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Les Sables-d'Olonne, France

L'île Penotte Seashell Art

Wall after wall of this French seaside neighborhood is intricately decorated with seashells and corals. 

l’Île Penotte is a small quarter in the lovely seaside town of Les Sables-d’Olonne in Western France. Located at the center of the city, a short walk from the beach, the area is decorated with wall after wall of multicolor seashells and corals pieced together in beautiful mosaics.

Flowers, rats, owls, monkeys, sailboats and cats ornament the little countryside houses, and are sometimes even well hidden on roofs and corners, doors and door frames. There’s an eclectic mix of themes, from ancient greek mythology to vampires, depicting scenes from Polynesia, Mexico, Vietnam, Egypt and the marine world. 

The artworks are made from seashells of bulbs, periwinkles, oysters, clams, scallops, mussels and foreign mollusks from the Philippines, in collaboration with the local seashell museum of Les Sables d’Olonnes.

Started in 1997, the project was started by a neighborhood association led by one local artist, Mme Danièle Arnaud-Aubin, known as “the seashell lady.” The goal was originally to make the district more dynamic, but the popular seashell artwork became a draw for the city at large. Outside l’Île Perdue, the town features a giant mosaic made of seashells depicting the Vendée Globe, a sailing race where the competitors are alone and travel around the world without a stopover.