When oysters become works of art, not just on your plate

Most of us have probably never paused long enough during an oyster scoff to examine the scaly shells that protect those delicious salty morsels. Rough, greenish, sandy, or maybe even a bit slimy, the oyster shell is certainly not known for its aesthetic appeal. And yet local graphic designer and photographer Debbie Brady has succeeded in finding a world of abstract beauty in PEI oyster shells.

Using macro (in essence extreme closeup) photography she has uncovered waves of sinuous pattern, rich and unexpected colour—who would have imagined gorgeous blues are hidden within the colours and crevices of some shells?

Some of Brady’s work in her home gallery
Photo credit: Cheryl Young/Salty

Brady lives in Tyne Valley, located on the Canadian Oyster Coast, home of the Oyster Festival and Canadian Oyster Shucking Championship. World-renowned Malpeque oysters are plentiful in the area. She was first inspired to photograph a shell at close range when contemplating some of the beach treasures she has collected during her many walks along the shore.

After a shell is brought home and washed, she examines it with a magnifying glass to find the areas that interest her the most. She then photographs that spot on the shell using macro photography techniques.

Debbie Brady examines some shells she’s collected
Photo credit: Cheryl Young/Salty

Those resulting photos are enlarged to prints ranging in size from eight inches by eight inches to 40 inches by 60 inches and are available in different mediums like gallery canvas, archival paper, or printed on acrylic.

Each art piece is titled using the name of the shore where the shell was found. Pieces in her current collection, for example, are named Oyster Art #6349 – Conway Narrows, or Oyster Art #6704 – Malpeque Bay. The result is a powerful statement piece with a meaningful PEI origin.

You can find Brady’s work online, at her home gallery, and at The Dunes Studio Gallery. Brady adds a nice touch for each artwork, including a card with a photo of the entire shell, highlighting the tiny section portrayed. She is also working on a One-of-One series where only one print of a photograph will be made, and the buyer will get the oyster shell that’s the subject of that artwork.

About Carol Horne

A Venn diagram of Carol Horne’s life so far in PEI would show multiple intersecting circles centering on food and land. Over her many years as an Island resident she has filled roles as tourism marketer, Department of Agriculture information director, community development manager, planning technician, farm safety coordinator, strawberry grower, landscape protection advocate, lobster marketer, and media relations expert, happily sampling and promoting Island products along the way.

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