While waiting for our plane on Thursday afternoon, we spotted a small jewel in our little corner of San Francisco International Airport, an exhibit entitled: “From Ship to Shore.”  Since the exhibit is located on the wrong side of security, I guess only travelers see it, but we enjoyed it.  And since I’ve been waiting for hours for the Weekly Photo Challenge to be posted (to no avail, so far), I find the waiting aspect of this post particularly apropos!!

Sailors were at sea for many weeks or months, providing time at least occasionally to wile away, so they expressed any artistic bend by decorating the everyday objects that they used or made, thus transforming them into anything but ordinary.  Wood, rope, bone, shell…all were used to create beauty, sometimes for daily use, sometimes to take home to family.  Some men eventually sold their crafts when they were onshore or might even be hired for specific commissions.

Here are some of the works of art on display.  Unfortunately, the venue isn’t conducive to being able to find a spot without reflections, so you’ll have to enjoy them as is.  If you’d like to see more examples from this display, you may click here:  http://www.flysfo.com/museum/exhibitions/ship-shore-nautical-arts-san-francisco-maritime-national-historical-park.  And for how to dress at the seaside, visit “People, Places and Bling”, http://peopleplacesandbling.com/2013/09/26/paris-tips-embracing-sailor-chic/.

Masthead ornaments:



Decorated sea chest:





Carved Nautilus shells:


Decorative rope and knots:




  1. mpejovic says:

    Very cool! You’re right, it’s too bad only travelers with a boarding pass can see this. But I think that’s how most airports do these exhibits.

  2. Mysoresoul says:

    Having the sea in my blood, but the sea dislikes me, I was a disappointment to my uncle Podge as I felt sick on the boat in the harbour lol but, love the work done by sailors, my uncle Podge who was a deep sea fisherman used to make rope stuff by splicing rope together, its very clever. Scrimshaw is the name given to the art on whale bone and tusk from sealions etc. Noth of Scotland and the Scottish islands in the north also has lots of beautiful art work done while at sea, not just by the islanders but by visiting ships from the Scandinavian countries, especially whalers in tge 19th century. Tgere has always been a connection og the mnorthen isles and Scandinavian countries as Vikings settled in the Shetlands and ancestors can be traced back hundered even thousands of years.
    That is beautiful art work though, wish I have a talent like that. But you have to remember that most men started on the boats between the age of 11 – 13 I won’t go into how they were treat and what for but it was better then the workhouse, prison or shipping the 8 months to Australia. So the children learnt the skill of Scrimshaw and the other skills that gave them a job for life.
    As a footnote majority of saliors couldn’t swim as the would rather have a quick death rather than try and stay a float, die slowly of hypothermia or get eaten by sharks. You always knew a sail man as they were the ones with hard pads on their feet as they never wore footware as it was easier to climb ropes using the space between the big toe and the next, they also didnt have finger nails as they were normally ripped out while dealing with the heavy canvas sails furling and unfurling in high winds. 🙂

    • You’re right that it was a very difficult life and the men (boys, often) weren’t always treated well. A bit like chimney sweeps, perhaps? But sailing evidently was in the blood of many of them and if that’s all you knew, it would be difficult to do anything else.

      Thanks for all the extra information!


  3. Beyond the Sea, indeed. What timing, Janet! I love Carved Nautilus shells and the Masthead ornaments. I’d also love to have the sea chest. So the exhibition was organized by the San Francisco National Maritime Park Association? That’s a great publicity idea! And It’s a pretty installation, to boot!. T. (And thanks for the shout-out!)

  4. Nancy Power says:

    What a great post! I love these things, could look at them for ages – but I think I would miss my flight!
    I don’t think I have seen the beautiful ropes before, they are so intricate and just pretty stunning! I love the carved heads and the lion is wonderful.
    Thank you so much for sharing these photos.

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