Linda Fenwick sells sea shells all over the world. In fact, she has even coined a new term - ’shelling’ which is most definitely a verb in her case. We chat with Linda and find out that she’s been shelling and attracting a collection of shells and customers, for quite some time. And it all began in her summer childhood in Dallas with frequent vacations to Florida...
Born in Pittsburgh, Linda moved to Dallas aged four where she grew up with two sisters - swimming, playing tennis and vacationing in Florida. She went on to study at Baylor University where she started off reading chemistry and after working at a few Apparel Mart shows, she decided to change course and finished with fashion merchandising.
Once graduated, she worked for the designer Victor Costa and travelled with him for his fashion shows, personal appearances and Trunk Shows in major department stores across the US. The duo were both interested in seeing the beautiful homes in each city so we would usually drive through the suggested areas goggling at the sights.
Linda then married an Englishman abroad who "Swept me off my feet with his accent and worldliness! He was working for Sakowitz in Houston. On one of our first dates, we flew to San Francisco and went backstage at a Roxy Music concert - very cool at the time!"
On her subsequent move to the UK and her growing obsession with shells which have become a unique and very successful business, Linda says, "We moved to London in our second year of marriage. London in the 80s was incredibly glamorous - I loved it! Next, we moved to Yorkshire where we live now - stunning countryside sprinkled with historical stately homes. Having grown up in Dallas I never truly experienced the joy of the changing seasons and looking forward to what they bring...each season brings a new look of the landscape, seasonal foods, change of wardrobe and events. I still marvel and appreciate this but also miss the Texas heat. We have 3 grown-up children and a naughty spaniel puppy. I work every day in the studio shelling and adore every minute."
Linda tells us about her inspiration for The Shell House - her unique take on the classic folly, she has now created a beautiful shell-adorned retreat at her Yorkshire home.
"As a very personal project, this was really about creating something special and beautiful," says Linda. "Along the lines of a classic folly, I wanted to create a place to escape to and to enjoy with friends and family."
"The project took about 18 months from start to finish. The joy of creating something bespoke is that ‘anything goes’", she says. "So whilst adhering to some Classical and Georgian, influences it was fun to be able to design some panels with my children and even have our spaniel’s paw print on a lower panel."
"After staying with friends in the Grenadines, I felt inspired to use my shell collection to embellish our summer house which was being built at the time. I was also very much influenced by decorative plasterwork on walls and ceilings which I have seen on travels to Italy, France and Spain. The shells themselves are a constant source of inspiration - Atlantic Mussels, Abalones, Clams, Trocus, Star Limpets and Scallops to name a few.
The room is now enjoyed all year round and a constant source of pleasure for all the family."
Linda now works with a dedicated team who are similarly shell-obsessed - from larger scale building projects here and abroad to bespoke commissions for shell products and panels to running her shop.