Shell necklace maker Corrie Fullard

Shell necklace maker Corrie Fullard

My favourite shell is the mareener (a greeny purple or blue shell with a mother-of-pearl finish when cleaned). In the majority of necklaces I make you'll always find a mareener shell. It's my favourite I suppose because it was my Mum and Dad's favourite shell. I also love the black crows (cockle shells). I love that contrast.

Shell necklace
Shell necklace

The shells for my first necklace came from a place where my Mum and Dad used to collect their shells. It was there I played as a child and where I grew up on Flinders. And I think that's why it's stayed with me and been my favourite necklace.

My father used to make necklaces. My grandparents used to do it too and my Dad would collect shells for his mother when he was young. He helped his mother, who made necklaces. I never knew her. Presumably she sold them. A lot of people in the early times sold them on the islands for survival. My grandson, he's collected shells with me. And he's interested in shells.

Putting holes in them to thread them is not hard but you've got to be careful. I suppose there's a bit of a knack to how much pressure you put on them or otherwise you shatter them. I look at them before I put a hole in them, so that when I'm finished they'll all be sorted into groups of much the same size. I use a punch to put the holes in them. I had mine made. The steel's really hard. The rice shells (tiny oval shells) you put the hole in as you thread with the needle. Sometimes there are hundreds on one necklace.

I use a German thread. I think it's a thread they sew teddy bears with because it's so strong. But there's quite a few threads you can use. It's what you're comfortable with and I'm comfortable with this one. I use a size eight needle. You count the shells as you go. They're not done just to look at, you count each one. Because it's a pattern and you stay with the pattern.

Traditionally they would have used natural plant fibres. Our natural fibres are like rushes. I haven't used them to thread with but I've used them as a child to plait with and they're really strong. They would have used the sinew of the kangaroo's tail also. It's got a natural grease on that the shells would slip down easily and you would have used it wet because they stretch.

Corrie and her daughter Jeanette sorting shells
Corrie and her daughter Jeanette sorting shells

The necklaces would have been made by the people living near the sea. And they would have used them to barter with the inland tribes in central Tasmania for whatever they had, like ochre, because that wasn't found near the sea.

The shells are becoming more scarce. I think it's tourism pollution, water pollution. That's my belief. They're going into deeper water. Where in the past you only walked in a foot of water, today the same shells are in waist deep water. I think they've gone deeper again.

Jeanette, Corrie's daughter:
I learned how to make the necklaces by watching Mum and having a go now and again. You need plenty of patience.
The collecting is the fun bit, but it's the harder bit. You've got to go so far to get them. The preparation is very time consuming. It takes ages, although it is very satisfying. You keep the first one you make for yourself but it's not that we sell a lot of them or anything. I've only ever made three complete ones I think although I've collected the shells for many more I'd say. Once I counted the mareeners on a necklace. There were 750. People kept asking me how many were on there, so I sat down and counted them. I haven't got any girls, so if it ever passed through my family it would have to be through one of my sons. My youngest is interested. They spent hours when they were growing up collecting shells so it's not an odd thing for them to do now.


Shell necklace maker Muriel Maynard

I was born on Cape Barren Island. It's only a small island, and very isolated it was when I was growing up in the 30s and 40s. My mother died when I was only three. There were six of us on the island and we were fostered out to our aunties and relations.

Shell necklace maker Dulcie Greeno

I've lived near the sea most of my life. My dad was a fisherman. My husband was a fisherman and both my sons. Often I'd go out on the boat with my husband cray fishing and we'd be anchored off sheltered beaches for the night and we'd go ashore and collect shells.

Shell necklace maker Lola Greeno

I watched my mother making shell necklaces. She made them apparently before they were too many of us children. There were ten in my family. She made them in earlier times for pocket money helping to feed and clothe us kids. But then she gave it away for a few years, then she moved to Launceston.