When I received my package from Old Line Oysters, I didn’t even want to unwrap it. The care and thought in its presentation already spoke wonders of its creator.
As I read the sweet note that accompanied the package, I couldn’t believe the story behind the contents. The slender little oyster shell on my necklace came from the town where I was born: Easton, Maryland. This little package in my hand felt like fate.
Meet Rachel Cobbs, an Artist and Founder of Old Line Oysters based in Maryland. I was allured by her artwork for obvious reasons like her use of oysters as a medium, but also her bold monograms and complex designs on such a small shell’s canvas. Her care for sustainability, conservation, and a deep love of the sea, shines through each uniquely handcrafted piece.
Neither of us realized at the time that she had hand selected the oyster shell that represented my birthplace, but what a charming coincidence that became.
In the package was another shell perfectly etched with my initials on it. This made me smile. It represented – to me – how I have made this oyster-loving hobby uniquely mine.
Here is my interview with Rachel. I hope it inspires you marvel at her talents, and browse her site for something special!
Virginia: What is your background and how did you start Old Line Oysters?
Rachel: I have been doing calligraphy and wedding planning for free for friends/friends of friends for years. At the urging of friends I decided to turn a hobby into a business. Maryland is the Old Line state. Folks outside of Maryland know Maryland crabs but oysters are another key resource for Maryland. In deciding what type of business I wanted to create, I wanted something that was uniquely, Maryland.
Virginia: What’s so special about Maryland? 🙂
Rachel: Maryland is they place my babies were born! I am originally from VA and have lived in North Carolina and Illinois. But Maryland has had my heart since we moved here in 2005. I love how diverse and progressive Maryland is.
Virginia: Why oyster shells? What inspires you to incorporate them into your work?
Rachel: I have learned a lot from the oyster and our greatest teachers are usually our greatest inspiration. Obviously there is the whole “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” metaphor, their hard-crusted shell is not an obvious place to find a pearl. But I love how oysters encourage us to look inside ourselves. As a society, we focus heavily on what we look like and ignore our internal characteristics. We sometimes take our inner gifts for granted. This little creature is soft and delicate but has a strong shell to protect itself. It lives in a turbulent environment of ocean currents but yet it is peaceful and adaptable. It takes all the irritants in its life and turns it into a pearl. Within the space of darkness and shadow lives something light and precious. How can you not be inspired to be more like them. 🙂
I started out getting my shells from just walking the beaches of Assateague, Fenwick or spending time at our family property in Easton. I also get some from local restaurants but not so much now with Covid dangers.
Virginia: What is your process like in making the oysters and jewelry?
Rachel: I clean them and let the sun bleach them. Then I select the oyster based on what I am making. It is important for me to be able to tell people where their shell came from so I make sure that once they are cleaned they are put into bins based on where I find them: Assateague, Fenwick, Easton, Chestertown or Saint Michaels.
All of the paints I use are environmentally friendly and safe. I don’t want anyone wearing my jewelry with a toxic glaze on it. The glazes and sealants that I use are food safe.
Virginia: What products do you create and is there anything unique about them that you would like to share?
Rachel: Pinch pots and ring dishes, salt cellars, candles, and oyster inspired jewelry. Each one is different–there is no mass production going on here. Each one is made just for the person getting it.
Virginia: I see that clients can request their monogram or an image. What are some examples of favorite projects you’ve done before?
Rachel: The Job’s tears necklace is my favorite product and probably what I am the proudest of. I partnered with Hands Producing Hope to source and string the seeds. Hands Producing Hope is a non-profit organization that brings hope to families in isolated communities around the world.
Thank you, Rachel, for sharing your talents and making a positive impact through our work! You can find more about Old Line Oysters by visiting their website: https://oldlineoysters.com/ and give them a follow on Instagram at @oldlineoysters.