The Beginning

Foto: Apoena Medeiros

Discovering the Enchanted World of Shells

In the 80s, while spending my summer vacations on the beaches of the State of Espírito Santo (1), Brazil (2), my attention was drawn to the beauty and large quantity of the shell necklaces being sold in the cities along the southern coast of the state, mainly the strip between the cities of Guarapari and Marataízes (3).

I was starting to study the folklore of the state, and the shell necklaces sold along the beaches amused me. Never had I seen them in the beaches of the North region; why were they so abundant in the South?

Intrigued, I started approaching people around and asking questions. Soon I found out that the necklaces were, in their majority, made in Piúma, where abundance of raw material had allowed the growth of this unique craft.

In this small city bordering the Atlantic ocean, it was common to see women - old, young, and children - gathered in their verandas or in their front doors, holding in their laps large containers full of shells and beads, lacing necklaces while talking about their daily routines.

That is how I started my almost 30 years of researches in this picturesque region, delving into the enchanted world of shells – who were making the craft, from where was the raw material brought, who sells them in the beaches and stores, who were the pioneers of this craft...

The research led to the publication of my first book, “O Mundo Encantado das Conchas” (The Enchanted World of Shells) in 1981, illustrated by works of photographer Rogério Medeiros.

Twenty years later, I revisited the region with a group of photographers and researches. This new research led to a Photographic Exhibition, in 2006 (4), showing works of photographer Apoena Medeiros; in the publication of a second book, in 2009, and in this site. In them I kept the same title, believing that it reflects perfectly this enchanted world, where the shells are revived and transformed in objects of great beauty, helping the lives of so many people.


(1) Espírito Santo: A state of southeast Brazil. The capital is Vitória.

(2) Brazil, in South America, is the fifth most populous country and the world’s eighth largest economy. The country speaks Portuguese and has a multiethnic society.

(3) Cities of the southern coast of Espírito Santo included in this researdh: Vitória, Vila Velha, Guarapari, Piúma, Anchieta. Marataízes.

(4) Exhibition: O mundo Encantado das Conchas. Photographies by Apoena Medeiros. Sponsored by Secretaria do Estado da Cultura, Governo do Estado do Espírito Santo (July/August 2006).