Traditional sailors valentines call for an octagonal box; when you make your own sailors valentine, of course, you can choose to obey that convention or trod your own path. My daughters, for instance, like to create shell art on top of just a piece of cardboard, and even if you do use a box, who says it has to be octagonal? DIY Cardboard record album cover boxes are plenty roomy enough for a sailors valentine.
The secrets to a lovely sailors valentine are repetition and symmetry. Although there’s certainly room to highlight one or two exceptional and unique shells, most of the space in your valentine will be taken up with shells of similar shape and size–this also makes it a craft particularly suited to creating a souvenir from a beach vacation, since many beaches are known for a few specific type of shells that are most often found there (you collected your shells ethically, right?).
Using any type of glue (white school glue works perfectly well here), lay out a design with your shells that exhibits symmetry–radial symmetry is a good choice if you’re using the traditional octagonal base, but bilateral symmetry can also be lovely, if less conventional. Traditional sailors valentines also cover all the available space with shells, filling the background with less spectacular shells and even layering them for effect. It’s possible to sketch out a complete pattern right on the cardboard before you lay your first shell, but it’s also fun (and less time-consuming!) just to wing it.
After your design is complete, set your sailors valentine aside for at least 24 hours so that the glue, whatever glue you used, can fully cure. Afterwards, gently tilt the sailors valentine, and if any of the shells seem loose, re-glue them and allow additional curing time.
To remember a specific vacation, label the back of your sailors valentine with the location of the beach where you collected your shells, and the date that you visited. Also note the month and year when you created your masterpiece–it will give future museum curators less of a headache when they’re putting together your exhibit. Your sailors valentines can sit on a shelf or be hung on the wall using picture hanging hardware.