Artist Bill Jordan
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WHAT ARE SAILOR’S VALENTINES?
A romantic way to say ” I Love You.”
When I first became envolved in shell art I was told a romantic story of how Sailors Valentines came into vogue. I was told how a sailor aboard a ship in the 1800`s had a collection of sea shells and decided to create a shell mosaic. As the story goes he found an eight sided compass case and started gluing the sea shells in place and using dark colored shells wrote “To My Valentine.” When he returned home from his long voyage at sea he presented his gift to the love of his life. And that is where the romantic history that has come to be known as the “sailors’ valentine” became a tale that encompasses the spirit of love and devotion to those you hold close in your life. While working on my own shell art creations I started to think how difficult it must have been to create such a master piece on a rolling ship. Later on I was told no one had ever seen an eight sided compass case. In 2002 I came across a book by John Fonds called “Sailors Valentines” which told the history of sailors valentines from the 1800`s along with pictures of valentines from that era .Then in 2006 a new book came out called Sailors` Valentines- Their Journey Through Time with the history of the art with pictures as well as contemporary artists of today. Well I deeply regretted having to put the romantic story a side because it did not hold true, I still, however, am inspired to create my own story of love and passion that I put into every detail of my own recreations of a Sailors’ Valentine.
It was at least true that Sailors’ Valentine from the 1800`s are eight sided cases enclosed in glass containing a mosaic of shells of different colors shapes and sizes. Many were double cases hinged with a locking devise to keep them closed for safe travel. Some of the shell designs from that era incorporated a family picture in the center , or a compass rose and others with phrases in shells such as “FOR GET ME NOT”, “THINK OF ME WHEN FAR AWAY” and “HOME AGAIN”. Evidence inside some restored valentines as well as outer markings date them back to the 1830`s. Many valentines were purchased in Barbados a central port to re-supply and make necessary repairs to their vessels for the final leg of their journey home. No matter how romantic the folklore “tale” is, bringing home such a hand made gift after being separated for long periods of time and miles of ocean was a loving gift. Not only from the giver but as to the one receiving it. Simply put, just a heart felt feeling of being “HOME AGAIN” safe and sound.