SOUTH BRISTOL—Many Maine artists use the concept of lobster in their art, but Tenley Seiders, an artist from South Bristol, actually uses lobster claws, tails, and other parts of the shell in her elegant jewelry and ornaments.
Born in California, she was first inspired to create jewelry from the abalone shells found on Pacific beaches. From there, she delved into working with pearls and semi-precious gemstones. After spending countless summers in Maine, an “a-ha” moment occurred when she found herself sterning on her boyfriend’s lobster boat.
“Occasionally when lobsters would be pulled up on deck, we’d find some that dropped a claw,” said Seiders. “Not only does that becomes lost poundage for the lobsterman, but it’s kind of a waste in general. I was trying to figure out what to do with those extra claws. With my jewelry background I got to thinking, ‘What can I do to make these shell pieces into something pretty?’”
Seiders’ love of shells and jewelry extended to whatever she could find in the wild.
“I’ll find the oyster and mussel shells when beachcombing with my kiddos,” she said. “For the star-shaped ornaments, I’ll pulverize them with a mortar and pestle and then sift the crushed shell with a strainer. The Snowflake ornaments are made by forming pieces of shell into a mold and affixing it with epoxy resin. The whole point of jewelry is taking something that would be thrown out and reuse it.”
It took her awhile to chemically preserve the color of cooked lobster shell for her jewelry, consisting of pendants, earrings, and bracelets.
“Red fades like crazy,” she said. “To maintain that jewelry-grade primary color red without destroying the composition of the shell took some work. I ended up working with chemicals that are often used to preserve buoy colors to keep the paint from fading.”
People who see her ornaments and jewelry tell her they can’t believe it’s derived from lobster shell; they think it’s some kind of precious stone.
Seiders still melds her personal life with her art: her lobstermen boyfriend is now her husband. They have been married 13 years and have two children.
Friends and neighbors often offer her the shells after lobster bakes or suppers.
“If I know where the lobster originated, I incorporate their story into the product,” she said.
On her website, Lobster Designs, is a section “Our Lobstermen” which goes into more detail. Each piece of jewelry comes with an information card on where that lobster shell was sourced and on the particular lobsterman who caught it.
“There’s so much inspiration all around us if you look around and I always use it in my art,” she said.
Seiders primarily sells her creations number of retail locations in Maine, including several shops in the Midcoast, as well as through her Etsy shop.
Kay Stephens can be reached at email@example.com