Tag Archives: carapace

Splendor in the glass: Life, death, love, and crab shells

Part of the collection. Photo: Laura Grimes


Funny how inspiration can be found in the form of dead crabs.

While walking along the beach I found one crab shell after another and imagined stacking them up in a glass jar. I imagined crab shells all the same size stacked one atop the other, up up up, and enclosed in clear glass. So many. So fragile. So safe. And so dead.


  • I was taken with the pure imagery of it. Crabs and glass in one clean vertical line.
  • The delicate shells displayed so simply yet they have so much texture and immediately evoke a briny musky sense and a deep connection with the vast ocean.
  • Death and the way we stare at it, a fascination we can’t avoid … uneasy, perilous, precarious.
  • A glass jar that’s oddly both fragile and safe-keeping.

I love filling glass jars — an odd passion, I know. I buy them at Goodwill and wash them and then fill them with shells and rocks and sea glass and fossils and wasps’ nests and pinecones and bones and dead bugs and feathers and flower pods and leaf skeletons.

I fill glass jars now the way I filled my pockets with all these things when I was a kid.

When I was very pregnant with my first son I opened a package in front of a room full of people. Inside were three small jars and a note. When I read the note, I had to discreetly turn my face to hide my tears. I’d like to think it was the hormones. My mom had written that she had received the jars when my sister, 11 years older, was born. My mom had filled them with cotton balls and Q-tips and safety pins. The Q-tips were the old wooden kind. My mom was surprised to hear this. She didn’t remember the Q-tips being the old wooden kind. I saved them.

The small jars are now full of agates, lava rocks and old broken tile and are displayed in the old soldered windows of the dining room. The sunlight shines through them.

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