The pandemic has brought unprecedented change and challenges in routines and livelihoods all around the world. Despite the limits and stress, some individuals have found new hobbies to stay hopeful and optimistic. One such admirable individual is Anna Chan, a jeweler, and designer, who used her extra time to create animal mosaics using seashells.
This New York-based artist traveled to Robert Moses State Park to spend time by the beach. She was inspired by the idea to create 12 sand sculptures for a 2021 calendar. As she progressed and became better at it, the idea developed into an obsession. She soon began creating stunning, uniform mosaics and animal portraits.
Her beautiful creations are preceded by long hours of patience and conquests to find the right piece. She told Bored Panda that the most challenging part of the process is “finding the right shell piece to fit into space.” Sometimes it takes a minimum of 3 days to a week or more to complete a large creation. When Anna first started, she finished smaller projects within just a few hours. But, as her work got much larger, more detailed, and dimensional, she had to take extra care and extra time to put the pieces together.
Another challenge she has to face while assembling the not-so-obedient pieces is getting the sand to fit together. She said, “Sand by nature doesn’t hold shape so the challenge is to compact the sand with water so it’s solid enough to endure the long mosaic process.” Unlike most sculptors, she only uses ordinary beach sand and water as raw materials. Since the sand is not much sticky, she has to make sure to add the right amount of water so that the sand is not too moist or too dry. Either of the extremes causes the sand to fall apart with just a single touch.
Also, there is nothing in between the shell and the sand holding them together. This makes it extra difficult to hold the shells in places that are vertical. She says that it takes “several tries to get the shells to stay in place.” According to her, the keys are “a steady hand” and “lots of patience.”
When asked what she starts with, the idea, or the material, she said that she collects seashells of appropriate sizes, shapes, and colors to match her idea. When she finds the pieces she needs, she models the sand to match the shape in her mind. She finds this part of the long process most interesting because “sand is such a fun medium to work with.” After completing the model, she finally starts assembling the pieces of the puzzle, which are seashells in this case.
Her very first pieces of work were very short-lived. However, now her art is permanent and is safe in her home garage where she works on them. She plans to make larger sculptures that would hopefully end up in a gallery wall or a collector’s home.
In the near future, she hopes to combine her sand technique with jewelry-making. Her long-term goal is to make her flat portraits 3-dimensional. ” I envision my work in 6 months will be very different from what it is today, but equally delightful,” she told Bored Panda.