Creating beauty from nature’s treasures

Linda TerHaar shares her artistic passion with her neighbors

Created date

April 29th, 2020
(From left) Janet Clift, Courtney Layne, Sara Clinard, Linda TerHaar, and Penny Bobincheck at Linda’s first shell-flower-making class.

(From left) Janet Clift, Courtney Layne, Sara Clinard, Linda TerHaar, and Penny Bobincheck at Linda’s first shell-flower-making class.

It’s been said that seashells are love letters in the sand. For Linda TerHaar, collecting the precious shells, known as shelling, is a hobby she’s enjoyed since childhood. 

“Growing up in South Florida, my father would take our family to Fort Myers beach each summer,” says Linda. “That is when I first started shelling, and I’ve enjoyed it ever since.”

Before moving to Windsor Run, an Erickson Living community in Matthews, N.C., in July 2018, Linda and her husband Ron lived in Charlotte for more than 30 years. But that did not stop the couple from enjoying shelling and frequent visits to the ocean.

“I’ve always been drawn to the sea,” says Linda. “Each fall, we pack up our RV and head down to Sanibel Island for a month. It is a quaint little island and the shelling capital of the world. The shells here are unlike any others on the East Coast. Because the island is on the gulf side of Florida and the waters are more shallow and calm than on the Atlantic side, the shells don’t get beat up before landing on shore. And the colors are magnificent. Bright pinks, purples, whites, and peach. They are so stunning that many people think I’ve painted them to look this way.”

Through the years, Linda has amassed a large collection of precious, brightly colored shells that she organizes, by color, in boxes.

“They are so special to me,” she says. “I’ve been around seashells my entire life. They all hold wonderful memories and bring me such joy.”

An idea takes root

One year, on the couple’s annual trip to Sanibel Island, Linda drove past a sign promoting a class at the local community center for crafting seashells into flowers.

“I was immediately intrigued,” she says. “I attended the class and learned the technique needed to turn my treasures into beautiful flowers.”

A quick learner, Linda soon began transforming her collection into stunning pieces of art. In addition to the flowers, she’s adorned napkin holders; crafted a light fixture out of shells, Styrofoam, and Christmas lights; and filled a glass lamp base with shells.

“These projects make the best use out of seashells that are not the right size or shape to make a flower but are beautiful in their own right,” she says.

Precious cargo

While living in Charlotte and traveling to Sanibel Island each year, the TerHaars began thinking about the next step in their retirement. Within days of Windsor Run’s announcement to the public, Linda inquired about a future move to the community.

“We had visited every continuing care retirement community in the area,” she says. “Ron and I were both very impressed with the Erickson Living lifestyle and the 90% refundable entrance deposit. Our two children and three grandchildren live in the area, and they were so excited for our new adventure.”

With the decision to move made, the couple then proceeded with moving preparations, including downsizing from the single-family home they’d lived in for the past 32 years. However, for Linda, her beloved shells were nonnegotiable. They would be traveling with the couple to their new home.

“I just couldn’t get rid of them,” she says.

The decision would prove fateful to Linda’s new neighbors. 

Sharing her passion

Shortly after the move to Windsor Run, Linda inquired about teaching a shell-flower-making class, just as she had attended on Sanibel Island.

“Becky Dinello [Windsor Run’s community resources coordinator] loved the idea,” says Linda. “We immediately went to work letting people know about the class. All they had to do was bring their imagination. I enjoy sharing my shells and had more than enough for everyone.”

In addition, leading up to the class, Linda showcased some of her shell creations in the display case in one of the Windsor Run craft rooms. The beauty of her pieces created quite a buzz. 

“I was amazed at the response and more excited than ever to share the craft with my neighbors,” she says. 

Artistic success

Linda’s inaugural class was a big hit.

“Everyone had a lot of fun,” she says. “As I’ve had to do in the past, I promised that the shells were not painted. Most of the women in the class had never been around shells as colorful as these. The best part for me was watching everyone make their own creations. They were all so beautiful.”

Based on the response from the first class, Linda is eager to hold a second class. 

“This time, we will concentrate on other ways to use the shells to create a special treasure,” she says. “There is so much you can do. The sky is really the limit.” 

“Linda’s talent working with the seashells is amazing to see,” says Dinello. “We are all thrilled that she is eager to share her gifts with our community and look forward to seeing the many new works of art she and her neighbors will create.”