Zhang Chou-mei: turning shells into art

Chinese name: 張綢妹

Shell artist
Zhang Chou-mei, mother of Hakka singer Chen Yong-tao (陳永淘), had settled in Sanzhi, New Taipei over 10 years ago. Her husband and son liked to go fishing by the seaside. Having nothing to do on their fishing trips, she started to collect seashells. “My family said I was strange. There were so many stones and I had to pick up seashells. I didn’t know why either. It just occurred to me that there had to be something I could do with seashells. And then one day, I lined up some seashells, had a look and thought they were quite pretty. That’s how I got into shell painting.”

In her storage, there are cans of shells in variety. After designing the pattern, Zhang would trim and color the shells to make a beautiful artwork. In early days, the major themes of her artworks were figures, creatures, and plants. Later she started creating shell artworks featured the theme of flowers, showing a distinct taste and elegance.

Zhang once noted: “Each shell I found on the seashore is a beautiful treasure to my eyes. As they are gifts given by the ocean, I would like to turn these small, unnoticed shells into incredible artworks.” Her shell artworks reflect her warmth as a mother as well as her respect and love toward nature. Through her creation of shell artworks, Zhang has also learned the importance of environmental protection.  Thus, she has constantly reminded students of the importance of our environment during each lesson.