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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!

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?