NASGA is a non-profit organization positively supporting sea glass collectors and the sea glass community with festivals, information, educational opportunities, commercial membership and more. The primary goal of NASGA is to establish a community of informed collectors and sellers of sea glass that are educated on the characteristics and significance of genuine sea glass.
Recently at the Santa Cruz Sea Glass and Ocean Art Festival, NASGA Education Chair Mary McCarthy was on hand doing sea glass identification. A woman brought her necklace that included a UV piece with a unique curve. The size of the interior curve provided a clue: it was once a hole!
The source for the piece is a depression era vaseline glass flower frog. Flower frogs, nicknamed because they “sit in water,” feature holes that were used to hold flower stems. Often a two-piece item with a removable lid though sometimes made as one piece, water is placed inside to nourish the flowers. The identified vaseline glass, probably from the 1920s-40s was made with uranium and therefore glows under blacklight.
Long, long ago, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and the skies were pierced with cries of enormous birds, something was happening geologically just below the water. Unusual formations in the silt and mud began to take shape that would, millions of years later, reveal themselves and wash up on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay. These “formations,” resembling hollow rock balls, tubes, ocarinas, and more avant-garde shapes, are created from sand, clay, and iron oxide.When my family and I first moved to the shores of the upper Chesapeake and roamed the beaches in search of beach glass, we also began to find peculiar, round, metal-like objects. We felt certain they were a type of ammunition for guns used during the Revolutionary War because George Washington had munitions created in the Principio Iron Works just a heron’s flight across the bay, near the port of Charlestown.
Being new to the area and excited to show our finds to our neighbors, our newly found friends chuckled and told us that the strange formations were called ‘pop rocks,” small hollow stones of which our neighbors would toss into beach fires and watch them explode. Another neighbor told us that the formations (are) derived from ‘Indian paint pots” and that Native American tribes used the iron oxide inside the stones to paint their faces. But it was not until we met another neighbor, and now long-time friend, Alice Lundgren, that the mystery was solved. The formations, in all their various shapes, are known as “concretions.”
Alice has a collection of well over a thousand concretions ranging in size from a quarter of an inch to about twelve inches, all of which she has gathered from the bay. Alice was a true inspiration to my family and me, and we soon joined forces to not only hunt for sea glass, but to eagerly search for concretions. These unusual rock formations date back to the late Cretaceous and Eocene eras. Even more fascinating than the “pop rocks” are tubular rocks. The tubular concretions are iron oxide formations that reflect a pipe-like structure.
When we go exploring along our nearby beach, Alice, a seasoned concretion seeker, has the ability to spot the stone tubes instantly, yet the rest of us are not so fortunate, as the finds appear camouflaged to the untrained eye. Some of the concretions boast unique shapes, such as small cups, snowmen, and acorns while the tubular concretions often resemble coral, branches, and even small musical pipes (although they do not carry a tune))! Similar to sea glass, each concretion seems to carry its own story and personality.
Having been formed millions of years ago from sedimentary rock, concretions have been significant and mystical to many cultures. Some cultures believe them to be holy stones while other cultures believe the stones bring luck, or perhaps represent the divine feminine. However, theories of modern science suggest the concretions are fossils or meteorites.
As beachcombers, we are treasure-hunters. We are always seeking the next great find. The Shard of the Year Contest, which is one of the highlights of the North American Sea Glass Association’s annual Festival, would be ideal opportunity to view both natural and manmade treasures (this year’s North American Sea Glass Festival will be held in Wildwood, New Jersey on October 27 – 28).
*Many thanks to Alice Lundgren for sharing her collection of concretions, and to Meredith Keating and Brandon Boas for their photography.
NASGA’s Meet the Member Interview – Bruce & Gail Barton – Sea Glass Designs
Q: How did you learn about NASGA, and how long have you been a member of the association?
A: Sea Glass Designs has been members of NASGA since 2007. We attended our first sea glass festival the following year in Lewes, Delaware. We first learned about the association from an online search.
Q: Can you share your personal sea glass story, or how you discovered and developed a passion for tumbled treasures?
