From the Studio: Just Beachy

Beach WIP (8)

Allow me to share with you the latest creation from the Encore studio, tell you why and how it came into being, and why it has two names.

Last year I had the pleasure of participating in a holiday craft show in Destin, Florida, where I met Carolyn Williams, the owner of Sand Dollar Cottage, an art gallery/gift shop in Navarre. She and several other artists were also vendors at the craft show, and we visited each other’s booths. Carolyn fell in love with my work and invited me to place some of my pieces in her gallery in Navarre. So in January I did just that!

Carolyn does an excellent job of organizing the pieces in her shop according to color, theme, etc., and not necessarily by artist. As it would happen, however, most of my things are all in one place because they are unique, being made of piano parts, and having nothing to do with beachy themes and muted colors. In short, they are their own theme.

So as time has allowed, I’ve been brainstorming, trying to come up with ways to combine piano art with beach art, to appeal to the musician who visits and/or lives at the beach. This was my first creation, but it will by no means be the last, as other ideas are simmering as well….

I went to work, collecting the keys that I would use to make the fans. I practiced my lettering, chose the pen that I would use to write on the keys, then went shopping for ribbon and shells. I thought about going to the beach to pick up shells myself, but I’ve been there, and I know it would have taken me a long time to collect the number of shells I would have needed, and time is money.

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The next step was to figure out how to securely connect the keys to each other and mount them to the wall. I glued them together, but as very little of their surfaces actually touch each other, I reinforced the connections with mending plates at the top and wood plates toward the bottom.

Since I gave away my bow maker, I made these bows by hand, sewing them together with floral wire. Then I used a heavier wire to fasten them to the keys, tying off the wire in the back, and tucking it in between two of the keys. Using a hot glue gun, I secured the ribbon to the keys in front, so that it would not hang down from the weight of the shells, and I hot glued the shells in place on the ribbon. I also hot glued two round felts from the piano to the bottom of the keys in back, as bumpers to hold it off the wall.

The wood plate in fact serves multiple purposes: it reinforces stability, hides the floral wire, and displays the artist statement. After trimming the board to size and sanding the edges smooth, I applied wood glue where the board would go, then drilled five pilot holes along both the top and bottom, to attach it to each key using short screws from out of the piano. I also used a piano screw to attach the mounting hook.

Finally, I edited the story of my art to fit on the board, printed it out on labels, trimmed them down to size, and applied them to the board. With that, the project was done!

Actually, I skipped a step in process—naming it. I had been working on the piece while at the Blues & BarBQ Festival at St. Joseph’s Church in Pensacola. In fact, that was where I worked on making the bows, attaching them to the keys, and gluing down the shells. I showed one of them to a lady whom I had met at the show, and she purchased it on the spot. I was thrilled that she liked it, but I said, “I don’t know what to call it yet, or how much I want to ask for it.”

She replied, “Well, you’d better think about it. I’m going to walk around some more, and I’ll be back to get your answer.”

So I put up photos on Instagram with a plea for help in naming this piece. I like to give my works musical names whenever possible. I had been listening to Blues music for the past day and a half at the festival, and had come to realize how important that genre is to this region. It is in no way limited to Louisiana, but colors the cultures of southern Mississippi, southern Alabama, and western Florida as well. And so I thought, “Beach Blues…” to reflect the region for which this piece was made in the first place. When the lady returned, I had a name and a price. She was honored by the name, but she said my price was too low, so I raised it at her insistence.

A little while later I saw that I had received a response to my plea for help with the name. A friend from Virginia had suggested “Ocean Sounds,” and I liked that equally well. Reading the name brought to mind soothing piano music with an overture of crashing waves, and I knew it would do the same for my customers. I decided to use both names. The piece will be called “Beach Blues” when sold locally here in the Florida area, but it will be called “Ocean Sounds” when sold online or in Virginia. (Yes, I am going back to my beloved Virginia later this year to do two shows!)

In honor of my friend who gave me the name “Ocean Sounds,” I would like to share a video of piano music with ocean sounds. I hope you enjoy it.

The creation of “Ocean Sounds,” or “Beach Blues,” whatever you prefer to call it, is somewhat symbolic of my assimilation with the place in which God has put my family and me. It was not easy making the transition from Virginia to Florida. Yes, I was born here in this state, but Virginia is my family’s birthplace, and the place that I call home. Yet I have learned to be content here. This is where God brought us, and this is where God wants us. It’s a good place to be—in the center of God’s will. Today that place, the center of God’s will for my husband and me, is Florida. Someday He may move us somewhere else. But until then I will listen to the Beach Blues—not forsaking the memory of the Ocean Sounds, but choosing to live in the present with contentment.

May you, too, find contentment in the place, and with the people, where God has placed you. God bless!


Thank you for joining me on this tour of the studio. I look forward to seeing you on the next one. Until then, I invite you to check out photos of my other work in the gallery. Enjoy the rest of your day!

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