Through the eyes of an artisan, the beach is a treasure trove of endless possibilities.
Salt from the Dead Sea brings healing powers to Mama’s Secret Handmade Skincare. Barnacles and sea turtles are sculpted into BeSalty Studio pottery. Sea Bones Jewelry draws inspiration from ocean waters and coral reefs, while Speshell Creations uses shells and sea glass collected on the shores of North Carolina to create delicate pictures that reflect the coast.
Each of these craftswomen showcases authentic ways to express love for a special someone in the form of a handmade gift.
Sea Bones Jewelry
Sparks fly when silversmith Ari Kwakye is at work. In her Wrightsville Beach studio she hammers, solders, brazes and sculpts metals around stones to create handcrafted jewelry inspired by the sea.
Kwakye’s mom encouraged her to take a course on silversmithing after she graduated from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Kwakye began Sea Bones Jewelry in 2020. She attended popup markets in the Outer Banks and at Wrightsville Beach and received a great response.
“I love the natural, beachy feel of the jewelry,” she says. “Everything I do is inspired by the ocean and the sea. My target audience is people who love nature as much as I do and love living on the coast.”
Kwakye works with fossilized coral, opal, sea glass, pearl and turquoise.
“I enjoy playing around with different stones, I love working with turquoise,” she says. “A lot of turquoise has splashes of green or blues or little cracks. It reminds me of an aerial view of a coral reef.”
Sea Bones Jewelry can be found on Instagram [@seaboness]. Kwakye plans to increase business in 2021 with the launch of a website.
The lyrics to Bob Marley’s song “Three Little Birds” are fitting words for Terri Leeman: “… every little thing’s, gonna be all right.”
Life changed in 2020 when pandemic-related layoffs affected her job. She turned a favorite pastime into a small business and made Speshell Creations her full-time career.
Using sea glass, small shells and pebbles collected at area beaches, Leeman creates simple, delicate pictures to add a touch of the coast to any room.
One of Leeman’s favorite pieces is of three little birds she created with pebbles found at Carolina Beach that are perched on a branch with sea glass and faux berry accents. The piece is titled “Three Little Birds,” named after the song, of course.
“The first time I realized I was on to something was when I went to Garner — they have a huge market up there every November — and everything of mine was selling like crazy,” Leeman says.
She created oyster shell Christmas trees for the holidays. For Valentine’s Day the word “Love” is spelled out in sea glass and framed.
“My husband helps me with the shelling, I’ve trained him,” Leeman says. “I’ll say, ‘Today I need oyster shells that are this long and this wide or pebbles that are this size.”’
The time of day, the tides, whether it’s sunny or cloudy, if there’s been a storm, all factor into how Leeman finds her inventory. She also does special orders and enjoys the personal connection with customers.
“I love it when someone picks up a piece and says, ‘This is exactly what my mother-in-law needs’ or ‘My dad would absolutely love this,’” she says.
Speshell Creations can be found on Facebook.
Mama’s Secret Handmade Skincare
The secret to Mama’s Secret Handmade Skincare is nature.
“Mama’s Secret products have no preservatives, no chemicals,” says founder and owner Marge Bell. “If Mother Nature didn’t make it you won’t find it in the product.”
Bell, a former herbalism apprentice, launched the company with the Mama’s Secret Weapon Bug Spray.
“That’s how the Mama’s Secret name came about,” she says.
Today, Bell makes an entire line of natural and organic skincare products, all created from scratch in her kitchen, including a scrub using salt from the Dead Sea, a foot salve for dry, cracked feet, a lotion for painful muscles and joints, and a healing treatment for eczema, psoriasis and sunburns.
“One market — I’ll remember this forever — a young girl came by, she was so sunburned she could hardly walk,” Bell says. “I gave her the Dry Skin Healing Treatment. I said, ‘Here, it is a gift, take it’. Before the market ended the family came and they wanted to thank me for saving their vacation. The redness, heat and pain began to subside almost immediately when the treatment was applied to her sunburn.”
Mama’s Secret Handmade Skincare can be found online and on Facebook.
Sgraffito is an Italian technique and the primary style of the pottery created by Lexy Malone, whose influences include ancient Greek and Etruscan ceramics and Japanese woodblock prints. Sgraffito involves painting a new piece of pottery with colored liquid clay, then carving the design through.
“I love that technique because its surface is three-dimensional,” says Malone, owner of BeSalty Studio. “I love feeling the lines and seeing the interplay.”
A pitcher Malone created is glazed in swirls of seaweed green and has protruding hand-sculpted barnacles. Malone uses beach shells to create molds to look as if shells are placed on top of her circular vases.
“A friend has gifted several mugs of mine to her brother because he’s visually impaired and he loves to be able to feel the design. I thought that was really cool,” Malone says.
BeSalty’s “Swing Bridge” mug commemorates the old Surf City bridge. Sea turtle and mermaid pieces sell the fastest. “Purr-maid” pieces have cats with mermaid tails.
“They are pretty cute, I’m not going to lie,” laughs Malone. “I have trouble keeping those in stock.”
Malone studied art at Tulane University, specializing in ceramics. Today, paddle boarding the Intracoastal Waterway is where she finds inspiration for new designs.
BeSalty can be found on Facebook and Instagram.