For anyone who grew up on the Washington Coast, razor clams are much more than a recreational enterprise – they are part of the soul, the artwork, the lore, the generations.

Humorous clam-inspired art by Elton Bennett (Image courtesy of Museum of the North Beach)

Humorous clam-inspired art by Elton Bennett (Image courtesy of Museum of the North Beach) Barbara Bennett Parsons recalls many childhood digs with her father, the world-renowned Grays Harbor artist Elton Bennett. Her father would take the whole family to go clam digging “on every tide” in the Iron Springs area.

Many of Elton Bennett’s most treasured and prized pieces capture scenes of clam digging, and Barbara noted that her father even worked in a commercial clam operation in the 1930s during the Depression era. He is likely the most well-known of any artist who captured the essence of the razor clam experience.

“It wasn’t until after WWII that he was able to attend art school.  And what, you may ask, was his first success as an artist?  Yes, it was a silkscreen print that portrayed razor clam digging,” she says. Elton Bennett original silkscreen artwork now is

known and treasured around the world.
“Even those who have never seen a razor clam in their lives appreciate scenes of people on the beach, cherishing their oneness with the sea in all of its glory,” she observes.

Elton Bennet’s work can now be seen in several Grays Harbor locations and museums, as well as in the Ocean Crest Resort restaurant, dining room and lounge, and at a showroom in Hoquiam.  For information about Elton Bennett, visit, or contact Barbara Bennett Parsons at (360) 532-3235 to arrange for a visit to the Elton Bennett showroom.

Viewing razor clam art

Razor clams have indeed inspired some of the most famous artists from the Washington Coast. One of the best locations to view and experience the art of razor clam digging is at the Museum of the North Beach in Moclips.

“We do have some razor clam art dating back to the 1950s,” says Kelly Calhoun, museum curator. “And we have Elton Bennett’s serigraphs of clam diggers as well as Moclips artist Uldine Burgon.”


Pen and ink drawing by Uldine Burgon (Image courtesy of Museum of the North Beach)

Burgon’s pen-and-ink drawings capture life along the North Beach, and her sketches have been donated to the museum, which has several pieces and greeting cards on display. Before she died in 2017 at the age of 101, Uldine’s Bluff House Studio was located one block from the museum on Highway 109.

Razor clam art recently made a bigger-than-life splash in Ocean Shores with the colorful mural painted on the side of the Ocean Shores Convention Center by Aberdeen artist Douglas Orr and designed by Ocean Shores artist Judy Horn. Completed this past summer, the mural shows a wide beach landscape that includes several different clam-digging scenes. (Orr is featured on page 29 in this issue of Coastal Currents.)

“It really depicts what you might see out on our beach,” says Horn. “We have clam diggers, we have kite fliers, we have horseback riders and we have kids playing in the sand.”

Image courtesy of Museum of the North Beach

Orr, who owns Alder Grove Gallery in Aberdeen, can recall at least a couple of razor clam-related pieces he has painted over the years, including one of clam diggers on the beach for a piece he sold locally. However, the clam diggers actually were an afterthought when it came to the new mural. The design originally didn’t have clam diggers in the scene, but Orr says, “I wanted the mural to take up the whole space. So, I had stretched the design out, and then Judy saw it and we added the clams afterward.”

Locally, the most famous – or infamous – razor clam artwork, the iconic carved cedar clam that once graced the front of Executive Villa offices in Ocean Shores, now is one of the oldest mysteries in town. Radio station KOSW last year even went on an unsuccessful search for what happened to the 8-foot-high razor clam that for years towered over the intersection of Ocean Shores Avenue and Chance a la Mer Boulevard.

A 7-foot-tall replacement clam has been carved from an old-growth cedar log by North Beach chainsaw artist Anthony Robinson. (Robinson was featured in the Summer 2021 issue of Coastal Currents.) In 2020, Robinson was commissioned by the Ocean Shores beautification committee to carve a replacement for the original. However, with Covid-19 precautions slowing city projects down and other more pressing city business, the new clam has yet to see a home.

Once the Ocean Shores Razor Clam Festival returns in March, razor clam artistic flair will be highlighted during the annual decorated razor clam shovel contest, which gives artists of every ability a chance to create, producing an array of artifacts more suitable for mounting on a wall than plunging into the surf.