Rhody Maker: Alisa Kelley of SeaAndStable

A Barrington-based crafter beachcombs for shells and turns them into pretty decor.
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Alisa Kelley.

It all started with beachcombing. On beaches in Rhode Island and beyond, Alisa Kelley would search the shore and find beautiful shells. She’d add them to a collection she’s been building for years, which had also been filling her basement. It came to the point where she decided it was time to do something with them.

“I’ve always been crafty,” Kelley, who lives in Barrington, says. “I’ve always done crafts with my kids. I was a girl scout troop leader for several years, and that was always the part that I think I was best at.”

As Kelley’s children grew older, she moved onto crafts she personally enjoyed. Searching for ideas, she found a how-to page on decoupage — the art of decorating an object by gluing paper onto it with other special decorative components. She started experimenting with paper patterns she liked on shells she collected, and the rest is history.

In the fall of 2019, Kelley launched her Etsy shop, SeaAndStable, which pushed her to make more crafts. As more orders came in, Kelley’s shop began to grow, even during the pandemic.

 

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“It was a little bright spot in such a dark time for everybody,” Kelley says. “It was nothing I expected would really go anywhere, but better than I thought!”

After sourcing the shells, Kelley cleans them, sands any rough edges and paints the inside white to cover any dark spots. With a layer of paper between layers of Mod Podge craft glue, she paints the edges and the back with gold leaf paint.

Kelley says she loves the idea of making something pretty out of a found object in nature. She also creates other items involving driftwood and sea glass.

 

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“The shells in their natural state are beautiful, but then you can turn them into something even prettier with a little paper and paint,” Kelley explains. “I like the idea of trying to take something that would be discarded and try to make it into something nice that would be decorative.”

Kelley eventually got her family involved in helping her beachcomb. At least once a week, she and her daughter search the beach for shells. They prefer beachcombing during the winter due to the quiet atmosphere from the lack of crowds that usually take up the space during the summer.

In addition to the shells, Kelley also picks up any trash she sees.

“It’s so depressing to see the plastic and all the junk that washes up,” she says. “That’s also what really inspired me to try to make a little bit of a difference in the pollution in the ocean.”

 

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Kelley donates a portion of her profits to different charities, including an environmental group that works on reducing plastic in the ocean. Kelley also tries to incorporate something repurposed in everything she makes, whether that be reclaimed or scrap wood, or the shells themselves, which she always ensures are empty of any animals.

With her packaging, she uses cardboard boxes and tries to avoid plastic. Kelley also shreds brown grocery paper for filler in her boxes. She also reuses things like bubble wrap she receives in the mail in her own packages.

“But there’s always room for improvement,” Kelley says.

For more information, visit SeaAndStable on Etsy. Kelley’s blue and white oyster shells are also for sale at Sprout CoWorking on Main Street in Warren.

 

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