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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

And Now for Something Completely Different: Alchemy Stones

I am a life-long beach comber, picking up every manner of things on the beach from shells to sea glass to interesting rocks to driftwood.

Sea glass has fascinated me since I was a little kid-- I expect originally because it seemed like the closest thing I could get to "finding precious stones" in nature. Maybe that's the experience of many sea glass lovers-- it certainly makes sense, and is supported by the way many turn to making jewelry and art with sea glass, as if the pieces of glass-- indeed-- were precious stones.

Given that I beach comb more than 100 times per year, and that sea glass is my "love" and specialty, I have often been asked why I don't "do" something creative with the glass I find; why I just sell it or store it in jars on my windowsill. Truth be known, I haven't ever felt moved, in that particular direction. I greatly admire the creativity of others, but letting them create with the sea glass I find makes me feel perfectly content.

That is not to say that I don't feel "creatively inspired" by my beach combings. Photography-- particularly of sea glass, but also of nature and other beach combed objects-- is definitely part of how I find creative expression. However, for today's "something different," I wanted to share something I DO "create" from my love of beach combing: Alchemy Stones.

One of my first "Alchemy Stones." Very simple, not much detail
I have been "drawing patterns and snowflakes" since I was a little kid. In the early days, I used to do so with pencil or a fine tipped black pen on paper-- my mother eventually ended up with 100's of bookmarks in her cookbooks!

Many years passed before it was suggested to me that I should try to draw-- or paint-- my geometric patterns onto something else, as "art."

Sarah (my wife) and I have been collecting rocks since we were little kids, and it just seemed like a natural progression to try to paint on stone. Specifically, on beach pebbles.

It was definitely a learning process! My first attempts (now several years ago) were rather crude and simple and involved using a black "sharpie" to draw the design. I didn't realize the importance of only picking stones with exceptionally smooth and even surfaces-- but the delicate lines of most of the patterns simply don't "hold," if there's even the slightest "sand-papery" (or other) texture to the rock surface.

Several years later, the stones are painted with ceramic paint in many different colors, and the patterns are sealed under a multi-layer, weatherproof, super-hard clear finish.

A design from December 2013-- two-colored, and far more complex
The name "Alchemy Stones" came about because both Sarah and I are involved in the Consciousness, Self-development and Metaphysics communities... and decorated stones have been used in transformation and healing-- and as talismans and power objects-- since the beginning of human history.

Until the fall of 2013, I had never thought to "do" anything with these painted stones, except give them to family and friends... many of whom encouraged me to "take them to art & craft shows," or "sell them online."

Seemed like a reasonable enough idea-- at least it couldn't hurt to try. As part of our considering this proposition, Sarah decided we should "add something special," at least to a few of the most appealing stones. So, she put her textile art skills to work and started creating a series of unique "Treasure Bags" for some of the stones.

The Treasure Bags-- like the stones-- are not some "mass produced" thing... rather, they are individually made for each stone, often using fine vintage fabrics from Sarah's collection. So each bag ends up completely unique... and for the moment, only about one-quarter of the stones gets a bag. After all, they are quite labor intensive to make!

An Alchemy Stone with a Treasure Bag, made from vintage fabric
The thing about Alchemy Stones is that you have to "have them in your hand" to fully appreciate them. I'm a Synesthete, and the "experience" of the stones start with the fact that they have to feel right in your hand, before all else. If a stone has the "wrong" shape or texture, it never makes it home to be painted.

I find them in all different sizes and shapes, from tiny flat pebbles that might be turned into a necklace, to larger stones that could be used as a paperweight or simply to display as a piece of art.

So far, we have created a web site, and we also have an Alchemy Stone shop on Etsy, where you can find the stones for sale, in a wide range of prices from under $10 to as much as $75 for a particularly complex design with a special bag. All the stones include a small brochure we created, to explain how they came into being, and what they "are." We decided it was important that we share this story... and it also helps make them a lovely gift item.

But not to worry: Just because I now paint patterns on stones sometimes does not mean I am no longer going to be writing about-- and taking pictures of-- sea glass! However, I do hope you'll take a moment to have a look at "what I ALSO do."

Friday, December 13, 2013

Genuine Beach Combed Sea Glass for Sale!

Recently, I have been spending quite a bit of time sorting sea glass from this summer and fall. As well as some of the really "old" stuff I found before we moved to our current house in 2011. Fact is, my "day job" (as a writer and as a rare postage stamp dealer for collectors) has been keeping me very busy... and is one of the reasons I haven't been posting here as often as I'd like to. During these difficult economic times, it seems like you must work longer and smarter in order to make the same dollars as before.

But that's besides the point!

100 pieces of Cobalt blue sea glass-- a lot now on Etsy
I finally got several of my bins sorted, and have finished the process of creating and uploading dozens of new lots to both the Etsy and eBay sea glass stores.

