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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?