Shell Artist Parts With Past

Shell Art

A Malibu woman is about to move away from her home town, but she’d like to leave her heart and a piece of her art behind.

Kelly Zimmerman is a Malibu hometown girl. The now-47-year-old grew up in Malibu, attending Juan Cabrillo Elementary School, Malibu Park Junior High and then bussed to Santa Monica High School before Malibu High School existed. After many long bus rides, Zimmerman often wound up at the beach. It was at the shore where the inspiration for her artwork blossomed.

For four decades, she followed her mother’s footsteps literally and figuratively in the sand. Zimmerman would often comb Zuma Beach in search of shells that had washed up on the shore. She described her parents as artistic people who inspired her—in particular, her mother, who taught Zimmerman how to make art collages out of the found shells. They’re not easy to find, especially unbroken.

“We would take beach walks and pick up all kinds of miscellaneous shells,” Zimmerman described. She pointed out she’s never taken anything “alive,” elaborating, “We made sure there was nothing in them—even crabs.” The shells were then glued into beautiful collages. Sometimes the found shells were combined with others that were bought in order for some symmetry for certain art pieces.

Many of Zimmerman’s collages made it into art festivals. Over the years she’s sold pieces for display in people’s homes. They’re especially popular in beach houses for indoor and outdoor display.

Now about to downsize into a studio apartment with a move out of Malibu, the artist is going to part with one of her most elaborate collages. It’s one of her biggest, too, measuring one by four feet, not including the frame. The piece is heavy as well, requiring two anchors. Zimmerman said she would have loved to keep the piece—sentimental for her—but she now will not have room for it. Her childhood home was lost in the Woolsey Fire so there is no place she can leave the wall hanging—one of her most treasured pieces. So, she decided to auction the collage.

The auction took place on the private Friends of Malibu Facebook group with a starting bid of $85. Shell art on internet sites such as Etsy can range from $20 into the hundreds of dollars.

“Losing our family home in the Woolsey Fire, I don’t currently have a home to go back to so I don’t have the room for it anymore,” Zimmerman said. “I feel like my heart’s always been at the beach. Growing up there, I would feel good if it was in somebody’s home from my hometown who would appreciate it—in the town where I found most of the shells. I thought in my heart that would be just as rewarding as making it.”

In the end, Zimmerman’s masterpiece will reside in a home a bit farther afield; a Thousand Oaks resident placed the winning bid.


Inquiries to the artist may be directed to: