Artist turns oyster shells into intricate works of art

Allison Rhymes stands by her creations in the Mariner's Restaurant.

By Hannah Richardson

Oysters aren’t just a staple in the diet of a seafood lover these days- their shells are becoming increasingly popular as materials in several types of art and other household items. One artist recently brought her creative wares for others to view and purchase, right in the restaurant on Sibley Lake where her shell collecting began.

Allison Rhymes of Allison Rhymes Designs brought her beautiful and intricate pieces with incorporated oyster shells, including gilded oyster shell dangles, tiny oyster shell studs, necklaces, stack bracelets, cuffs, hat pins, barrettes, ponytail holders, purses, charcuterie boards, wine toppers, ring dishes and badge clips, on Sunday, Dec. 6 at the Mariner’s Restaurant. Rhymes said she is coming up with new oyster shell adorned pieces all the time.

Her oyster shell designing journey began in 2018, after her friend Cassie Stone opened her shop, 318 Art & Garden. “I was doing paintings for her and one day she asked me to put oysters on wood to make a cross to hang on the wall.  My friend and Natchitoches native, Annalisa Giddens, brought me oyster shells from the Mariner’s and the rest is history,” said Rhymes. “I’m smitten with these beautiful shells and the story of how they form a pearl from a grain of sand that invades them. Every oyster shell I sell comes with a card that tells this story and how it represents the Lord’s grace in our lives.  That is most important part of the gift as my ladies share my oysters with their friends and families. It started with oyster shell crosses and has expanded into a full line of jewelry, art and décor.”

Though she began painting in the fall of 2017, when Art by Allison Rhymes was born and she was just creating art for friends and family, she created a simple set of oyster earrings and a necklace in the fall of 2018 from tiny oysters referred to as “shat” that falls off larger shells. “My then 12-year-old daughter wore this set to an art show I was doing and the gals went crazy over them and wanted to buy them. I started making oyster jewelry and sold it for the first time at the Women’s Department Club Christmas Market that year and then took on the challenge of setting up a booth at Les Boutiques de Noel. I was blessed that other gals were as drawn to these beautiful shells as much as I was and the rest is history,” said Rhymes. Rhymes has several sources for her shells, depending on what they will be used for, but it all started at the Mariner’s in the City of Lights.

“A few Sundays ago, I decided to make a trip to Mariner’s to go what I like to call, ‘oyster hunting,’” said Rhymes. “I hadn’t been all year. I knew they had closed in the spring, assuming it was COVID related.  I also had seen on Facebook that they were reopening soon.” While she was gathering shells, the new Mariner’s owner, Keri Fidelak, came out to see what she was doing. Rhymes had no idea the ownership had changed at the lakeside restaurant and it turned into them talking about Rhymes’ works of art. “She told me her love of oysters and oyster shells and invited me in for a tour of the beautifully redone Mariner’s and invited me to host a pop-up shop during the Christmas Festival weekend. It was such an honor!”

“I’ve been based out of a spare bedroom in my home in Shreveport for all these years.  I finally took the big stop of opening my own shop, The Gilded Oyster on Montrose, in Shreveport in October.”

Rhymes is also a nurse and the administrator of Red River Home Health in Bossier City and works full time. During December, her shop on 818 Montrose Drive is open 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Thursday to Saturday and Sundays from 1-4 p.m. To see more of her works, visit Allison Rhymes Designs and The Gilded Oyster on Montrose on Facebook and Instagram.