Heather Kendall grew up on the north end of Clearwater Beach. Her love of the beach and shells began in her childhood with days spent boating, swimming and beachcombing. Thirteen years ago she started her company, Elegant Shells. Today, she designs and creates custom seashell designs including mirrors, chandeliers, home décor as well as site-specific custom fireplaces and fountains for clients around the world.
Photographed at her home and studio in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Tampa.
Tell us about your childhood and growing up on Clearwater Beach? I was born in Westchester, NY. but most of my childhood was spent in Florida. We lived in Carlouel at the north end of Clearwater Beach. Life was pretty easy, filled with loving family and friends. The beach, boats, fun and adventures.
Did you find shells or did they find you? How did you get started working with shells? I have always had an appreciation “for the little things’. I know that being raised on the beach had a big impact on my love of seashells; but a gift package of very special shells that I received when I was about ten years old instilled my interest in specimen shells. I created a collection board that I was very excited about. My cousin Mary was responsible for my care quite often because my Mother was often away caring for my sick little brother. Mary and I spent many evenings on Carlouel Beach doing cartwheels in the sunsets, scanning the tidal pools for Olive shells and Cat’s Eyes and swimming out to the sand bar to collect Sand Dollars.
What’s the most unusual project you have worked on? Probably refurbishing a very old Sailor’s Valentine for Sonny Everett. It had a domed glass cover. Some of the shells were missing and are now extinct. I had a few in my collection and I was thrilled to complete the project for him. He was a wonderful man and we appreciated many of the same things so that made it even more enjoyable.
Do you have a favorite shell? I have a few. My most favorite is the Wentletrap and a close second is the Channeled Whelk.
Where can people find your creations locally? At this time I sell exclusively to Seaside Interiors on MacDill Ave. in SouthTampa.
What books are on your nightstand right now? 50 Things that Really Matter and The 100 Simple Secrets of Happy People, both of which were given to me by a dear friend. 10-Minute Clutter Control which is laughable if you know me. Heart of Love by Eugene McCaffrey. Finally, a book about my Patron Saint, Saint Therese of Lisieux. She believed that everything is a gift, including eternal life and that all we have to do is believe with childlike faith. I do.
Tell us about Sunset Park. What are some interesting places to eat, drink and shop? Rainbow Food Mart has the best roses, a nice quick-stop wine selection and orchids! The Garden of Eatin is my stop for Chip’s Sunset Mango Salsa, Mike’s Key Lime Pie, hot boiled peanuts and fresh produce. CDB’s crab stuffed mushrooms caps, a good glass of Pinot Grigio and live music, makes me happy.
You’ve got great personal style. Where do you shop for clothes and jewelry? I really enjoy shopping! I joke that I was raised in a dressing room as my wonderful Mother is also a great shopper. I adore great accessories, good shoes, hats and costume jewelry. I rarely shop main stream retail. I shop at local boutiques and outlets for a good bargain. Picking up cool pieces from vintage stores is a great way to keep my wardrobe unique and interesting.
What is your favorite object in your house? A small bronze mermaid mounted on a beautiful round stone. It was given to me in remembrance of Captain Jay Hardenbrook Hall, a very special man in my life.
Name your three favorite places to hang out in Tampa Bay? My back yard when it’s looking great or kayaking out on the canal, on a boat or a quiet beach. A lounge chair and a poolside attendant at the Sandpearl Resort on Clearwater Beach is also a favorite. I also love to go dancing and if I’m with a friend that also loves to dance, The Fox, when the Black Honkeys are playing, makes for a fun night!
Describe the perfect Sunday. Church with my three sons or my best friend, BOGO smoothies, an afternoon nap, dinner and a movie.
How has Tampa become part of your identity? I have been here for long enough that pretty much any where I go I see someone I know. I have made so many shell pieces and been published often so when I am introduced as a seashell artist, many people recognize me.
What’s the best advice you have ever gotten? First, “Don’t ever go to sleep with out at least touching toes with your beloved, even if your arguing”. And “Wise women take cat naps”.