Fred Flutey and his wife Myrtle achieved fame with their house clad in pāua shell (Haliotis iris), in Bluff, at the bottom of the South Island. The transformation of their ordinary bungalow began one day when Myrtle decided to put a few shells around the living-room mirror. Fred liked the look of them, and over the years they added more shells, until even the outside walls were plastered. The house, now a museum, also contains a collection of pāua knick-knacks. In the era of smoking, New Zealanders often used the shells as ashtrays, particularly in holiday homes. Broken pieces are also made into earrings or encased in epoxy and moulded into souvenirs. In traditional Māori carving, paua pieces were used as gleaming eyes in carved figures.
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Photograph by Emma Dewson
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