Tammy Edmonds prefers oysters on the half shell.
She likes the taste but favors the shell that serves as both a canvas and an element in her artwork that you’ll find under the name of Gone Coastal ESVA in the tasting room at Chatham Vineyards at Church Creek. Tammy also works there part time serving wine.
The crafter in her follows a process called decoupage that involves using two different kinds of glue to transfer designs and effects from the cocktail napkins she curates onto the actual half shell of an oyster. No two finished pieces are alike as no two shells are alike. The actual designs she finds are as endless as her imagination. Many are coastal themed, some are floral, a few are seasonal, and sometimes she personalizes them with names. Imagine your guests’ delight in seeing their name inside an actual half shell at your next oyster and wine gathering.
“People seem to really like the coastal ones,” Tammy says. “The bee design is very popular, and so are the ones with wine and champagne. People who stop to buy wine can take them home, and they make a unique gift.”
The shells typically retail between $20 and $25.
Tammy also makes larger pieces — vases, wreaths, wine bottles — all created by repurposing oyster shells with the occasional addition of a seashell.
“I handpick every shell,” she says, and that’s her favorite part. Tammy and her husband, Bruce, will hop inside their skiff in Oyster, Virginia (fitting) and boat over to the Barrier Islands, where Tammy sorts through hundreds of shells on the shore, hearing nothing but the crash of waves accompanied by the squawks of gulls.
She’s persnickety in her search, seeking angled shapes that accentuate certain designs along with perfectly rounded ones that are easy to handle. She fills onion sacks with them and hauls them back home where the artistic process begins. Tammy can lose herself for hours creating in her garage to the tune of disco from the ’70s.
Tammy and Bruce have been Eastern Shore residents full time since they sold their Hampton house during the pandemic. They love the quiet of their new, quaint hometown and enjoy being close to Chatham. They have known Jon and Mills Wehner for years, initially introduced through Sam Rust Seafood, the family-owned distribution company Bruce runs with his brother.
Tammy began working in Chatham’s tasting room three years ago and is there as many as four days a week during the warmer months. She’s schooled herself in the business of making wine so she can share details with customers. Her heart for shells is similar to Jon’s passion for grapes — only the best will do.