I'm often asked ~
- where do you get your sea glass from?
- can we have earrings in blue please?
- why is your jewellery in green, pale green, white or brown?
- You don't have overheads! Why isn't your work cheaper?
- Why don't you make some if you can't find some?
Having spent a lot of this morning sorting through a big bowl of sea glass I thought I'd answer a few questions.
We get our sea glass from the beach. We live near Bristol and, although we have one beach around here that we go to, our best beaches are in Cornwall. We go for the day, until our cats learn to open a sachet of food on their own we have no other choice short of putting them in a cattery for 4+ days. So the guys get a food fest by way of a treat for being locked in all day, we throw £50 at the local petrol pumps and head off for a long day - it's 3 1/2 hours each way! Sounds a bit of a chore? Nope. We love our days out, and usually manage to squeeze in a cooked breakfast and a trip to a garden, stately home, family or two. This is work after all.
Our last visit, a week ago, we picked up 2 friends on the way. Double the fingers is double the hoard? Ha! They still have their sea glass picking L plates on, but a couple of hours timed to fit in between the high and low tides yielded about a colander full, 10p, a strange coin (not a Spanish doubloon sadly), a marble and a provisional driving licence. The latter I had a devil of a job off-loading onto a local policeman who wanted me to hand it in to the Police in Truro 30 miles away! I suggested I wasn't going to do that and I might find it handy as alternative ID, seeing it had the owners photo, name, address and date of birth. He took it off me. It comes to something when the police can't be bothered to do something because it probably means they have to fill in a form.
I digress. The marble is in my marble tray with all the others. The 10p is in my Flame Off fund piggy bank, every penny helps. The unidentified coin will be cleaned and no doubt go the same way as the 10p. The glass has been sorted and this will be the bit that amazes. Imagine a full sized colander full of glass. Now look at the photo above (that's a standard take away dish from the local Indian take away) there's a bit of a difference. Much of the glass we collect has small chips, so that goes in the reject pile (as mulch around the post in my garden). A lot was last weekend's wine bottle (I said they had their L plates on) so that's rejected to the bin. Much is a very odd shape or far too small to be made into jewellery - I do have to be able to hold it to drill it ... reject pile. Only the most useful pieces are kept. A year ago we would have managed to collect 3-4 times the amount we did. The take away pot is the useful bit of a days picking by 4 people.
The blue in the corner of the pot, too small to use and not in my 'good quality' category is there just to show how little there is now. Blue sea glass will usually be Victorian, when the glass was used for medicine and poison bottles. It might have been a blue vase, who knows. This shows why I don't have many blue earrings, or if I do, then it's a small piece as accent colour. It just isn't around now. Much of the glass comes from the glass thrown away 50-100 years ago, it takes that long, so it will be green and white wine bottles, or brown beer bottles. Sadly, finding pieces to make items like the pendant below haven't happened in the last 8 years!
I made that as a statement piece for an exhibition. Because it was so spectacular, I wanted to keep it so priced it rather high. It sold within 5 minutes of the exhibition opening.
So in answer to the questions ...
- all my sea glass comes from beaches ~ not tumblers, factories, or other non-genuine sources (and a lot of the sea glass offered for sale hasn't spent much time on a beach recently)
- I can't find enough blue to make earrings, if you have a pair, treasure them, I won't be able to make you another pair when you lose one
- the colours I find and use are peculiar to the area I beach comb. If I could go back in time I'd make red, orange, yellow wine bottles - then I'd have something different to collect now. I'd also have banned plastic bottles and 6d back on the Corona bottles, and made it law that interesting coloured glass was disposed of at sea, then there'd be more glass for me now. [I jest - I'm very Eco-friendly and probably recycle more than most, before you send the Eco-Police round]
- sea glass might be free. Thankfully it doesn't wash up to my studio door, ready sorted. If it did we'd be flooded as we are a mile from the sea and in a flood plain.
The long and short of it is I have to go and get it, petrol and time, I have to clean it in hot water, I have to spend my time sorting it to find the nice pieces, I have to drill it with expensive tools and drills, I spend my time adding it to silver, spend time cleaning and polishing with an assortment of cleaning materials, pay to list it online, wrap it, box it and take time out to take it to the post office when it sells. These are called 'overheads', we all have them and they are factored in to my selling price so when my tools wear out I can afford to buy more.
So when you ask me these questions, I will try to answer with a smile. But remember you are buying something that has been hand designed and hand crafted, by a self representing artist in jewellery design who has a living to make in order to keep the family in the realms of decency and in business. Sadly I cannot go and get the materials for my individually designed pieces off the shelf at the nearest craft emporium [tongue in cheek - I wouldn't want to], string it all together with change from £1, I don't have teams of elves or slaves working around the clock and I don't make enough profit to be able to [nor would want to] turn up the studio heating so much that I was working in a 'sweat shop'.
Oh, and which beaches do you get your sea glass from - give me coordinates so I might go there too?
No chance! Never ask a sea glass artist to divulge their source. All of us keep our beaches a closely guarded secret.
To see more of my work, look at my website and my shops on Etsy, Folksy and Artfire, keep an eye on this blog and take a look at my Facebook page..