Lafayette Doctor Uses Oyster Shells To Create Art

LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) — Dr. Julie Broussard works 60 hours some weeks, going back to the hospital at night or on weekends when on-call, but other times, she can be found in a back room of her house, listening to showtunes and painting oyster shells.

“I go to work a lot of days with gold paint on my fingers,” she said with a laugh.

Broussard, 46, is chief anesthesiologist for the Ochsner Lafayette General Health System and a mom of two teenagers. She recently added the title of maker of unique gold-gilded oyster art to her resumé.

Just before Christmas, as Omicron was surging, Broussard was at the hospital and saw ceramic oyster art from New Orleans on social media. She told the nurses she worked with that she was going to make them for Christmas gifts.

“Like everybody else, I YouTubed it and went to a craft shop,” she said.

They loved the presents and she enjoyed the time spent making them. They encouraged her to make an Etsy store, and Gold and Grit Designs was born.

“It’s fun to do something different,” she said, “and with COVID, things have been so serious for so long. It’s nice to have something light.”

Now she has “probably 500” oysters piled up in buckets, waiting to be painted in her craft room. Her family orders a dozen raw oysters every time they go out to eat and take the shells home in a to-go box.

“My kids are super embarrassed,” she said. “They stink.”

She uses bleach to clean them at home and then leaves them out in the sun for a week to further bleach them.

Then it’s time to paint. She uses a metallic paint with flecks of gold to paint the outside and rims of the shells. That’s how she came up with the name “Gold and Grit.”

Broussard uses decorative paper napkins to apply designs to the inside of the shell, securing it with Mod Podge. The liquid serves as glue and sealer in one, leaving a clear finish over intricate floral and chinoiserie patterns.

Most of the oysters end up as ring dishes or wall art, some in the shape of crosses, but she’s also started to branch out. On her Etsy store you’ll find oyster shells holding air plants or decorating the sides of larger planters.

“It’s fun coming up with new ideas,” she said. “We’ll put an oyster on anything now.”

The Carencro native has been pleasantly surprised to find there’s a market for what she’s making. She’s had large orders, like a bride who gave them as bridesmaid gifts, as well as individual purchases online and in-person at local markets and pop-ups.

“Nowadays with everything mass produced, people like stuff that’s handcrafted with some heart and soul,” Broussard said. “People want to support people who are here.”