It felt rewarding to get this done, at last!

At the same time, I felt a bit of sadness at how much less glass I had available, compared to just five years ago. Sea glass truly is a "vanishing resource," as I wrote in a recent article.

A few days ago, I had a chance to get out for a four-hour walk, taking advantage of one of the few low tide afternoons we have, at this time of the year. In winter, most low tides here in the Pacific Northwest occur in the middle of the night when it it pitch black outside. Even though we have had several good fall storms, the pickings were pretty slim. It really drove home the point that we (collectors and artists) keep picking up sea glass, the abrasive action of surf and sand wears away sea glass... and "new" glass really hasn't been going into the ocean in any quantity since stricter environmental laws (and the advent of plastic containers-- yuk!) were enacted in the 1970's and 1980's.

A recent lot in the eBay sea glass store
It also made me stop and wonder about the future for those who make a living from making sea glass jewelry. What do you DO? Do you try to hoard now, so as to have supplies for your art at a later time? Or do you "cave in" and switch to so-called "man made" sea glass? Or do you completely change direction and start making jewelry with other kinds of material-- semi-precious stones and rocks, for example?

There seem to be no easy answers.

As I walked on the beach, a couple of days ago, I realized that my "gatherings" no longer come anywhere near being able to meet the requests of those who have used my sea glass, over the last decade or so. I feel a strange "guilt" about that-- people write to me and ask "when will you next be listing x,y,z?" A while back, I used to be able to say "next week!" Now? All I can say is "I have NO idea."

Anyway, enough musings for today! This is also meant to serve as an announcement that there are new lots available in both the eBay and Etsy stores-- and hopefully you'll find something to your liking:

North Beach Treasures Etsy Shop

North Beach Treasures eBay Store

In the meantime, I'd like to wish everyone a beautiful Holiday Season!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Orange Sea Glass: The Slow "Extinction" of a Rare Color

Fall beach combing is always a bit of a mixed bag.

On the upside, fall means a couple of things, around here. One, "tourist season" is over, which means the pervasive "overpicking" of our local beaches slowly tapers off. Two, the season winds start picking up again after the doldrums of summer, and occasionally we get a good storm or two which will churn up something more than the top couple of inches on the beach. These are good things, for the sea glass hunter.

On the downside, low tides now occur mostly at "awkward" times-- like 4 o'clock in the morning, when it's pitch black outside. The "windows of opportunity" for the sea glass hunter become smaller and shorter every day, and will continue to shrink until the beginning of the new year.

A couple of days ago, we had a brilliant sunny autumn day, so I decided to "get out there" (for the first time in a couple of months) and take advantage of a retreating tide towards sunset.

As I wandered and started spotting a few pieces of sea glass, I became quite aware of the "truth" of something sea glass enthusiasts often say and hear: That sea glass is a "vanishing treasure." I wrote an article about this recently, but this beach walk really underscored the truth of this statement, particularly as it applies to the rarer colors.

For some years now, I have been blessed to live in a place where there was a nice volume of variety of sea glass-- including rare colors. What I notice most-- as the years roll by-- is the relative absence of anything "rare," these days.

Of course, orange has never been anything but a rare color. It is generally regarded as the single rarest color in sea glass collecting-- although this depends somewhat on who you ask-- and many collectors will beach comb for a lifetime and never find a piece. I've been fortunate to live in a place where I used to be able to find maybe 6-8 pieces of genuine orange sea glass per year.

But that was "then" and this is "now." Orange sea glass-- as well as other "rare" colors-- seems to have become all but "extinct."

As I got towards the end of my beach walk-- after about four hours-- what I noticed was that my bag contained a fair amount of clear, brown and green glass, with a scattering of seafoam... and very little else.

When this little nugget (it's only about 3/8" or 10mm long) suddenly caught the late afternoon sun, it was a very exciting moment. But it also made me realize just how long it had been since I'd found a piece of orange sea glass. And where were the other rare colors? I found no red, no teal, no yellow, no pink, no purple.

Sea glass IS a "vanishing treasure" because we pick it up... and none of it-- especially in "odd" colors-- is being replaced. To the small degree we use commercially produced glass objects, they are rarely made "in colors." These days, we mostly use plastics for such things... glass is reserved for things we can make in "huge volumes." Aside from which, environmental regulations keep most glass off our beaches, so it never really has the opportunity to become sea glass, in the first place.

I feel grateful that I have had the opportunity to be a sea glass collector for so many years... years that happened before it became "too late."

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Article: Natural Beach Combed Sea Glass: A Vanishing Treasure

It's probably no surprise to anyone that sea glass is one of my favorite things... along with beach combing, in general.

