Sailors’ Valentines

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Sailors’ Valentines, at one point, were thought to be made by sailors aboard whaleships. The truth is these intricate shell pictures were a favorite souvenir of mariners, usually acquired in Barbados, a frequent stop by whaleships on their return home. Sailors’ Valentines are made in an octagon shaped wood box with designs and messages created using a variety of shells native to the West Indies.

Today the range of design, color, and texture using shells has far surpassed the simple designs of Valentines from the early 1800’s. Three dimensional design, arrangements of shell flowers, scrimshaw, and other natural materials are just a few things that can be seen today.

The DecArts Studio has a range of Valentine instructors, each with a different approach, and something to be learned from each method. The Valentine Ornament workshop is perfect to try out a simple design and will guarantee to leave you wanting the challenge of a bigger Sailors’ Valentine.



The Nantucket Historical Association preserves and interprets the history of Nantucket through its programs, collections, and properties, in order to promote the island’s significance and foster an appreciation of it among all audiences.

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