I am always on the lookout for oyster shells so when planning a vacation to Ireland it was no surprise to my husband when I became a woman on a mission to visit some aquafarms. During the planning I noticed that the bus-tour itinerary included a two-night stay in Galway. Psst! . . . The International Oyster & Seafood Festival is held there and it’s the event where Guinness World Records for oyster shucking have taken place.
Patrick MacMurray, who earned that title in 2002 and wrote an introduction in my book, provided me with email introductions to some of the growers which included Kelly Oysters. This aquafarm supplies the oysters for that competition— Native Flats, ostrea edulis, a species that’s particularly challenging to shuck.
The 20 minute journey from the hotel to meet with Diarmuid Kelly meant renting a car so I could then drive on the left side of the road!! It was well worth it even though my driving experience was initially quite harrowing—the details of which have not been disclosed to my husband.
SHOWN ABOVE L to R: Me wondering “What’s the steering wheel doing on this side?” • The bay at high tide • Diarmuid Kelly
During my meeting with Diarmuid I learned about all the environmental work they are doing with oysters. I didn’t want to overlook anything so I decided it best to document some details with a few quick snaps of their project information panels.
Diarmuid knew that I wanted to get some shells to take home with me. At the end the tour we walked to another area of the property where there were many huge bags filled with them. He saw my face light up as I exclaimed “I’m in oyster shell heaven!” To which he replied with a chuckle, “I thought you might be.” So many potential subjects for my artwork but so little room in my suitcase.
The Kellys grow two species of oysters: the Ostrea edulis, known as a Native Flat, and Crassostrea giga.
SHOWN ABOVE L to R: Ostrea edulis & Crassostrea giga • Me wishing I could take all the shells home • Diarmuid holding an unshucked Native Flat and Giga.
When I learned that the small bag of Native Flat shells (not shown) had been shucked the previous fall during the 2022 International Festival I hoped would inspire a piece of Oyster Art adding to its provenance. My aspirations were realized when back in my studio I discovered ‘Conservancy’ in one of them.
SHOWN ABOVE L to R: Full bags of Giga oyster shells • Close up portion of Oyster Art “Conservancy” inspired by a Native Flat.
My poetic observation for “Conservancy”: “Land and sea keep time in nature’s conservancy waltz.” Because this composition was so rich with interesting patterns and colours I was able to maintain beautiful images when cropped in three other aspect ratios.
SHOWN ABOVE L to R: Perspective photo of “Conservancy” shell • Thumbnails of images compiled • “Conservancy” digitally displayed in room
The blue rectangle on the inspiration shell shows the small area I photographed at 2:1 magnification (that’s two times life size being viewed through the macro lens), using settings 1/6, f7.1, ISO 200. The camera was on a tripod moving .225mm closer to the shell for each of the 26 captures. They were compiled to create the final image.
“Conservancy” is part of the Oyster Art Open Edition and available for purchase here.