A: I first learned about sea glass while reading the novel Sea Glass by Anita Shreve. At the time we had just retired and were living on our boat in the Bahamas. I started to search the beaches and was rewarded with finding many gems. After reading Richard LaMotte’s book Pure Sea Glass, I became addicted to the hobby of collecting sea glass. I also learned while reading his book, the we were in a great spot to collect really old treasures.
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: Bruce kept saying I was going to sink the boat if I collected any more sea glass and that I needed to do something with all the glass. For Christmas that year my daughter gave me a beginning jewelry making kit. I took the kit back to the boat and tried to follow the instructions on how to make a piece wrapped jewelry. After becoming totally frustrated, I asked Bruce to help me. He looked at the page once and picked up a piece of sea glass and within seconds made the pendant. He thought that was a lot of fun and continued making wrapped sea glass pendants. Who know that former engineers, make great jewelers. Bruce can just look at a piece of sea glass and know the best way to put it in a setting. He has since gone to many professional classes and studied under master jewelers. He is now an accomplished metalsmith. I have also been attending classes in jewelry manufacturing and design. I am not yet a silversmith, but my skills have improved greatly from my first attempt at making jewelry.
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: We are collectors and well as sea glass jewelers. Most of the glass we find in the Bahamas is very old going back to the 18th and 19th century The island is rich in beautiful old sea glass as a result of numerous shipwrecks on the reefs off the island ds during the early 1800’s I do have a hard time parting with some of our treasures. I do keep my very favorites but share them with sea glass lovers at shows. We love to talk about the pieces in our collection with show goers.
Q: Can you share some of the joys and challenges of your business and craft?
A: We still get excited every time we see someone wearing one of our creations. It never gets old. Bruce and I work at the business full time even when we are in the Bahamas for the winter. I don’t think we ever planned to come out of retirement to go back to work. When you work for yourself, you spend a heck of a lot more time at it than you ever did in a 9 to 5 job. Our business is always open.
Q: How does your NASGA membership benefit you professionally and/or personally?
A: Being members of NASGA has been rewarding to us both professionally and personally. We learn so much from other members. Everyone is always willing to help you. Last year we forgot our side curtains for a weekend long show. Other member quickly came to our assistance and loaned us everything we needed for us to remain in the show. The best part of our membership has been the friendships that we have made. The members of the organization are all very special people.
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: Our favorite show was the very first show we were in at Erie PA. Because it was our first show everything was new and exciting to us. We learned that members were very supportive and offered lots of help. Every show was special is some way, but we have done so many now, they start to run together.
Q: Can you tell us about some of your other interests or hobbies?
A: In addition to beach combing, sailing has been a big part of our life. It started as a hobby and became part of our lifestyle. When we are not on our boat, walking the beach, or making jewelry, you will most likely find us on a tennis court.
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?
The 13th Annual North American Sea Glass Festival will be held on Saturday, October 27, 2018 and Sunday, October 28, 2018 at The Wildwoods Convention Center in Wildwood, New Jersey.
The North American Sea Glass Festival is the premier sea glass event in the country celebrating the history and beauty of sea glass. The event will be held on Saturday from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. and Sunday from 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Admission is $7.00 per day, Children Under 12 Free. There will be a two-day ticket available for purchase on Saturday for a reduced rate of $10.
This year the festival will also include Sunday lectures. The North American Sea Glass Festival will feature expert lecture presentations on the history and collection of genuine sea glass. Each lecture will be approximately 45 minutes. There will be a Q & A session after the lectures. The lectures will be located in the main hall of the festival.
Lectures: Saturday, October 27, 2018
Beach Marble History in Wildwood, New Jersey and Beyond
The National Marbles Tournament has been held in Wildwood since 1922. Learn about the history of beach marbles found locally and why they’re found on other beaches around the world. The lecture will feature Doug Watson, board member of the National Marbles Tournament explaining the history of the tournament followed by Mary McCarthy, who will showcase her collection of vintage sea marbles while discussing the many types of marbles you would find along the East Coast and beyond.