Sadly, I don't get to beach comb as often as I once did. For one, there's simply not as much glass out there as there was, a decade ago-- especially during the summer months when we have "tourist season" around here, and there are almost no winds to create waves that churn up the beach. Second, the "call of life" has been strong over the past few months, and beach combing has had to take somewhat of a back seat to the basic job of "making a living."

Writing is one of my callings in life. And even when I don't have time to beach comb-- often an all-day adventure-- I do often have time to site down and write a few words.

Most recently, I found a little time to sit down an create a bit of a "pictorial essay" about sea glass, using some of the photography I have accumulated over the years. In a sense, it's an "ode to sea glass," with lots of photos and some history and background tossed in for fun.

Entitled "Natural Beach Combed Sea Glass: A Vanishing Treasure" it's published on an independent web site with lots of other articles about all manners of other subjects. I hope you'll click the link and go have a look... I had a lot of fun writing it, and I've gotten some positive feedback, so far.

Don't worry! You won't be ask to "join" anything or "log in" to anything or pay for anything-- it's free for all.

Saturday, June 01, 2013


It has been a while, since I have posted here.

I have been "on hiatus" from doing much with sea glass and beach combing. April was pretty much "eaten up" by travel and doing "family things." In May, I spent a lot of my time focusing on my writing business (which is one of my "day jobs") which has been suffering somewhat from a "lack of attention," for several years. Subsequently, I spent several weeks restructuring my rare postage stamp business (my other "day job"), in large part due to some of the changes and new rules taking place at eBay.

A pile of red seaglass-- bright, but all pieces are quite tiny 
Being able to work from home for a living is a blessing in the sense that I love not having to "go" to work, and I get to work with things that interest me, and I can do so on my terms. On the downside, if you don't "keep your eyes on the ball" at all times, it's easy to allow things to get neglected and fall behind... especially when you have-- as I do-- multiple "micro businesses." My point being that whereas I would love to just "play with sea glass" all the time, I really can't afford to. Finding "balance" in terms of the time I get to spend with each of my interests is an ongoing challenge-- and has been, since I took to full-time self-employment back in 1999.

Over the last couple of years, I have also become increasingly aware of just how much sea glass truly is a "shrinking resource." The fact that there is less and less to be found hasn't diminished my love of the beach, but it has decreased the volume I am able to offer the rest of the world as a seller. I have been collecting since I was a "wee pup" so these days I do sell most of what I find-- I only save maybe a handful of exceptional and unusual pieces for my personal collection, out of each 1,000 pieces I pick up.

This fall, I am hoping to do "something" with my photographic "library" of sea glass. Over the years, I've amassed some 50,000 high quality digital images of sea glass, and I am considering turning some of the best ones into frameable or framed prints, maybe greeting cards, possibly even a picture book of sorts. I'm a bit of a stickler for quality, so this is only going to happen if I can determine that I can come up with something "truly special" for the world's sea glass enthusiasts. This is just personal opinion, of course, but there is just too much mediocrity in our world...

In the meantime, I've been sorting some of my "old bins" of sea glass, and hope to get both the eBay and Etsy sea glass stores "re-stocked" in the course of this month.

Hope everyone had a great spring, and looking forward to a beautiful summer!

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Article: The Zen of Beach Combing

I am a writer, by profession... and although most of my writing appears in publications in the spiritual, metaphysics and self-help fields, from time to time I also write about some of my passions in life such as beach combing and sea glass collecting.

Recently, I wrote an article on an independent web site-- basically exploring my life-long attraction to the ocean, being at the sea side and beach combing. It was basically a pictorial personal essay entitled "The Zen of Beach Combing-- A Lifelong Passion.

Somewhat to my surprise, the article won several awards from the (general interest) site where it's published-- including being featured on the front page for several days, where it got seen and read by thousands of people. I suppose it says something that the article was ranked among the 500 most read on a site hosting almost five million articles...

I invite you to go have a look-- I imagine quite a few beach combing fans will be able to relate to my experience. If nothing else, there are some pretty "beachy" photos to look at!

In the future, I plan to write additional articles about beach combing and sea glass. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

March 2013 Sea Glass Auctions now open!

The March 2013 sea glass auctions are now open for bidding on eBay!

This month there is a particularly nice selection up for grabs. Why? Not only have the last couple of months been fairly kind to me on the beach, I managed to catch up with one of my old "someday I really need to get around to this" projects. I had a big bin of sea glass that had been sitting-- pretty much untouched-- since we moved, late in 2010. Because the house was a mess of packing boxes at that time, the "results" from my beach combing were just put in a bin "to deal with later." Well, this month "later" finally arrived-- only took me 2 1/2 years to get there!

This week, 114 auctions went "live" on eBay. Of course, some are already gone, thanks to the buy-it-now option, but there are still well over 100 lots left.

