Walking through the magnificent perennial borders in the Ballymaloe Cookery School garden gives no clues as to what you are about to see in the octagonal pavilion at the end of the path.
This project started with Darina buying four Gothic windows and then a few years later the foundations were finally laid in a field which still had pigs in. Until this point she had kept her shell house dream a secret from her husband. So when I went for the interview I had to pretend I was there to cook.
The building went up with many ideas from the clients, the builder and who ever happened visiting.
About half of the shells used had been saved from the cookery school during the past three years and more were still being gathered and washed as we were working. All the shells were stored outside which meant we kept fit by having to often run out to protect them from the Irish rain.
“Blott first drew her ideas on the wall with chalk then stuck the precious shells on top. The popularity of the seafood platter in the restaurant is very much in evidence in the bands and swirls of scallops, mussels, cockles and oyster shells, while the more humble periwinkle is used as edging. […] there is not a sliver of wall visible.”
“Irish Garden” by Olda Fitzgerald, Pub : Conran Octopus 1998
I love knitting and the geometric patterns of the Arran jumpers. I worked out for the two facing walls this simple yet effective design. The two walls, strictly identical in their lay out, look very different because of the shells used. Colourful shells were used on one side and iridescent on the other.
“Shellwork : …Blott Kerr-Wilson’s exquisite summer house with inventive and finely laid patterns for the Ballymaloe Cookery School garden is an exceptional example.”
“The Oxford companion to the garden” Edited by Patrick Taylor, Pub : Oxford University Press 2006
“Soon after [ Blott’s ] arrival the school holidays began, and hordes of children descended on Ballymaloe… Blott’s work never ceased to interest and amuse them.
“I love to work at night and they would sneak out in their pyjamas, […] and cycle to the field where I was working. It was just like E.T. I would see the lights of their bicycles lined up outside the shell house and hear them whispering
“Shh,Shh” very loudly”
“Gardens illustrated” August/September 1997, Pub : Conran Octopus 1998