Faux Tortoise Shell

Faux Tortoise Shell

My latest project has involved some rather unique finishes and I thought I would share a few of them. I’ll start with this Faux Tortoise Shell

which is going to be incorporated into a niche surrounded by a faux wood grain that is matched to a living room table. There are two round pecan end tables that are inlaid with “Penn shell” which is very similar in look and color to tortoise shell.

The two samples I have here are slightly different, the one on the left has a base coat that gives it a more opaque look and the one on the left is a cool white base which gives the technique a more translucent appearance and involves another step

Faux tortoise shell, two different results

Tortoise shell faux finish

These samples are in a trompe loeil tile pattern for no particular reason, I just cleaned up the edges being that it saved time from taping out individual pieces. Real tortoise shell is rarely seen in pieces larger than 6 inches on average and is usually  yellow or amber  in color but it is also stained to a red and even a green color.

Tortoiseshell or tortoise shell is a material produced mainly from the shell of the hawksbill turtle, an endangered species. It was widely used in the 1960s and 1970s in the manufacture of items such as combs, sunglasses, guitar picks and knitting needles. In 1973, the trade of tortoiseshell worldwide was banned under CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species).[1]

For more on Tortoise shell go here

Faux tortoise shell detail

Trompe l oeil tile

Even though replicating some of these finishes are really not complicated for the experienced, it’s the fact that the number one rule in painted decoration is to “respect nature” and you must keep in mind of the source. Now I maybe wrong on this but rarely have I ever seen tortoise shell cut into squares like I have here or is it thick enough to create as deep as a V-Groove shadow which I show here in the trompe loeil.

Even though it is a pretty convincing sample it’s the details of the trompe loeil that make it questionable as I am sure my artist friends will agree and point out to me when they comment on it, So I beat you guys to the punch lol

Faux tortoise shell, close up

Tortoise shell faux finish 239 417 1888

The most time consuming part of these kind of finishes is the individual pieces that you must do to make it a convincing finished piece. The final part of this finish is not yet done on this sample which will be an over glaze or maybe even a stain. Because of the Pen shell inlay on the end tables and the details that are on the body of a ceiling fan, (which is next to where the niche is,) it is sometimes best to work out the final step on site rather than off site because the difference between a warm shadow and a cool shadow can have a devastating effect on your sample and you may end up having to remake the sample entirely and in today’s market time is to valuable to be spending on remaking an entire sample because the final over glaze was either to warm or to cool……as most of you seasoned artists know niche shadows can be all over the place when it comes to being warm or cool especially when your also looking at the values even with the warm colors of a

faux tortoise shell

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3 comments on “Faux Tortoise Shell
  1. Oh, Art! You have touched a soft spot with me … tortoise shell. I very recently purchased two pairs of optical frames that are tortoise shell, and, to top things off, I own a part tabby and part tortie cat! So I’m definitely riding the tortie train!

    I’ve never seen faux tortoise shell work, and, in fact, I don’t recall seeing tortoise shell work in a large scale before, so this is new to me. Unfortunately, I’m unable to properly critique with a discerning eye. Yet, I can drool and tell you from an amateur point of view that your work looks stunning and highly impressive!

    Thank you for sharing your talents with the world! :-)

    • Thanks Janice, This shell was a sample of a finish I designed that I just completed and will be posting with some changes. I actually recorded the process of the designe and am in the middle of editting for a new instructional DVD that will be coming out soon. Thank you for the comment

  2. Pingback: Bone Ivory for Dome Ceiling Ideas « Art-Faux Blog, Naples/Bonita Faux Finishing Resource

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