Vivian Daniels could serve as inspiration for the famous tongue-twister about sea shells and seashores.
The 72-year-old resident at Our Home at Beacon Hill has made a name for herself selling creations made from sea shells found on the nearby beach.
Daniels collects anything she can find in the sand and turns the items into works of art.
Using shells of all types she creates flowers, turtles, bouquets, picture frames, pencil holders, soap dishes, flower pots and magnets.
“Vivian collects shells, separates them and creates these amazing things,” said Rick Watkins, administrator at the facility. “She has an incredible creative ability.”
To date, Daniels has arranged and put together hundreds of sea shell flowers.
Her regiment includes washing her findings in a water/bleach mixture, giving them a coat of baby or mineral oil or spraying them with acrylic to prevent the shells from drying out or cracking.
“Shells have more color than you see at the beach,” said Daniels. “After you rub a little oil on them, the color bounces out at you.”
Daniels sells the items out of the activity room at Our Home at Beacon Hill and prices range from $1-$10 per item.
She then puts the money right back into purchasing additional supplies that can be used for activities at the facility. She believes that keeping busy is the key to a longer life.
“The facility is doing wonderful work, but we need more activities to stay happy and keep the residents moving,” said Daniels.
“I want to inspire the other residents. They can see that I have the determination to move and I can do things. I’m 72 years old and if I can do it, they can, too.”
Daniels didn’t always have the creative urge and said that one day as she was walking the beach, the idea simply struck her and couldn’t be ignored.
From that day on she collected shells on each visit to the white sands of the Gulf and would work on her art at night after the rest of her family had gone to bed.
While shell art may occupy her days now, Daniels didn’t start crafting her creations until she was in her 30’s. Prior creative activities included sewing clothes for her kids and teaching kindergarten for eight years at Faith Christian School in Port St. Joe.
Daniels’ family moved to Gulf County when she was in the sixth grade and she spent her youth in Port St. Joe. She later moved to Alabama in 1982 where she remarried and lived until July of this year.
The sea shell seller is proud of her Gulf County heritage and said that her father, Emery, had a machine shop on First Street and worked with the paper mill and railroads.
Two of her brothers worked in the machine shop and her brother Jimmy, a former police officer, still lives in Jones Homestead with his wife. Daniel’s mother, Jean, was known in the community as “Miss Jeanie.”
Daniels admitted that Port St. Joe isn’t exactly how she remembered it and was saddened to see that U.S. Highway 98 had been moved inland.
She said that the area now occupied by WindMark Beach was where she used to find the best shells, especially since sea life would often be attracted to bits of asphalt that would fall into the water.
“I love to walk on the beach and see God’s creations,” said Daniels, who spends an hour or more on the beach each day collecting materials. “Each flower is a different experiment.
“It’s often a toss-up as to what it a shell will become. Most of the time, I have no earthly idea what I’m going to do with them.”
In addition to creating her random works of art, Daniels takes bulk orders and has been busy prepping shell-based Christmas ornaments for the holidays.
The goal was never to make money until Daniels decided to help fund more activities for her fellow residents.
If those activities come at the cost of Daniel’s art, she’s happy to help. She also praised activities director Tiffany Lee for the slew of Halloween-themed activities in recent weeks that included decorating pumpkins, masks and pennants.
Lee also instituted a “learn something new” program for the facility that included a first aid class and several sign language classes to help everyone communicate with one of the home’s deaf residents.
She has also started a walking club and takes the residents out to eat and on shopping trips at least once a month.
Daniels just hopes that buyers will put her creations on their coffee table or book shelf to add a little bit of nature inside their home.
“It’s not work--it’s a hobby and a pleasure,” promised Daniels. “It’s a labor of love.”