If hobbies are how we define our time, Duxbury’s Denise Miller has already lived 1,000 years.
If you ask her what she enjoys doing in her free time, the answer could very well be different every time.. She’s made wreathes, embroidered, painted rocks, sewed pillows, painted wine glasses, made greeting cards and is considering a foray into quilting. She says she’s loved it all.
“I’ve been crafting all my life,” Miller says with a smile. “From wine charms to wooden plagues and all kinds of things – I love it. I’m one of those people who cannot sit still.”
These days, Miller is channeling all of her energy into Beachcomber Creations, a two-year-old business through which she sells upcycled oyster shell ornaments, wreaths, keychains, garland, ring dishes, wall art and more. She finds all of the shells on her own, either by walking the beach or home shucking oysters from Island Creek in Duxbury – one of her favorite places to eat.
“I can’t walk on a beach without picking something up and, when we had our dog, I was on the beach everyday,” she sad. “I just can’t not look down … We live in the best part of the country for it.”
Miller is new to the South Shore – she just moved to Duxbury two years ago – but her love of the beach is long lived. She spent decades cruising the Outer Banks in Virginia and has always collected shells she found along the way, she said. She finally took to Pinterest a few years ago looking for ideas of what to do with her stockpile.
She and a friend started using the decoupage technique – transferring patterns and colors from paper products – onto shells several years ago and Miller said she immediately took to it. She used napkins and tissue paper to give the shells new life, and soon had accent pieces that could be used as the core of a key chain, a ring dish or even just as décor on its own. Her most popular items include images of mermaids, lighthouses, sailboats, lobsters or a compass rose.
“I try to make things that go with the décor of people’s homes,” Miller said. “Around here, coastal is very much what people prefer.”
In addition to the more whimsical items made using decoupage, Miller also makes wreaths and decorative garland using oysters that have been scrubbed clean but are otherwise left as is. Cleaning the oysters is a job in and of itself, she said, and it takes several days to get from raw, untreated shell to a finished product.
“Crafting, to me, is therapeutic,” she said. “I sit down, put on music or call my friends. I can do it for hours at a time, especially if the weather isn’t calling me outside. I just go tray by tray by tray.”
Miller is always experimenting with new techniques and styles, and is looking to expand her line of customizable products, which allow people to put their monogram, zip code or other messages on a shell.
“When people come here to the coast, they want to take something with them to remember their time here,” she said. “The oyster shells really do just that.”
Items from Beachcomber Creations are available online at beachcombercreations.gifts, at Coastal Treasures in Marshfield or at local craft fairs. Keychains sell for $10 to $12, ornaments for about $10 and large clamshell trinket dishes for $15 to $25.
“I do this as a creative outlet and I know not everybody has the money to spend on a bunch of gifts or trinkets so I try to keep my prices reasonable,” she said. “It’s really going to craft fairs that I love, it’s so fun just to meet so many like-minded people.”
Photos in this post were taken by the wonderfully talented Greg Derr. They were originally published in The Patriot Ledger.