SHELL crafters from Jeffreys Bay are gearing up for a busy Festive Season. They have released their first Christmas homeware and decor collection, with the support of Kouga Municipality.
The Christmas Shell Collection consists of wreathes, small Christmas trees and decorations, complemented by home decor items fit for any occasion, from candleholders and bowels to placemats, tiebacks and serviette holders.
Gifts such as sandals, artfully decorated with shells, are also available.
All items are handmade by shell crafters from Jeffreys Bay and are on sale from their stalls at the town’s main beachfront. Items can also be made to order.
The collection is the result of a 12-week training course hosted for local shell crafters by the municipality’s directorate for Local Economic Development, Tourism and Creative Industries.
Kouga Executiuve Mayor Daphne Kettledas said that shell craft was part of Kouga’s heritage but that interest in it has been dwindling, both among crafters and shoppers.
“This prompted the municipality to look at ways to revive and promote shell craft,” she said. “Shell craft has been a source of income for many families, especially in Jeffreys Bay, and the skill has been passed on from generation to generation. We don’t want to lose such a valuable piece of our heritage.”
The aim of the course was to help shell crafters design new products which would appeal to the modern buyer. They were also taken through basic business guidelines on pricing and marketing their products effectively.
The course facilitator was Elaine Roos from Jeffreys Bay. She started with a group of 12 crafters of whom six completed the course as a whole.
Among the participants were women whose names are synonymous with the shell trade, including, Elsie Trompetter, a 66-year-old grandmother who depends on her shell income to help raise her four grandchildren.
Also in the group was Caroline Mintoor (56), whose mother, grandmother and great-grandmother were among the first shell crafters of Jeffreys Bay. She has four sisters of whom three also still make a living from shells.
“My mother raised us with shell money. She has become frail and it is now our turn to look after her with the money we make from shells,” Caroline said.
While young blood is scarce in the craft, the participants included 22-year-old Rochelle Potgieter. She used to visit the beach with her grandmother and fell in love with the diffe-rent shapes, sizes and colours of the shells they found there.
“The new designs we are working on have the potential to attract young people to the craft,” said 42-year-old Ann Titus, who also completed the course. “Shell craft is no longer just about making ornaments that gather dust. The course has taught us to make items that are both beautiful, functional and have modern-day appeal.”
Sharon Rudolph, a 37-year-old mother of three, agrees that shell craft is evolving and that young people can be inspired to participate.
“My 13-year-old daughter actually helped me with some of these new designs,” she said.
She further believes that shell craft has great therapeutic value, even if only practised as a hobby.
“While you are putting together the shells, your mind is free to go wherever it wants to. It is a very relaxing pastime and unlocks one’s creativity,” she said.
Dot Cappaert, a 71-year-old pensioner who recently turned to shell craft to supplement her pension, completed the group.