NASGA’s Meet the Member Interview- Anne Marie Johnson, Sea Glass Treasures/Seaglassin
Q: How did you learn about NASGA, and how long have you been a member of the association?
A: In 2006, my brother Romeo and I, and my sister Anita and her husband Willy attended the very first large venue of the North American Sea Glass Festival (NASGA) held in Santa Cruz, CA. We attended as exhibitors and met newfound friends and soon to become board members Charles Peden, Richard LaMotte, Teri Reed, Jennifer Reed, Lisa Hall, Sharon Umbaugh, Linda Jereb, Mary Beth Beuke and Cindy Kuhn. As a result, we began learning about the history of sea glass, its competition with artificial sea glass and its true value in its natural state. When Romeo learned that we could become members of the association, we took the next step of joining NASGA. Luckily, I’ve been able to continue my membership for 11 years and have attended every festival to date.
Q: Can you share your personal sea glass story, or how you discovered and developed a passion for tumbled treasures?
A: We were already avid collectors of sea glass on Prince Edward Island, Canada near an old dumpsite that held the treasures from 25 to 50 years ago and possibly even 100 years. It was also in an area known for many shipwrecks from the past. Sea Glass had been brought to our attention by our brother Richard who was living in New Brunswick and already had a sizable collection. Others in the family like Carmella and Yvette had collected it years ahead of this, especially the blue and rare colors. Yvette’s husband George would bring a cupful of blue pieces every now and then to my sister Carmella who was already creating nautical wreaths and ornaments.
In 2006, when I retired from being a principal’s secretary at our local north central Wisconsin school, I flew to Prince Edward Island once or twice a year to help my 90 + year old mother who needed 24/7 care. She had raised 14 children, and all of us tried to share whatever time we could to make her life pleasant. For respite care for myself, I would take in some beach therapy! The constant lapping of the waves, the wind, sun, rain and sometimes snow on my face, the sound of the seagulls overhead, the lighthouse in the distance and the time of solitude were just what I needed. Finding beautiful sea glass pieces along the way was just an added bonus!
Being a songwriter, I also used this time to write songs “in my head” and try to remember them till I got back to Mom’s to write them down. I did this as she sat patiently sorting my sea glass. She loved to hear and admire our special pieces and talk of our adventures and our upcoming entrepreneurship.
Q: Please tell us about your particular craft or skill, such as tools and techniques, training and experience, and how your product or skill has evolved or changed over time.
A: As my collection increased, so did my desire to use it creatively. I enlisted the help of my brother Richard’s wife Geri, who was so accommodating in helping me get started. Using the simplest design, I made my first pair of dangle earrings out of jewelry findings she sent to me. From that time on, my designs have taken on a life of their own, and I continue to be inspired to try something new. Wire wrapping is one of my favorites as each piece has a unique style due to its shape and size. But from the very start, I’ve always preferred simplicity. So I guess I could be called a true minimalist. My simple designs have been appreciated with positive reviews.
Q: Are you also a sea glass collector (or do you solely enjoy working on your craft or skill)? If you are a collector, can you tell us about your collection, and is difficult to part with some of your creations or favorite pieces?
A: As many collectors find, we have many common colors of sea glass, but the rare colors come along less frequently. So there’s always a good reason to search. My most favorite pieces of sea glass are bottle stoppers and marbles. I’ve sold wire wrapped marbles but have never been able to part with my treasured bottle stoppers. Believe it or not, I found one of my favorite bottle stoppers (a black one) near the Navy Pier in Chicago while having met my daughter there for her research work. As an added bonus, we visited the Abegweit Ferry, which used to run between Cape Tormentine, NB and Port Borden, PEI, now docked and used by the Columbia Yacht Club, Chicago.
Q: Can you share some of the joys and challenges of your business and craft?
A: One of the favorite joys of my business is educating others on the history of sea glass, and the techniques of drilling sea glass. I offer jewelry tips if requested, as I man my booth at festivals. Hearing other’s sea glass stories are often enlightening as well. Over the years, my husband and I have traveled to Sea Glass Beach, Hawaii, and Monterey, Santa Cruz, Davenport and Fort Bragg in California. You get a different perspective in each location when talking to locals who have been sea – glassing in those areas for years. I also appreciate my husband’s enthusiasm and support with business ideas, traveling plans, computer technical advice, and drilling of sea glass, which have been invaluable.
Q: How does your NASGA membership benefit you professionally and/or personally?
A: NASGA benefits me in my marketing, as I use its policy of authenticity as my push for using no artificial sea glass. Talking about my NASGA participation and my membership in the “about page” of my website makes me look professional. I also appreciate donating to environmental causes through our organization. In 2016, I was on the NASGA communications committee, helping to organize the upcoming sea glass festival in Ocean City Maryland. This year I plan to attend the Wildwood Sea Glass Festival in Oct. 2018.
Q: Do you plan to exhibit at the upcoming festival in Wildwood, New Jersey, and is there a particular NASGA festival that stands out as a favorite, or a memorable experience associated with a previous NASGA festival?
A: Many of the NASGA festivals have also been an excuse for a mini family reunion. One year, we actually had 12 family members attend from PEI, Ontario, North Carolina, Washington DC and Wisconsin. My desire is to continue my business into my 80s and possibly 90s. It makes life interesting and meaningful and gives me a purpose! A memorable experience began at one of my NASGA booths when I sold a rare red sea glass pendant necklace to an appreciative customer. Little did I know that a year later, she would surprise me by traveling a thousand miles to Prince Edward Island to attend the Mermaid Tears Sea Glass Festival while sporting her rare red sea glass necklace. Believe me, it was a surprise I will always remember. Ellie Mercier, who was the speaker on PEI that year, was especially impressed and remembers it as well!
Q: Can you tell us about some of your other interests or hobbies?
A: Other than sea glass collecting and making jewelry, my hobbies include swimming, walking, singing and songwriting. In 2002, I had some of my songs recorded professionally in a CD called “Songs of the Sea”. Most of my songs describe the beauty and warmth of the ocean, nature and family on Prince Edward Island. In one of them, I also describe my sea glass journey.
Q: How can the public learn more about your craft or skill, inquire about your calendar (upcoming exhibits or events), and/or contact you if desired?
A: My business website, seaglassin.etsy.com, currently has approximately 450 listings of my sea glass jewelry with more than 2600 sales. My upcoming events include the annual NASGA Sea Glass Festival in Wildwood, N.J, the Santa Cruz Sea Glass Festival, the Erie and Buffalo Coastal Festivals, the Mabel Tainter Victorian Theatre in my hometown of Menomonie, Wisconsin, and the Mermaid Tears Sea Glass Festival on Prince Edward Island. This summer we will celebrate the Mermaid Tears 10th Anniversary Sea Glass Festival on July 28 – 29 with our very own Richard LaMotte as the guest speaker!