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Sandy Moran - Sailors Valentine artist of custom valentines, commissions, repairs and valentine classes

about sandy moran

Award Winning Sailor's Valentine Artist

The very first Sailor’s Valentine Sandy Moran viewed changed her life. Then in the antiques business, Sandy was offered an eighteenth-century example of these romantic works of sea-shell art for resale, and was quite taken by the simple beauty of an object that spoke so elegantly of a lonely sailor’s love.

Sandy’s interest grew as she learned more about the history of these objects. She also discovered that Sailor’s Valentines were highly valued by art connoisseurs, collectors, and those seeking that perfect gift for a loved one.


– Sandy Moran

A person with a fine eye for artistic quality, and a love for all things connected with the sea, Sandy was inspired to realize her own vision of a unique Sailor’s Valentine.

Her valentines include patterns and flowers of various unusual seashells. Many of the shells were discovered in old shell collections.

The natural colors and detailed work are encased in quality, hand-made cases of cherry and tiger maple. Some of the valentines utilize round scrimshaw centers, others have one of a kind oil paintings in the center and still others have delicate seashell center designs.

All unique, all one of a kind, to be treasured and passed down as a family heirloom

sailors valentines
Sandy Moran featured in Martha Stewart Living

Sandy Moran has been featured or included in the art and culture section of many publications including Martha Stewart Living Magazine and Cape Cod Magazine:


Cape Cod Magazine, Jan/Feb Issue 2018
By Marina Davalos

New England lore says that homesick sailors of the 1800s—out at sea for months or years—fashioned finely crafted designs of shells in octagonal wooden cases as they whiled away their time far from loved ones at home. Historians, however, have traced “Sailors’ Valentines” back to the island of Barbados, a major seaport of the day. Barbadian women and children made the shell art pieces and sold them as souvenirs to foreign sailors. 

Sandy Moran’s parents were antique dealers, and she, a Boston accountant Monday through Friday, operated her own antique shop on the weekends in Hingham. In 1989, she left both jobs and moved to Sanibel Island, home of the Sanibel Shell Show. “But I was bored when I got there,” says Moran, who lives in Yarmouth Port. “I was used to working so much.”


Eventually, she visited a shell shop with the intention of learning a craft and while there befriended Jean Karabin, who made sailors’ valentines. Moran was familiar with the art form, having had one from the 1800s pass through herhands while in the antique business. She was inspired by Karabin’s work and decided to make her own. “My first one was shaped like a heart,” says Moran, who has since participated in and won prizes at shell shows in Florida and on the Cape. Her intricate designs in a range of color schemes can take months to complete. Moran teaches classes and workshops on the Cape and in Sanibel, and has been known to take students out shelling.


Wicked Local, June 2015
By Laurie Higgins

When Yarmouth Port resident Sandy Moran left her job as an accountant for a law firm 26 years ago, she headed to Sanibel Island in Florida. There she wandered into a shell shop and found a brand new passion for creating shell art.

Her first piece was a small paperweight heart that she still owns. Over the years, she has developed her talent and is now an award winning sailor’s valentine artist who specializes in classic designs. Sailor’s valentine refers to a craft using small seashells in an octagonal shape.

She was the artistic chairperson of the Sanibel Shell Show for 13 years, so when her friend Sue Hobbs suggested she create a show on Cape Cod, she thought it was a wonderful idea. The response from other shell artists has been wonderful.

“I had an initial list of people that I sent things to and it’s just going wild,” Moran says. “We have items coming from as far away as Japan and Hawaii.”

The two-day Cape Cod Shell Show is equally divided between professionals and non-professionals. Categories include sailor’s valentines, mirrors, wreaths, jewelry, coffee tables, chandeliers, flower arrangements and scenes like a farmer’s market and bakery made from shells. There will be a mermaid house and other original designs using both common and rare seashells.

“Certain dealers sell certain shells,” Moran says. “That’s why this is so interesting to do because you have to learn about the shells and then find them.”

Moran has a studio in her home that includes wrap around open cabinetry with thousands of shells in glass containers sorted by color. More shells are neatly arranged in plastic bags in drawers below. She has taught classes for years and several of her students have items in the show. There is a section in the show for valentines made in class. Moran says that learning shell art is easy, but mastering it comes with practice.

PROJECT: SEASHELL VALENTINES Martha Stewart Living, February 2003

The delicate colors and exquisite shapes of shells have inspired countless craftspeople to incorporate them into objects ranging from the mundane to the extraordinary, from tissue-box covers to elaborate mosaics. The more intricate creations include sailors’ valentines — octagonal wooden boxes adorned with seashells and messages of love first made and given as gifts in the early 19th century …..

Today, people longing for one of these seaworthy keepsakes may use the originals as inspiration for their own shell-box creations, as does artisan Sandy Moran, who has been crafting modern sailors valentines for 10 years at her studio near the Atlantic Ocean on Cape Cod and on the Gulf of Mexico in Sanibel, Florida.

Martha Stewart and Sandy Moran take a field trip to Sanibel Island to look at her studio where she makes sailor's valentines.

We are saddened to share that Sandy Moran passed away on November 11th.

Her life was a blessing and her memory a treasure. 
She is loved beyond words and missed beyond measure.

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