Looking at a piece of Marji Perfetuo’s art is like looking at the bottom of the sea.
“Everything that I use is really from the ocean,” the Hanover, Massachusetts resident said. “It’s all ocean worn and very smooth and natural.”
There is no shortage of coastal-inspired art, decor or furniture on the South Shore, but rather than using the traditional mediums of paint, pencils and pastels, what Perfetuo makes is built from material pulled from the seafloor itself. Her works are composed of sea glass from Bermuda and Italy, sand from the Bahamas, ocean-worn pottery from Scotland and other materials to craft framed interpretations of lighthouses, Christmas trees, palm trees and more.
“I don’t really have a plan when I start,” she said. “I just say, ‘I’m going to make a lighthouse,’ and see where it goes from there.”
On a Tuesday in December, Perfetuo was working to complete pieces for the Quincy Winter Market, which is open through Saturday. She pieced together a Christmas tree in a worn-looking white frame, using sea glass in various shades of green, with small seashells and beads sprinkled in as ornaments. At the top sat a white shell in the shape of a star.
“This time of year, I spend every waking hour making these pieces,” she said.
The hobby is new for Perfetuo, who worked in retail and real estate before quitting to stay home and watch after her grandchildren nearly 20 years ago. It was about five years ago that she learned to make the ocean art from a longtime friend.
“At first, my things were terrible, but as it progressed we started selling it online and people were actually buying it,” she said. “My friend finally said, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore,’ whereas I loved it and could do it every day of my life.”
From there, Marji’s Ocean Art, a small business that Perfetuo runs mostly online, was born.
In a small corner of her husband’s office in Hanover, she has dozens of drawers and jars filled with supplies. She is meticulously organized in the small space, using containers as small as weekly pill boxes to hold the various charms, beads and pieces of glass used to make her art.
“I try not to let it spill into the rest of the house, but that doesn’t always happen,” Perfetuo said, laughing.
Though her art is inspired by the ocean and what lies within it, Perfetuo sticks to a pastel palette and whimsical patterns that make her works stand out among more common ocean-themed decor made from driftwood and weather-worn materials.
“I just tend to gravitate toward that,” Perfetuo said. “A lot of people who do the ocean-themed thing lean more rustic, but this is the style I’ve evolved to and what I enjoy the most.”
Each piece, which range in size from 2-by-4 inches to 31-by-18, takes three to four days to make, once the glass is sealed, materials are arranged and resin is poured.
But Perfetuo doesn’t mind. She said she enjoys closing herself in her studio and losing herself in the process, and says she loves it just as much now as she did when she first started. She’s made and sold more than 1,000 pieces in the last five years.
“Almost every piece that I sell, I don’t want to,” she said. “I hate to let them go because I really love them. It’s my own creation and I feel connected to them.”
Perfetuo takes custom orders on her Facebook page, Marji’s Ocean Art, and sells at a few local markets. Her work is also for sale at RG’s Salon in Weymouth and MacDonald’s Sandwich Emporium in Sandwich.
The pieces range in price from $25 to $90.
Photos in this post were taken by the wonderfully talented Greg Derr. They were originally published in The Patriot Ledger.