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University of Connecticut University Libraries

May 27 - August 15, 2008


Valentine 128, by Lynda Susan Hennigan

Valentine 128, by Lynda Susan Hennigan


She Sells Sea Shells, by Lynda Susan Hennigan, Re-Creator of Sailors' Valentines

Gallery on the Plaza, Homer Babbidge Library
Curators: Norman Stevens, Chris McNevins and Suzanne Zack

Seashells have long fascinated us. They have been used as currency, in jewelry, to create a variety of other objects, and simply as beautiful objects in themselves. Nineteenth century sailors returned from their whaling voyages with “sailors’ valentines,” octagonal boxes made of cypress and filled with shell mosaics, as gifts to their wives and sweethearts. Originally thought to be made, like scrimshaw, by sailors, it was discovered in recent years that they were made as souvenirs by craftsmen in Barbados.

The folk art of sailors’ valentines perished with the end of the whaling industry in the late 1800s. In 1970, a visitor to a maritime museum rediscovered sailors' valentines. He began to collect them, give talks about them and, along with others, to revive this fascinating art form.

Lynda Susan Hennigan saw her first sailors’ valentine in a maritime museum on Cape Cod. Five years ago, a friend encouraged her to create one of her own. Today, she is an award-winning shell work artist. Articles about her, and pictures of her boxes, have appeared in Early American Life Magazine, Country Living Magazine and in numerous newspapers. She teaches at the Brookfield Art Center, Guilford Art School and the Fletcher Farm Art School in Ludlow, Vermont, and gives talks at many local historical societies. She creates her exquisite Sailors’ Valentines in her studio in Brooklyn, Connecticut.

Hennigan’s work in this exhibit is complemented by shell curios, printed materials, and shells from the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History.

The public is cordially invited to attend a gallery talk by Ms. Hennigan on June 4 at 2:00 p.m. at the Gallery on the Plaza, Homer Babbidge Library.


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