Credited to fate (and possibly, in part to a “Peace, Love, and Sandy Feet” tee shirt I wore while boarding a bus in St. George), I was extremely fortunate to cross paths with Lisa Crabtree, our featured collector in this issue of Shorelines. A Florida resident with a deep passion for sea glass, Lisa introduced me to some prime collecting sites in Bermuda, and in turn, I introduced her to NASGA!
By Ellie Mercier, member,
North American Sea Glass Assocation
NASGA: Hello again Lisa! First, thank you for teaching me that a profitable beachcombing trip is not necessarily limited to returning home with an abundance of gems from the sea, yet if Mother Nature’s timing is especially ideal, an unexpected encounter with a fellow collector could blossom into a meaningful new friendship! Can you share the circumstances surrounding your discovery of sea glass? I was fortunate to have met the “right person” at the “right time.” My boys had just moved out of the house, and I was experiencing the empty nest syndrome and desperately needed a hobby after work. One day, a newly hired coworker had on a piece of sea glass jewelry, and I had never seen anything so beautiful that wasn’t an actual gemstone. My co-worker shared that her boyfriend had found the shard while walking on our local beach, and he was kind enough to share his knowledge of how to find these gorgeous gems with me. Once I found my first piece, I was hooked. It was “hello new hobby,” and “bye-bye empty nest syndrome!”
NASGA: Since beachcombing is an ideal form of therapy for those experiencing the “empty nest syndrome,” I have a strong suspicion that the timing of your newfound hobby was not a coincidence! Do you have a special piece you can share with us? I actually have several favorites, but the one that stands out is a Kelley-green patterned piece that I found when my oldest and dearest friend, who was intent on learning how to hunt for sea glass, came into town for a quick visit. Despite the fact that the weather on this particular day happened to be rainy and windy and the tide was exceptionally high with rough surf, I was optimistic we would find a piece in the shade of green that my friend desired. Still empty handed as the end of our walk neared, a strong wave rolled in, and as I looked down at the edge of the surf, I eyed a green piece and screamed out, “Green!” However, when I dove in to grab it, I missed, and my friend, who had been watching me intently, followed the piece and was able to scoop it up. Ironically, not only was the sea glass in the shade of green she had hoped for but it was a beautifully tumbled and patterned piece. I believe that my girlfriend’s mother was our “sea glass angel” that day and sent the beautiful gem our way from heaven. It remains the only patterned piece I’ve spotted on my local beach and was an amazing first find for my girlfriend.
NASGA: What is your definition of an “ideal” find? My absolute favorite color is turquoise. Although the hue is extremely uncommon, particularly in Florida, I do have one small piece of turquoise sea glass in my collection that I found locally.
NASGA: Is there a specific beach that you regularly frequent or do you generally comb in various areas? I primarily search along Florida’s central east coast beaches and have been very lucky to find an array of sea glass in this region, including rare shades of black and yellow (as well as turquoise, of course)! I must comment that it requires a sharp eye to locate these beauties. Outside of Florida, I have combed on the Jersey shore and have had the opportunity to hunt in Bermuda twice last year (and my husband and I just made plans to return to Bermuda over the summer for a third visit)!
NASGA: Do you generally beachcomb alone, or do you have any designated “partners in crime” who accompany you on searches? I comb with my husband the majority of the time, but lately, the activity has become a family affair. My youngest son, who never particularly enjoyed the beach, is now combing with us on a weekly basis. It’s the thrill of the hunt that brings us all together.
NASGA: In addition to sea glass, do you scout the beaches for other nautical treasures? My husband and I love to collect driftwood, buoys, and old lobster traps, many of which we find in the Keys. Some of these remnants have been repurposed into picture frames and yard art. One cool find was a piece of driftwood shaped like a whale.
NASGA: Aside from the obvious payoff of discovering nautical treasure, are there other benefits of the hobby that you revel in? I revel in the simple beauty of the beach and everything it has to offer; it allows me to find peace, rejuvenate my soul, and occasionally, to find myself after getting lost from time to time in the daily shuffle of life.
NASGA: Your words of wisdom in response to the previous question beautifully capture some of the key advantages of the pastime! Do you have a memorable beachcombing experience you can share with us? It would have to be the time I observed three baby sea turtles making their way to the ocean. If it were not for my new found love of beachcombing, I never would have witnessed this once-in-a-lifetime event since I used to spend my days ashore with my behind planted in a beach chair!
NASGA: You mentioned previously that you create picture frames and yard art with your beach finds. Do you incorporate your discoveries into other projects and/or home décor as well? This hobby has opened up many new doors for me and has especially allowed me to discover a creative side to myself that I never knew existed; I couldn’t be any happier. Most of my collected remnants are reserved for jewelry projects and shadow box art (yet it can be difficult to part with my creations since I develop a connection with each piece of sea glass I bring home). I also enjoy dividing my finds by color and displaying them in glass jars on windowsills throughout my home. Currently, my husband is working on a sea turtle mosaic with his Bermudan finds, so I am anxiously awaiting to see the finished project adorned on one of our walls!
NASGA: What are some of the beachcombing destinations included on your “bucket list”? Many sea glass destinations remain on my “bucket list,” and I hope to cross them all off in this lifetime, but the beaches of Spain (where, as my intuition tells me, I would discover a nice sized shard of turquoise) absolutely top the list.
NASGA: Aside from collecting, what are some of your other interests or hobbies? Before I discovered sea glass hunting, I enjoyed metal detecting, and although I never found anything of substantial monetary value, I did find an old matchbox helicopter buried in my yard that belonged to my son some twenty years earlier. Similar to sea glassing, those “thrill of the hunt” hobbies are what intrigue me the most. Every piece of found treasure tells a story.
NASGA: Many collectors would likely agree that the history associated with found remnants is certainly one of the main attractions of the pastime. To illustrate, for the past two decades, my Father and I have frequently combed along a specific section of the Chesapeake Bay, and every now and then, we discover a tiny, square, blue or maroon ceramic tile; not only do we continue to speculate about the original source of these tiles, but each time I happen to find such a specimen when combing alone, I immediately think about my Father and break into a smile, and vice versa. It is truly fascinating that a small, seemingly trivial, tangible object could represent a link to the past as well as initiate a connection between two individuals. Do you have any parting thoughts, or perhaps a helpful tip for fellow collectors? Probably the most valuable advice is that I am often successful in finding rare shades of sea glass along the highest wrack line closest to the dunes, as some of the treasures that lay buried in the “sands of time” are eventually unearthed during high storm tides.
NASGA: Lisa, thank you for entertaining the sea glass community with your personal stories and wisdom and for pointing out that the pastime has allowed you to overcome the “Empty Nest Syndrome,’ which effectively demonstrates the intense passion and inspiration for the hobby shared by many collectors. And as always, “Peace, Love and Sandy Feet!”