The items for sale run the range from better individual rarities in colors like red, orange, yellow, pink and teal to really nice high quality "lots" made with jewelers and artists in mind.

There are always a lot of requests for aquamarine and blue sea glass, so I put a lot of effort into putting a large selection of these popular colors together.

UNfortunately, next month's offerings will be far more modest, as we will be traveling for part of the month, and recent beach combing trips simply haven't yielded a lot of really desirable material. Alas, that's how it goes with beach combing: You never know what you're going to get.

The link below takes you directly to the auction listings:

March Sea Glass Auctions: Bid until Sunday 3/24 at 7:30pm Pacific/10:30pm Eastern

A small selection of items from the March 2013 auctions

Monday, March 04, 2013

Storms aren't always a good thing...

I went beach combing, yesterday.

We've been having some pretty stormy weather during the past few days, so I was feeling very hopeful that it was going to be a good day on the beach. Storms bring big waves, and big waves tend to "turn over" the sand, pebbles and rocks, bringing new material to the surface.

Sadly, it was not such a good day-- which just just illustrates what I wrote a few weeks ago "You never know what you're going to get," when it comes to beach combing.

Evidently, quite a few other people had the same idea as I, about the winds potentially making for a good day. I normally walk the 3.5 miles to my favorite spot in quiet contemplation-- it's my meditation. On this day, I was shaken out of my reverie several times as groups of "very determined looking" people with bags and buckets almost seemed to "fly" by me.

It made me feel some... unrest.

Truth be known, I really don't mind sharing the beach with other enthusiasts. What I mind is a certain kind of "energy" that goes with people who clearly have an "intensely important mission" on the beach... and seem to turn the gentle pastime of  beach combing into something that resembles a "competitive sport." To me, that defeats the entire purpose... and somehow takes away from the quiet beauty I enjoy so much. Sure, I can honor that we all have different objectives... but I just find the demeanor and mindset a little "disturbing."

In spite of the above, I still completed my usual walk and even though my pockets were pretty empty of treasures, I did "pick up" some good for topics I want to write about, in the coming weeks.

Monday, February 18, 2013

February 2013 Sea Glass Auctions

The February 2013 Sea Glass Auction is now running and accessible to be viewed on eBay.

Once a month, I offer some of my recent beach combings for sale at auction. Because I often-- especially during the spring and summer-- am on the beach up to 15+ days a month, I do tend to end up with more nice quality sea glass than I need for my own collection and projects. It seems only reasonable to me to help it find "new homes" with fellow sea glass enthusiasts, jewelers, artists and crafts people. During some periods of the year, these offerings are fairly modest; at others they are fairly impressive.

This month's offerings consist of 90 new auction listings with sea glass and beach pottery which went "live" on Sunday evening, February 17th. There's a broad mixture of "jewelry lots" as well as better individual pieces and rarities for collectors. There's a particularly nice selection of the popular blue shades, this month.

Click on the link below to see the current selection!

February Auctions: Bid until Sunday, February 24th at 7:00pm Pacific/10:00 Eastern

A sampling of lots that are part of the February 2013 auctions

All auctions were listed more or less "together" so as to end at approximately the same time. I do this in order for the "save on shipping when buying multiple items" option to actually makes sense. I find few things more annoying than eBay sellers who offer "discounted shipping," but never have more than 7 (often unrelated!) items for sale.

The "ending times" happen on Sunday, February 24th at 7:00pm Pacific/10:00pm Eastern time. Closing times for lots are spaced roughly one minute apart, to accommodate those who enjoy "live bidding" on sequential lots.

There is a "buy it now" option with all lots, but please keep in mind that this option does go away the moment someone places a bid.

As stated above, "combined shipping" is available. In spite of eBay's new rules for "trackable shipment," I still only charge $2.95 (in the US) for the first lot and $0.75 for each additional lot. That covers (barely!) the $2.07 for a first class parcel + $0.90 for delivery confirmation, which is now more or less a REQUIREMENT when you sell on eBay.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Odd bits: Doorknobs, drawer pulls, knops and more

Even after 40+ years of beach combing and looking for sea glass, I continue to approach-- and appreciate-- each trip to the beach with child-like enthusiasm.

I still feel happy every time I find even something relatively common... in an unusual shape, or perfect condition, or deeper-than-usual color.

This used to be a drawer pull or cabinet knob
Of course, "odd bits" offer a particular thrill-- in part because of the rarity factor, in part because of the fun of going "What IS that???" and then figuring it out.

I live in a small seaside city of some 10,000 people. What makes beach combing here interesting is that this was a thriving community in the mid- to late 1800s, and 100's of fine old homes were built here, on the expectation that this would become "The San Francisco of the North."

