegant as I wanted them to be. So I created a few shell jewellery pieces, that unite the creation of a surfboard set with resin, and coloured resin and a seashell.
I was living in Indonesia and I ran my first trip there – I run a surfing and yoga retreat business. I custom made some of this jewellery for me and I thought no one in the world would want to wear it, I thought it was just my quirky taste. The girls that were on the trip adored it and I got them to hand make some pieces and then it snow balled for there.
I have trained a studio in Indonesia. It is incredible. They do all the shell art and it is then set in sterling silver. When I sell a piece it supports those remote communities. I also take a portion of the proceeds to gift to a marine conservation projects that I support.
My shell artist is a beautiful man called Herman. This is what he lives for. I often go and visit him in his house and see his family. Yeah my long term goal if I get this, I mean when I get this really happening, I want to give Herman his own proper studio, and he can train more people. Herman has all the contacts in finding all the shells. Number one for me is about loving the ocean, so I wanted to make sure that my shells were from an ethical source. This year I spent a few months in Indonesia and I researched and investigated the shells. Culturally the men eat the nautilus shell fish to make them more fertile, if they are trying to conceive they go and eat nautilus shells and so from that there is an excess of these shells.
The process is quiet long once we have the shells because the whole process is hand done. At the moment they take about two days. What we do is; we get the shell and slice it – some won’t last that process only the strong ones will, then we clean it out, high pressure clean it and then we let it dry naturally in the sun. We hope for sunny days or it will end up being three days. We fill it with the resin, it took a month for me to get the recipe for the turquoise just right. It is my favourite colour so it was game on to get it right. When the resin is set, it comes back to the carving station is sliced back and front and shave it off for the white and turquoise and that is the shell process done and we hand it over to the silversmith. I have beautiful team of people. I know that every time I sell something I know that I am helping them. I am helping beautiful Herman feed his babies. And I am so excited about the conservation.
The essence for me is take the sea wherever you may go, I feel like if someone wears one of these shells they are constantly reminded about how special and powerful Mother Nature is. You know by wearing one of these it shows you love the sea and might stop you buying plastic.
(Christmas morning I was gifted from “Santa” a stunning shell ring from the Mermaid collective. I love it and love knowing where it came from and how it was made.)