Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
A fascinating hobby that can become an addiction along local waters and beyond
Used By Permission - Thank you to Writer: Elise Pearlman
In centuries and decades gone by, before the notion of recycling was even a twinkle in an environmentalist's eye, it was a common practice to toss unwanted bottles and other glass items into the sea. Unexpectedly these cast-offs have evolved into one of most sought after found objects ever wrought by nature: sea glass.
Bandied about by the unrelenting waltz of the tides, abraded by sand and transformed by the saltwater's special alchemy, coveted sea glass nuggets boast a faded, frosted patina and a softly rounded shape, although many pieces are triangular.
Found in a kaleidoscope of colors as diverse as the glass that gave rise to them — apothecary jars, ornamental glass, medicine, perfume and even poison bottles — the pieces, each as unique as a snowflake, glow like gems.
Judy Moshan of Huntington Bay is one of many who have fallen under the spell of sea glass. While walking her yellow Labrador on the beach over the years, she said that she has been fortunate enough to amass a few hundred of these surprising jewels which she displayed in large jars throughout her house. While her collection is now being enjoyed by her daughter and young granddaughter, prized pieces included a piece of white sea glass flecked with lavender and a cornucopia of greens in shades ranging from aqua to emerald.
Pianist, author and artist Carol Montparker of Huntington used the sea glass that she collected on the local Crescent Beach to emulate the work of famous American sculptor Alexander Calder, and wrote about the experience in her book, "The Blue Piano and Other Stories."
"I saw a Calder 'fish mobile' in Venice about 12 years ago, and it stayed in my mind as being luminous, beautiful and witty," Montparker said. She created her own whimsical variation, augmenting her plentiful supply of green sea glass with the odd bauble, bead and even a single earring which flaunted a rare piece of red-orange sea glass.
Montparker's "rainbow trout" and "chub fish" now adorn her living room.
"There is hardly a person who enters the room who doesn't walk straight over to the pieces and asks where they came from, remarking on the sparkling 'scales' that throw kaleidoscopic reflections on the walls as the sun makes its way across the sky," Montparker said.
Tracey Polach, who has been collecting sea glass from the shores of Lake Erie for over 10 years and likes to go "glassing" after a good storm, says that the hobby is addictive. While some differentiate between beach or freshwater glass and sea glass, she believes that it's more about the special patina created by the properties of an individual beach.
Lake Erie also has a pH level on a par with ocean water.
Marbles and apothecary stoppers are prized finds and happily Polach has had marbles roll up to her feet.
Polach, who goes by the name "beachglow" on eBay said that the jewelry that she creates often boasts shards of "sea pottery" and "end of the day" glass.
According to C.S. Lambert's "Sea Glass Chronicles: Whispers from the Past," many pieces of exquisite sea glass owe their existence to an English factory near Bristol which specialized in bottles and windows during the 18th century.
Holly L'Hommedieu's love affair with sea glass began in early childhood. In 2003, the lifelong South Jamesport resident began to showcase in jewelry some of the exquisite glass that she found off Peconic Bay and Long Island Sound.
It is a way to treasure a piece and make it a focal point, L'Hommedieu indicated, adding that there are some pieces that she will never sell.
Remarkably, the ideal specimen, with rounded edges and no shinny spots, has been 40 years in the making, L'Hommedieu said.
In one of the foremost bibles on the subject, "Pure Sea Glass: Discovering Nature's Vanishing Gems," Richard LaMotte rates the rarity of the various colors based on more than 30,000 samples collected across the country. Although orange — most of which originates from tableware — tops the list, with the chances of finding a piece estimated at 10,000-to-1, red is the most coveted sea glass color, according to LaMotte. The color is so rare says LaMotte because of the expense: gold chloride produces the deep ruby-red color.
L'Hommedieu said that she has been lucky enough to find five red pieces during the course of decades of collecting, and she considers 2007 her banner year because of her discovery of a flawless piece of red sea glass.
Recycling and the advent of plastic and aluminum containers have put a dent in the amount of sea glass that she gleans from beaches, L'Hommedieu said, adding that she now supplements her supply with sea glass from Canada, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, California, Maine and the United Kingdom.
Sea glass from the U.K. can sell for as much as $100 per pound, she indicated. California still remains a hot spot in terms of the availability of sea glass, L'Hommedieu said.