Alas, that never happened-- for a couple of reasons; one being an adequate natural water supply to support the growing population, the other being a decision by the railroad companies not to extend the lines here... and without rail transport to hand shipping cargo, the dreams of a major seaport were dashed.

How does this relate to beach combing?

Many of the old houses fell into disrepair. Some became so derelict they were torn down for safety reasons (in the 1930's to 1950's)... and the debris was bulldozed into the ocean; basically "thrown over the edge" of seaside escarpments to be taken away by the tides. Contained in that debris were the fixtures used in bygone eras in nice houses: glass and porcelain doorknobs, drawer pulls, chandeliers and more. And, in time, they became a very special form of sea glass.

A conical drawer pull-- the "inside" is hollow, for the attachment
Over the years, I have found a wide range of unusual artifacts around here. I have beach combed in many different places around the US and the world... and whereas I may have found tens of thousands of pieces of glass there, this is the first time I have lived in a place where it was possibly to find the sea polished remains of old building debris.

I find at least a couple of glass doorknobs, every year. They are not as interesting, visually, as they tend to have worn down to where they are just very large, very thick circular pieces of sea glass, sometimes with one side (the side that would have face inwards, towards the door) flat or slightly concave. The cabinet knobs and drawer pulls are more interesting-- a lot more variety of shape and size. Old crystals from chandeliers are relatively rare-- they were usually made of lead crystal, which is relatively soft... and tends to wear away much faster in the ocean. I can usually recognize them by the "teardrop" shape and the glass being uncommonly "white" in appearance.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

"Show and Tell" for Adults

Keeping a beach combing and sea glass blog is an interesting proposition. After all... what do you write about, aside from going to the beach, and then sharing pictures of the things you find?

As I sat here contemplating "what to write about," I realized how much beach combing-- and particularly the process of sharing our experiences as sea glass enthusiasts-- basically amounts to "show and tell for adults." Which is not to disregard the fact that there are also kids and teens who beach comb.

But think about it: We go treasure hunting, find stuff, take pictures of it... and then post it to our blogs, Internet groups and more.

Of course, I feel far more enthusiastic about this type of show and tell than I ever did about those projects back in grade school. I guess my dislike of those had to do largely with the fact that what I got to "show" was rarely anything of my choice, but instead some fixed assignment I had little to no interest in.

I like the fact that so much sea glass has a "story." Take, for example, this large piece of green sea glass in the picture. It's so much more than just "green sea glass." This particular blue-green shade is quite uncommon-- it accounts for less than 1-in-100 pieces of "green" I find. Typically, it comes from very old wine bottles, many from the early 1900's. I sometimes call this color "deep grayish teal green." Finding pieces in perfect condition is difficult-- the manufacturing methods were often crude and the glass poorly annealed (the slow cooling process for glass), as a result of which most large pieces tend to "shear" if they bang into something like a rock... OR there are inclusions and bubbles in the glass, leading to an uneven surface.

So, to the casual observer, that may look like "just another piece of glass." However, to someone who has collected for a lifetime? This 1 1/2" long piece with perfect frosting IS a minor rarity.

And so... worthy of "show and tell."

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Life Is Like a Box Of Chocolates

Sometimes beach combing reminds me of that well known line from the movie "Forrest Gump:"

Life is like a box of chocolates... you never know what you're gonna get.

I have walked along the same stretches of beach 100s of times, and yet I never know what I'm going to get. The beach can look exactly the same as last time, the weather can be the same, the time of the year can be the same... and yet? On one day I return home with bulging pockets, on the the other I'm lucky to find a tiny handful of sea glass.

And then I wait three days, and it's different, yet again.

I went out, yesterday, hoping to find a few more things before the end of the month. It seemed like it was going to be a really good day... and yet it turned out to be one of those "empty pockets" days.

Perhaps not entirely empty, but nothing unusual to write home about. Perhaps the most unusual thing I cam back with was the clear and green "fusion" in the picture. Clearly, this was a piece of "bonfire glass," yet is was as smooth and perfect as any piece of single color seaglass-- no little dark inclusions, no popped bubbles, no striations from the fire. And so, that became my "treasure of the day."

In the end, though, I was grateful that I got to be out and about.

Monday, January 21, 2013

January 2013 Sea Glass Auctions

The January 2013 Sea Glass Auction is now running and accessible to all on eBay.

Once a month, I like to offer some of my beach combings for sale at auction. Because I often-- especially during the spring and summer-- am on the beach up to 15+ days a month, I do tend to end up with more nice quality sea glass than I need for my own collection and projects. It seems only reasonable to me to help it find "new homes" with fellow sea glass enthusiasts, jewelers, artists and crafts people. During some periods of the year, these offerings are fairly modest; at others they are fairly impressive. Click on the link below to see the current selection!

