With such time-intensive and detail-oriented work behind each valentine, it’s no wonder these works of art fetch a high price. An original nine-inch Audrey O’Donnell sailor’s valentine costs $2,200 at My Sister’s Gallery, the Sandwich village shop where O’Donnell sells her art exclusively. Her use of shells also extends far beyond her valentines. O’Donnell’s Christmas ornaments fly off the shelves around the holidays, and her other creations for sale include shell mirrors, mermaids, and shadowboxes with maps of different Cape towns inside.
A native of Yarmouth, O’Donnell says she often draws inspiration from the Cape itself. “My fondest memories growing up are at low tide picking up sea shells,” she says. “And I always had a basket of shells in my room.” She still loves to stroll the beaches looking for materials for future projects, even braving the cold of winter to find the perfect shells. “I’ve been known to go out shelling in January and February with a ski suit on,” she says. Though she doesn’t mind these winter walks, O’Donnell prefers spring and summer on the Cape for her shelling excursions, finding the flowers of these seasons particularly inspirational for her artistry.
Despite the acclaim that her work has earned, O’Donnell remains humble about her success. “I never thought I’d be at this level, ever,” she says. “It’s just an amazing gift.” She finds great joy in the hours spent working in the studio of the beach-chic home she shares with her husband, Bob, and dog, Tiffany. Mostly, she’s simply grateful that shell artistry came into her life. “It has really turned my life around,” she says. “Now everywhere I look, I think of how I can design what I see with shells.”