Discover the art of crafting shell books with Gabrielle Reed, blending creativity with nature's beauty to transform shells into captivating literary treasures with coastal charm.

Jun 15, 2024 - Jun 15, 2024

Levels: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced,
Workshop Fee: $225 (Includes materials kit)
Workshop Duration: 3 hours (Saturday, 9am-12pm ET)
Workshop Location: Online
Class Size: 12

Note: This workshop will be held in a live, online format utilizing the Zoom platform.
Class meets Saturday, Jun 15 from 9am-12pm ET.

There is a long tradition of shell books as referenced in the recent show at the New Bedford Whaling Museum  “A singularly marine & fabulous produce: the Cultures of Seaweed”.

In this half-day online workshop, artist Gabrielle Reed will lead us through the process that she has perfected in using beach-combed shells or leftovers from last night’s clam dinner!

Gabrielle will provide a kit for each student that includes*:

  • shells with pre-drilled holes ( 2 ) 
  • paper – option of cotton photo paper or Japanese awagami (2 sheets )
  • Spool of bookbinding thread (1)
  • needle (1)
  • glue stick (1)

*Please use your preferred mailing address when registering.

The Process

Clean and prep your shells

A pre-drill shell will be mailed to you. If you want to use your own, remove extra muscle from the hinge section of your shell – this can be done with a nail file. Gabrielle leaves her shells “natural” to polish as they are handled.

Bay and sea scallops tend to work best due to the auricles (wing- or ear-like protrusions). Large mussels work fine from the long side. Gabrielle has enough to supply the class and will mail you a predrilled set, but she will demonstrate the best practice in class.

Drilling Holes

A secure binding must be done with a dremel and diamond tip for best results. The provided shells will be predrilled.

Shell Books workshop at Maine Media, open shell book By Gabrielle Reed


Gabrielle recommends using a BQLZR 0.45mm White Polyester Wax Linen Thread Sewing Thread for Hand Sewing Leather DIY and Bookbinding from Amazon.

Papers to use

There are a variety of types: Lighter Awagami papers are fine. As a photographer, Gabrielle prefers heavier papers like Hahnemuhle Matte Photo Rag, 100 % Rag, Smooth, Bright White Inkjet Paper, 19 mil., 308 g/mA, 8.5×11″.


With images, I make contact sheets in Photoshop of existing images 5 columns x 4 rows. This creates 20 images and 10 pages.  You can make more “pages” by creating more contact sheets. Without images, simply take 8.5 x 11 sheets and cut them into strips to the corresponding width of your shells.

Sewing process

Students can view the Sewing process here.

Practice & Questions

Feel free to practice beforehand to maximize our time together. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to email Gabrielle ([email protected]).

Tools to have at the ready:

  • Scissors
  • Awl
  • Bone folder
  • Bookbinding needle (or crewel needle) *
  • Bookbinding thread*
  • Double-sided acid-free tape roll, or glue stick*
  • Dremel w/ diamond tip (for future shells)
  • Coptic binding tutorial 
  • Paper 
  • Shells*
  • Nail file ( to remove excess hinge muscle from shells )
  • Pencil

Folks will need their own awl, bone folder, and cutting mat to work on.

Shell Books workshop at Maine Media, open shell book with black and white images - By Gabrielle Reed

All images copyright Gabrielle Reed.

Share This

Instructor: Gabrielle Reed

Gabrielle Reed is an art librarian and photographer. She has worked at Massachusetts College of Art and Design for the past 18 years. There she teaches artists’ books and photobooks from the MassArt library special collections. 

She was born and raised in Jamestown, RI - Conanicut Island, which is the focus of much of her artistic work. Her current work revolves around the aquaculture of where she lives. The main focus of her research is on the bay scallop, Argopecten irradians. 

She has a BFA in photography from Washington University in St. Louis, MO, and an MS from Simmons College.