January Auctions: Bid until Sunday January 27th, 7:00pm Pacific/10:00pm Eastern

115 new auction listings with sea glass and beach pottery went "live" on Sunday evening, January 20th. There's a broad mixture of "jewelry lots" as well as better individual pieces and rarities for collectors. This selection is actually the largest I have had on eBay since 2009, and the quality is very nice! In addition, there are another 50+ new lots coming to the store later this week, for immediate purchase.

A sampling of the sea glass available in the January auctions. Click on the image to see a larger version!
All auctions were listed more or less "together" so as to end at approximately the same time. I do this in order for the "save on shipping when buying multiple items" option actually makes sense. I find few things more annoying than eBay sellers who offer "discounted shipping," but never have more than 7 (often unrelated!) items for sale.

The "end times" start on Sunday, January 27th at 7:00pm Pacific/10:00pm Eastern time. Closing times for lots are spaced roughly one minute apart, to accommodate those who enjoy "live bidding" on sequential lots.

There is a "buy it now" option with all lots, but please keep in mind that this option does go away the moment someone places a bid.

As stated above, "combined shipping" is available. In spite of eBay's new rules for "trackable shipment," I still only charge $2.95 (in the US) for the first lot and $0.75 for each additional lot. That covers (barely!) the $2.07 for a first class parcel + $0.90 for delivery confirmation, which is now more or less a REQUIREMENT when you sell on eBay.

If you'd like to keep up with my monthly sea glass auctions, I recommend that you use one of the "subscribe" options, in the right hand column.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Day at the Beach: January 16th

When nice weather presents itself in January, you just have to seize the opportunity! Most January days around here mean rain and cold (and occasional snow) so we prize dry sunny days. Of course, there's no telling whether such days are going to fall on a day where the tide is decent... but sometimes you get lucky.

We are slowly moving towards a time of the year when there are a few short periods with lower tides during daylight hours. This is also the time of the year when we have "King tides," which are extremely high... and when such tides are accompanied by strong onshore winds, we often see some pretty severe coastal erosion... and seaside parking lots getting swamped by waves.

The ocean is very powerful, and in this part of the world, we do get a lot of loose floating logs. And when I say "logs," that can often mean a tree trunk some three feet in diameter and 50 feet long. Even though these can weigh in at tens of thousands of pounds, it's amazing how even something as relatively minor as 5-foot waves can toss them around and deposit them 50 foot inland, in the middle of a parking lot... like they were no more than match sticks. I have seen our parking lot after a good storm and wondered at how 200lb boulders had gotten moved as far as they had.

The beach can be fairly treacherous, at this time of the year. When you have to traverse fallen trees and boulders from the size of soccer balls to the size of your average kitchen stove (see photo, above), going is slow... most people are lucky to make about one mile in an hour; and when you have several miles to go, it quickly becomes a tedious and potentially ankle-twisting adventure. When the rocks are wet-- or covered with seaweed-- you have to be especially cautious. As many times as I have been across such rocky ground, I consider myself fortunate to have "escaped" with no more than a few wet feet.

I often have to simply resign myself to going slowly... but that's OK, as it gives me plenty of time to enjoy my surroundings and say hello to the other creatures with whom I share space, such as this otter who quickly scurried across my path, jumped into the water, and then regarded me cautiously as it swam by. It dove a couple of times, then disappeared.

I beach comb in a place where there is pretty much "nothing to be found" for at least a couple of miles. And I never know what I am going to find. I could spend a couple of hours "getting there," only to discover a beach covered in six-inch boulders... or covered with a 6-inch layer of seaweed, making the glass impossible to spot. There's no way to "check in advance," so I just have to make a commitment and go... and whatever will be, will be.

It was about 45 minutes before I found even the first sign of sea glass. I don't normally pick up brown sea glass, but this was an impressively large and smooth piece, so I decided to keep it.

Perhaps a bit like baseball players, I'm a bit superstitious. I have this nagging belief that it's bad luck not to pick up the first piece of glass I see...

As the years have gone by, I have gotten more and more particular about what I pick up, and what I leave behind.

Other than particularly interesting-- or outstanding size/quality-- pieces, I almost never pick up clear or brown glass anymore. That said, I usually do come home with a fair amount of clear, simply because a lot of interesting "objects" were made with clear glass-- bottles and bottle stoppers, handles and feet from candy dishes, door knobs and drawer pulls-- and many of them are worthy of collecting.

However, I am most particular about the quality of the glass-- anything with fresh chips, breaks or other damage goes back into the ocean... and hopefully I will find it again, many years from now, when it has fully "cooked." I see no point in saving "broken" glass.

