One of my dearest friends and I share a passion for shelling.  We have been lucky enough to vacation together a few times in sunny spots and are known to while away a morning or afternoon, heads down, filling pockets and buckets with sand dollars and olives and scallops.  She has a knack for shark's teeth, which I lack; this is a source of consternation for my children.

A few years ago we were together on a hot, sweaty island when we saw a group of men cleaning conch for a nearby cafe.  After extracting the creatures from their homes they were tossing the not-quite-football-sized shells into the bay.  We would have scrambled down the bank to retrieve our souvenirs ourselves, but small sharks were enjoying the leftovers.  Nurse sharks, I'm sure, but still.  Besides having a generous spirit and a wicked sense of humor, my friend also has a sweet smile and a killer figure.  This combination resulted in the very pretty conch shell on my mantle.

She asked me this weekend if Bill LaCivita focuses entirely on shell busts, and in fact, he does not.  While working on the goddess he forwarded pictures of a few other works.  Before I could even scroll down to see it, the text of his email said, "And don't ask for the mermaid - she's too big to ship."  Wonder how he knew?

We have gathered a lot of shells over the years and I am always toying with how to display them best.  Most of mine sit in bags and boxes under the counter in my kitchen.  I noticed my friend had a basket filled with shells on a table in her family room.  They looked just right - a heap of happy memories comfortable in their midwestern home.  Her conch shell is on a nearby table.

This week I hope to dig around a bit for unused containers and those bags and boxes.  I think the goddess could use a few friends.

Images, top, Bill LaCivita.  Two lower images, The Way We Live with the Things We Love by Stafford Cliff; photography by Gilles de Cabaneix.