Thomasville woman turns seashells into art

Jan. 13, 2013 @ 01:00 AM

Pam Thayer sells seashells by the seashore, and she’s done so for several years.
Now, though, the Thomasville artist hopes to find some landlubbers here in the Triad who will appreciate her unusual seashell sculptures and other shell-based creations.
“I had been collecting shells for years and years, and I had boxes and boxes of shells,” says Thayer, who grew up in High Point. “I always had it in the back of my head that I was going to make some sort of mosaic collage or something, and I finally got around to doing it. The shells sell pretty well at the coast (at Topsail Island’s Topsail Art Gallery) — people buy them to put in their beach houses.”
Thayer, a former creative director, turns ordinary seashells into unique creations such as trees, a flock of birds, a mermaid — whatever her mind sees when she looks at the shells.
“My art is all about observing things from nature — shells, seaweed, rocks, wood — and working with the natural contours to visualize forms that others might not see,” Thayer says. “I get a lot of comments like, ‘Wow, how did you see that?’ Colors and textures in shells inspire me to create a lot of organic things like trees and florals, but I also do lots of mermaids and fish — those do well at the coast.”
Thayer’s journey as an artist actually began during the 1980s, when she began painting rocks she found in the Little Uwharrie River near her home, transforming them into human faces and mermaids and whatever each rock’s shape suggested to her. She still paints rocks today, in addition to her seashell creations.
“It’s all about the shape and form of it,” she says. “I don’t chisel or carve the rocks in any way — I work with whatever shape is already there. It’s like working on a 3-D canvas.”
Most of the time, Thayer knows as soon as she sees a particular rock what she’ll do with it.
“Probably 99 percent of the time, I immediately see something in it,” she says. “Sometimes, though, I might see a rock with a lot of curvature, and I’ll think, ‘I know something is there, but I don’t know quite what it is yet.’ So I’ll take it home and clean it up, and later I’ll finally see what I want to do with it — it’s like a light comes on.”
It wasn’t until around 2009 that she began making art with seashells.
“What I do with the shells is kind of like doing a mosaic picture, but instead of using tiles or glass, it’s with shells — it’s making a picture out of the shells,” she explains.
“A lot of people will put shells around the edge of a picture frame or a mirror, and a lot of people paint rocks, but they’re just flat, round rocks. Neither of those has to do with creating or bringing to life a shape nobody had noticed before, which is what I do.”
Thayer works out of her kitchen, where she has a multitude of seashells and rocks waiting to be transformed. That process can take anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks, depending on the size and scope of what she’s creating. Once they’re completed, she sells them through the Purple Pig Emporium in Lexington.
“I enjoyed my years in the business world as a creative director,” Thayer says, “but with changing times and business reorganization, it was time to start a new journey in my life. I’m confident that I am where I’m supposed to be, and I’m enjoying doing what I love.”

jtomlin@hpe.com | 888-3579