It always disappoints me when I see out-of-town visitors around here, who insist on picking up absolutely everything they can get their hands on. Because our surf can be rough-- and there are lots of larger rocks-- the vast majority of sea glass on our beaches has some form of damage. I probably pick up no more than 1-in-8 of the pieces of glass I see... the rest I leave behind for some day when they will be "ready." To me that's not only good "beach combing etiquette," it's common sense.

This turned out to be one of my best winter beach combing days in a very long time. I found three quite nice pieces of red glass, which was definitely cause for celebration. I also found a few other pieces in "better" colors: Yellow, pink, turquoise and some rarer shades of green.

Part way through the afternoon, it occurred to me that the nice glass on the beach was probably more a result of the recent very high tides, than the current lows... some of the "old" pebbles had finally been beaten around by the waves, revealing things that probably had been "hiding" since last January's "king tides."

One of my favorite things about this time of the year is that there are not many people on the beach-- and this day was no exception; I saw maybe five other people, the entire afternoon.

And when there are few people, there tends to be more wildlife. Much of the afternoon, I was watched over by a couple of eagles, looking at the world from the trees on the high bluffs behind me. Although the eagles around here are pretty used to humans, many of them stay hidden when the beach is crowded.

Besides, beach combing is really a "meditation" for me, so I prefer solitude.

Of course, not everything I pick up is sea glass. Along the way, there are always interesting rocks, sea shells and other objects of interest.

One of my very best finds of the day was actually not even sea glass but the large (at least for this part of the world) golden agate I found, late in the day-- shown in the picture below. I would not have spotted it, had it not been a sunny day and late in the day when the sun is very low... but it lit up like a bright orange-yellow golf ball in the late afternoon sun. I am not sure what to "do" with the agates I find, but they are very pretty, and remind me of the pieces of amber we'd sometimes find on the beaches in Denmark, when I was a kid. And much like some of those pieces of amber, this golf ball sized agate had a dark "moss like" inclusion.

By the end of the day, I had found quite "a lot" of sea glass, but it was noteworthy-- once again-- how the "rare colors" are getting ever rarer with each year that passes. Many of them start as fairly small pieces of glass, so it only makes sense that the small pieces will be the first to be completely worn away by waves and sand.

It will be a couple of weeks before I can go back to the beach, as we enter another period of only high tides during the day... the end of January and early February bring the next set of lower tides during daylight hours. In the meantime, there is lots of sorting to be done.

In a sense, the timing of the tides works out well for this month, as the rest of this week will mostly be spent with photography and prep work for the upcoming sea glass auction.

As much as I enjoy walking on the beach and finding glass and pottery... I also find it rewarding to "play with my glass" after I get home-- to see just exactly what my frozen fingers picked up. On the more unusual items, I enjoy the detective work of trying to guess what the piece originally might have been part of.

I also enjoy sending glass to other sea glass enthusiasts and artists all around the world. I like the idea that things I find on the beach become part of "objects of beauty" other people get to enjoy. In the course of the last couple of decades, I have sent sea glass as far away as Australia and New Zealand, Japan and Argentina, as well as numerous countries around Europe. I love how the Internet has helped bring the global sea glass enthusiast community together.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

First Sea Glass Auction of 2013 set for January 20th

As some of you may know, I periodically run sea glass auctions on eBay.

What I like to do is assemble enough sea glass to make many individual "lots" and then put everything up for auction with the same start and finish date. I treat it a bit like a general public auction, where you have a list of things up for sale and everything is available for bids on the same day.

I started doing eBay auctions this way more than 15 years ago, as a trader in rare stamps for collectors. I mostly did so as a "reaction" to sellers who promised me "reduced shipping when you buy multiple lots"... but then would only have a handful of (generally UN-related) items up for sale at any one time.

Don't get me wrong, I do understand the logic behind "always having something for sale," but that's more of a benefit to the seller than to buyers. In general-- and I know this is true of me, as a buyer-- buyers benefit more from having lots to choose from at the same time... that way you can get "everything you need" taken care of in one sitting, rather than getting one or two items each from 17 different sellers.

Of course, everyone has their own philosophy.

Anyway, I have decided to start my first sea glass auction of 2013 on Sunday, January 20th, with an end date of Sunday, January 27th.

I am currently in the process of sorting, grading and assembling the glass to go up for auction... I'm expecting to end up with 100-120 lots, including better and rare individual pieces as well as many "lots" for jewelry and crafts projects. All will be well photographed and accurately graded and described. Expect some rare colors, as well as lots you seldom see "in quantity."

A further announcement will be posted next weekend, with more specific details about the glass up for auction.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

New Sea Glass in the Etsy Shop

Since beach combing opportunities are few and far between this time of the year, I have instead been focusing my attention on "sorting and grading" some the finds from last fall's beach trips.

"Sorting and grading" is one of the important things I do, as a seller of sea glass. I want potential buyers to feel confident that they know exactly what they can expect to get-- ideally, if you're going to buy sea glass, you should be able to acquire individual pieces and lots in such a way that you end up with "no waste."

