It was while making sandcastles on the beach in 2003 that artist Kellie Quinn thought of the idea to use sand as an artistic medium. The image of a snowflake came into her head, and she developed her first line of Beachsand Snowflakes as presents for friends that Christmas season.
Quinn made the first Beachsand Snowflake with sand from Skaket Beach in Orleans. As word about her snowflakes spread, people began asking for snowflakes made with sand from their favorite beach. By 2006, the number of individual Cape Cod beaches represented grew to about 100 - the most popular being Mayflower Beach in Dennis, Lighthouse Beach in Chatham and Nauset Beach in Orleans.
Presently, the number of beaches that Quinn has created snowflakes for is close to 550. She has made snowflakes from every continent except Antarctica, and she named her most exotic spot as Timbuktu.
According to Quinn “I think people connect to the snowflakes for the same reason I do... they want a tangible reminder of precious moments.” And many of those moments occur during a day at the beach.
The process for making the Beachsand Snowflakes has evolved over time. Initially Quinn used “generic wooden shapes and set the sand on top in a series of layers, sculpting and smoothing the shape after each layer set.”
Through a great deal of trial and error, she created a unique binding agent to hold the sand along with a setting procedure to harden it. A process was eventually developed that allows each snowflake to appear as seamless and delicate as the sand itself, yet capable of maintaining its integrity over time. The result was a truly original piece of art in every ornament.
She developed new techniques in order to create a smoother appearance, but the biggest challenge is that the “sand is so different that each location is like a new project.” So, she has to pay careful attention to the grains of sand to achieve uniformity in her designs.
The most difficult part of making the snowflakes is working with the variety of sand. Quinn explains, “powdered sand requires a different technique than course grained, and clear quartz requires a different binding agent than volcanic black.” Which means there there's a lot of trial and error with every new sand with which Quinn works.
For the future, Quinn loves the idea of making snowflakes exclusively for beachside resorts. She works with Chatham Bars Inn to do this currently. She makes the snowflakes with the sand from their private beach, and the resort sells it in their gift shop with their logo and map of the location on their packaging.
Quinn would also like to get into the wedding favor market, and her ultimate goal is to have her ornaments in a store in every town that has a beach “...well, maybe on the East Coast at least!"
Beachsand Snowflakes can be found at Cape House Hallmark and Tree's Place in Orleans, Handcraft House in Brewster, Pentimento and Millie's in Chatham, The Barn & Co and Armchair Cottage in Dennis, The Plum Porch in Marstons Mills, The Spotted Cod and The Snow Goose in Sandwich, and Pairpoint Glass in Bourne.