December 19, 2012

Crafty For Christmas . . . With Clams

Kitty Merrill. (click for larger version)
Her kids think it's a little goofy . . . until the Christmas noose begins to tighten and they need a few for last minute gifts. "I'm always doing stuff like this," said Patty Collins Sales, sitting elbow deep in jars of paint and clam shells, at the table in the cozy kitchen in the house where she grew up on Cove Hollow Road in East Hampton.

"I'm always doing stuff like this," she said, dabbing white paint on The Grinch's red cap. Her mother and aunts were crafty, and took their knitting with them everywhere they went. "It was totally normal to me; we'd go somewhere and they'd pull out their knitting."

Several years ago, Sales travelled to Syracuse to visit a friend who liked to paint Santas on bowling pins. During the trip the buddies browsed "a quirky little gift shop" upstate and saw Santa painted on a buoy. "I told her, 'You should do that.' She grew up in Michigan and didn't even know what a buoy was for. We did one that year. Then I did a bunch more every year."

Sales sold the Santa buoys at Gone Local in Amagansett, branching out to do different college team versions on request. She even painted a couple of Yankees buoys "under duress," the Red Sox fan confessed.

Eventually, Sales hit upon the idea of painting shells. "I walk the beach almost every day and collect them," she explained, admitting that on vacations to Florida, "I come home with half a suitcase filled with just shells."

In her kitchen last Friday, Sales had a basket brimming with shell iterations of The Grinch and the Abominable Snowman character from the classic TV show, "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer." This year she's added Stewie Griffin from the popular adult cartoon show "Family Guy," and she might be working on a Hello Kitty (we hope). At other times of the year, she's made "Clam-erican" flags.

Sales uses acrylic paint, and draws the characters free hand. Some years she's gotten lots of requests for the shells, which can be in sizes big enough to make candy dishes or ornaments, and small enough to make pendants or an earring for husband Tony. "I make him wear it," she said.

In all, said Sales, making the somewhat wacky craft is fun. "It's kind of like therapy. It keeps me off the streets."

Want your own Grinch or Stewie clam? Chat Sales up on Facebook.


  1. print email
    Patty Sales
    December 20, 2012 | 11:57 AM

    Patty is one of the most creative people I know! A true original.

Reader Feedback Submission
Use this form to submit Reader Feedback.
* required value
Your Name*




Site Search

2107 Capeletti Front Tile
Gurney's Inn