I treat selling sea glass much as I would treat selling gemstones. I can't imagine very many serious jewelers would buy "a random handful of unsorted stones" for their jewelry operation... and I really don't see why someone working with sea glass should expect anything less from a supplier than someone working with-- say-- semi-precious stones.

Anyway, after my recent sorting efforts, I was able to add 40 new lots with sea glass (and a few lots with glazed beach pottery) to the Etsy sea glass shop. These include some very nice groups in the popular blue and aquamarine shades. I hope you'll go have a look!

North Beach Treasures Sea Glass Shop


Friday, January 04, 2013

First Beach Day of 2013!

Yesterday marked my first day to get out on the beach in the new year. Winter beach combing tends to be tricky as the days are short, the weather often horrible and the "good" low tides occur after dark.

Thursday marked the first day within a very short "window of opportunity" where I could get "out there" and back during daylight hours. Even so, it tends to be a mad dash (aka an almost 4-mile "racewalk") to get where I need to go, followed by brief beach combing, followed by another racewalk in the fading light, back to where I started.

Thankfully, it was a clear sunny day, which not only made the outing more pleasant... but added a good 20-30 minutes to the amount of available daylight. It was also on the cold side-- that white stuff in the photo is a thin layer of ice/snow from the previous day.

The beach where I generally beach comb is backed by a tall escarpment on the "land" side. Unlike many waterfront area, these sometimes 400-foot tall banks are not cliffs (aka "rock") but compacted clay and sand, deposited there by glaciers during the last ice age. It's odd to think that the beach where I now walk once upon a time had an estimated 3000 feet of ice on top of it.

These slopes are not exactly the most stable landscape on the planet, especially during the time of the year where it often rains, freezes and thaws... over and over. Slides are frequent, and can sometimes completely block the way for weeks, until a good storm spreads the debris. Since this is not a "maintained" beach, nature simply has to take its course.

Indeed, I encountered a fairly new slide; this one fairly "minor" (comparatively speaking) and partly washed away by winter storms. "Minor" is perhaps a relative term-- meaning only about 5,000 tons of clay and sand came down, as opposed to 100,000 tons for a major collapse. I've experienced one of these "erosion events" up close and personal (from a few hundred feet away) and it sounds like a freight train coming at you as the slope gives way and a blend of clay, sand and rocks throws around 75-foot trees like match sticks. The beach truly is "alive."

These slides are not a good thing for the sea glass hunter. Not so much because they are dangerous, but because the layer containing recent garbage (and sea glass) ends up being covered by a 3-foot thick layer of "virgin" sand from thousands of years ago... and it will take years of storms and waves before the sand is moved and mixed enough for the sea glass to surface, once again.

Resigned to finding little, I instead took time to enjoy my surroundings-- a superb view of Mt. Baker on a clear day, wearing a thick coat of fresh snow.

Although it seldom snows significantly here at sea level, we are surrounded by snow covered mountains, many of them with white caps all year long. It makes for spectacular surroundings-- and I often have to remind myself to look UP from the beach and take in the beauty that surrounds me. It's easy to get completely wrapped up in the business of looking for little pieces of glass!

Lots of ducks spend the winter here or pass through on their migratory path.

I don't know the names of them all, but sometimes the shallows are literally covered with thousands and thousands of birds. Although most are distinctly "northern" birds, I have also seen a few flocks of brown pelicans fly by.

Fortunately, not all the beach was covered with new sand, so my fears of returning empty-handed were unfounded. I managed to get in just under two hours in one of my favorite spots... and even though the pickings were somewhat slim, I did manage to come away with a few interesting and colorful treasures.

Unfortunately "overpicking" continues to be an issue around these parts-- however, there is not much one can do about that, given the increasing awareness and popularity of sea glass. I just wish people would develop some better "beach combing etiquette" and at least throw back the obviously damaged pieces so they can finish "cooking," and be enjoyed by future generations of beach combers.

All in all, though, I was grateful to be back on the beach-- for the first time since late October. I came home with a few nice pieces (the best pictured at left) and had a lovely walk on a gorgeous winter day. I am looking forward to the next opportunity to get out on a day with "decent" tides, which is going to come around later this month.

Till then, I hope your beach combing endeavors go well, wherever you may be. Happy New Year!

About Me

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1960 vintage Danish national now living in the Pacific Northwest... active in the global HSP community; active beach comber and sea glass collector; lifetime collector of postage stamps from Scandinavia; writer and consultant, primarily to the metaphysics and self-help industries, writer at OM Times magazine; artist who doodles on rocks; eBay & Etsy entrepreneur and studio and production assistant at Radio Nahmaste.

Diverse enough for you?