Turtle Shell Mosaic Sconce




About: ♫ Basking in sunshine ☼, creating new dishes... growing zucchini and swimming with fishes. Rattlesnake hunting the desert in Spring; these are are a few of my favorites things. When the wind flies, when the...

My husband and I share a love of nature... most especially the ocean.  When it's too windy to fish, we often go beachcombing for treasures together. 

On one of our treks, we discovered an aged, weathered turtle shell washed ashore.  I loved it's natural form and decided to give it new life as a Wall Sconce for our casita in Baja. 

Since I tend to be the creative/artistic half of our relationship and my husband is the practical/technical half, our collaborations (usually ;-) work out perfectly.  

Here is our most recent project, from start to finish.  It was easy, fun  and inexpensive to make.  We hope it inspires you to think outside-the-box and create something uniquely your own.        

Step 1: Artist Tools and Materials:

  • Dremel Rotary Tool
  • Dremel Diamond Cutting Wheel
  • Dremel Drum Sander
  • Turtle Shell
  • Pencil and black sharpie
  • Masking Tape
  • Black Spray Paint
  • Polished Craft Seashells (purchased from Michaels Craft Store)
  • Gorilla Wood glue
  • Dry Lentils (really)
  • Black Spray Paint
  • Black and Champagne Acrylic Paint
  • Artists' paint brush
  • Clear Gloss Spray Paint
  • Wood wall plate
  • Light Socket and Cord
  • 40 watt Appliance Bulb
  • Wood wall plate and screws
  • 2 small Eye bolts
  • Picture frame wire

Step 2: Pre-mosaic Work:

To designate the mosaic outline,  I traced the natural lines of the actual bone plate with the black sharpie.

Next, I sketched a line around the areas to be removed.  I used the Dremel fitted with the diamond wheel to cut them away.  I also cut a rectangular section from the backside of the shell where the wall plate would eventually be attached.

The cut edges were sanded smooth with a sanding barrel.

I masked off the frontside cut-out sections and spray painted the inner shell and backside completely black.

Step 3: Mosaic Work:

This sconce is for indoor-use and would only require occasional damp-dusting.  For that reason, I decided to use dried lentils as a textural outline for the polished seashell mosaic.

I drew beads of Gorilla wood glue (tough stuff!) along the pre-marked lines then firmly applied the lentils one... by... one. Once the lentil outline was finished and the glue was dry, the turtle shell got a full coat of black spray paint.

From there, I scattered the polished seashells out on a large work surface and the FUN mosaic-puzzling process began. Gorilla wood glue dries clear, so I used it to affix the polished seashells, too. 

I initially anticipated the artistic phase of this project would end here, but I felt like the sconce needed a little more color and texture.  As an afterthought, I affixed more lentils to act as a "border" around the cutouts.  I painted them with black acrylic then accented each lentil with a tiny dot of champagne-colored acrylic paint.

2 coats of clear gloss spray paint where applied to the exterior of the artistically-complete sconce...

It was my husband's turn to light it up!

Step 4: Lighting:

A scrap of 3/4" pine board was cut to size and painted black for the wall-mounting plate. A hole was drilled to bolt the fixture on.

This sconce is wired with a basic pull-chain light socket* and lit with a 40 watt appliance bulb.  An elbow made from brass tubes and couplings was attached to the base of the socket and bolted to the wall plate.  The plate was then screwed directly onto the turtle shell.

For hanging: Eye screws and picture frame wire was affixed to the wall plate. Ta DA... all finished!

*Pre-wired sockets (Lamp kits) can be purchased at hardware and craft stores. DIYers can wire a light bulb socket in a few minutes and probably save money.  Check out this easy step-by-step Instructable:  How To Wire a Light Bulb Socket  and examine the last picture for additional clarity.



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    19 Discussions


    5 years ago

    Your so lucky I could never find that on a beach except and old boat and buoy!


    5 years ago on Introduction

    That shell was a great find, and you did a great job putting it to beautiful use. Kudos.

    1 reply

    6 years ago on Step 4

    This is very similar to what I have been thinking of doing. I thought a Dremel tool might be the way to do it, but I wasn't sure since I don't have any experience with them, so I decided to google and see if anyone else had tried something like it. Thank you for posting this. I'm excited to give this idea a try now!

    1 reply

    Reply 6 years ago on Step 4

    Thanks for commenting, PrairieAir. I'd love to see a picture or Instructable of you finished project!


    is sooo beautiful! I hope to find one shell in the fly market . or may be I try with a pumpkins...but may be is too transparent...but now I really want one!

    1 reply

    6 years ago on Introduction

    That really is beautiful! Nice work but to really appreciate it one should be in Baja standing within a couple feet of it........I'm free in November. :>) Seriously , it is gorgeous! Pretty work and what luck finding that shell, eh>

    1 reply

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    I couldn't agree more. We head back "home" to Baja in August... and that's not soon enough. ;-) Thank you for commenting!