The thrill of the hunt still makes her feel "like a kid in a candy store," L'Hommedieu said, adding that the prime time to go beachcombing is in the early morning or early evening at low tide when the broadest expanse of beach is exposed, and the sun's angle is such that its rays reflect off the glass.
L'Hommedieu warns the uninitiated to be wary of faux sea glass, which has been "machine tumbled" with grit to mimic the effects of Mother Nature.
She learned from reading LaMotte's book that there are features that no machine can duplicate, including tiny half-moon etchings created by the tossing back and forth of glass by the tides. Real pieces can also be identified by tiny chips which make them glitter while machine-tumbled glass has a "satin appearance," she said.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
As I drive through the hip, coastal art communities here along the Pacific coast, I often catch a glimpse of that famous bumper sticker proclaiming “Art Saves Lives”! Can it really? I ponder. Why yes! The music in my car stereo attests to this truth as it lifts my soul. The colorful mural I pass boosts up the otherwise ruddiness of the parking lot I pull into. I stop and slip into a gallery on this drizzly, looming afternoon. Dry and quiet now, my surroundings include; an abstract watercolor, a tribal mask and near the window, a teal art-glass vase spilling color up and out and overflowing into the gallery. My world has become a more beautiful place and this is just the perspective from my eyes!
Whether you’re an artist or someone who makes art supplies available to the art community, you are making the world a more beautiful place … and saving lives. How? According to a recent Washington State University article entitled “Why Do We Need Art”, we see that art has been a part of human culture, expression and survival for all of human existence. Ellen Dissanayake, affiliate professor at the UW school of music and author of “What is Art For” says “We don’t have a verb ‘to art’, but what are artists, dancers, poets doing? They’re taking the ordinary and making it special. You create a bowl out of mud but you don’t leave it ordinary, you make it special by engraving a pattern or figures on it. A poet takes ordinary words and makes them special. An artist places an activity or an artifact in a realm different from the everyday.”
That very artful expression is something that cultures throughout history have needed to survive. We need art as an avenue to express something in us and we need art in order to make exceptional, something that’s otherwise ordinary in our world. In a sense, art saves our lives from stagnation, meaninglessness and the ordinary. As Picasso has said "Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life."
Are you an artist? My guess is that there are times when you feel you must create to live, not because you need to sell something or to create an income (a nice benefit from living in a world that appreciates and understands the need for art) but because to create is to live and to live is to create!
A recent Seattle Times photographer viewed a piece of mine. Excitedly, he asked me to stand so he could photograph me with it. “That’s a work of art”! He proclaimed. I garnered more mileage and “life” out of his appreciation than I do when I sell a print of it. Why? Because even in a tough economy, while some people may perceive art as a “luxury item”, artists will still create, not always because it may stir up income but because we have for thousands of years and like those hip coastal community, car bumper stickers attest; Art Saves Lives!
Thursday, January 29, 2009
After years of studying the thousands of pieces in our own, rare collection and after interviewing and seeing hundreds of other collector's compliations from across the globe, it's a proven fact that red is one of the most difficult colors of sea glass to find. It's been said to take a lifetime of hunting to find just one piece. At right: A Pacific Ocean red on a rocky beach right where I found it at low tide. Copyright: Mary Beth Beuke
The reason why we have more than just a couple pieces in our collection is because ours is an older collection from decades of searching that was done long before the recent popularity of sea glass. Today such quantities and and quality is unheard of.
Why is red sea glass so rare? One reason is that red glass was not a common color in glass blowing. The additives needed to make the reds and orange glass colors were expensive and difficult to come by 100 years ago. In fact, bright red glass was never really mass produced in bottle form ever in the US. Many pieces that we have originated from such obscure items as pre-1950's car tail lights or boat signal lights. Below: Rare red on coral and lava - Ka Lae, Hawaii - copyright: Mary Beth Beuke
There is a section of the Pacific Ocean that is so infamous for it's hundreds of shipwrecks between the 1,700's and mid 1,900's that it is called the Pacific Ocean Graveyard. Hundreds of pieces that we've gathered come from these very beaches. Above: A rare marine "hurricane distress lamp" from the mid 1800's. From a Vancouver, Island Canada shipwreck site. Photo copyright: West Sea Co.