Doug Watson has been involved with the game of marbles for over 20 years. He won the 1999 National Marbles Tournament at age 14. With a team of other mibsters, he traveled to England to compete at the World Marbles Tournament. Doug has competed in the U.S. Marble Championship, Rolley Hole Tournament in Tennessee, the Former National Champions Tournament, and the NMT alumni tournament held every 5 years in Wildwood. In more recent years, he has taken to the microphone on the Wildwood beach as emcee for the annual National Marbles Tournament in June; he’s also a committee member, continuing the tournament’s 95-year tradition. Doug also runs a local marble club in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, where he coaches kids between the ages of 7-14 to learn the competitive side of playing marbles. This year he coached the National Champion runner-up. He is an avid collector of antique and contemporary glass artists marbles.
Mary McCarthy is Education Chair and a Board Member of the North American Sea Glass Association and Co-Executive Director of The Sea Glass Center nonprofit. She is a bestselling author, Reiki master, and lifelong journalist and editor including work for Salon.com, the Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, Baltimore Sun, Glassing magazine, Chesapeake Family and splicetoday.com. She is the founder of thehealingbeach.com.In addition to many conferences, she has lectured at American University, University of Maryland, The Writer’s Center, and she teaches at Inn at Perry Cabin in St. Michaels, MD. She is a mother of four and beachcombs and kayaks on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
Bottle Bottoms, Lips, and More
Richard LaMotte returns as our keynote lecturer with an informative sea glass identification lecture covering tips for dating unique bottle shards top to bottom. Learn techniques to quickly discern which bottle bottoms and lips in your collection date prior to 1800, 1860, 1900 and 1950.
Richard LaMotte is the author of the award-winning book Pure Sea Glass and a sequel titled The Lure of Sea Glass. He was a co-founder and past-president of the North American Sea Glass Association. Richard works and lives near the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland where he began sea glass hunting in 1999. In 2002 he began researching glass history for a lecture which led to extensive research into glass colors, as well as the physics and chemistry behind the frosted glass found along the shoreline. In 2006 Pure Sea Glass was awarded first place for non-fiction in Writer’s Digest 13thAnnual Self-Published Book Competition. Richard and his book have been featured in The Washington Post, on Martha Stewart Living TV, Coastal Living, Parade Magazine, Baltimore Sun, The Boston Globe,Delaware Beach Life, on NPR and Maryland Public Television.
Lectures: Sunday, October 28, 2018
Sea Glass Sourcing: Beaches Known to Relinquish Specific Finds
Discover how exploring beaches can help you connect to the sources of unique finds based on local history. Ellie Mercier will share her passion for sea glass with her informative lecture on sea glass hunting and what makes each place unique.
Ellie Mercier, a current as well as former NASGA board member and longtime member of the association, has lectured at several beachcombing events and is the author of The Sea Glass Companion, a comprehensive hobby guide. When she isn’t teaching college English, writing, or working in her sea glass studio, Ellie is likely to be found combing along the Chesapeake Bay. She is also a proud mother and grateful daughter, and is especially thankful for her husband John, who puts up with her compulsion to bring home every stray remnant that rolls ashore.
Hurricane Maria: Renewal, Hope and the Love of Sea Glass
One island’s story of destruction and rebuilding through the lens of the sea glass community.
Carolyn Pigford is a sea glass hunter, diver, and owner of Huntress by Sea jewelry. Originally from the foothills of Maryland, Carolyn has been sea glass hunting in Puerto Rico since 2008 and a full time resident there since 2014 when she started making sea glass jewelry. After Hurricane Maria, Carolyn was amazed by the way the sea glass community came together to help the victims of Hurricane Maria and is sharing some of the stories of the rebuilding and how the beachcombing community has been affected in Puerto Rico.
For sea glass enthusiasts, there are many reasons to celebrate the spring, one of which is the highly anticipated announcement of NASGA’s annual festival. Hence, as recently publicized, the association’s 13th annual North American Sea Glass Festival will take place on Oct. 27 – 28 at The Wildwoods Convention Center in Wildwood, New Jersey.
Although it can be difficult to capture the wonder of the festival in words, chairperson Roxann Williams paints a fairly accurate picture: “The North American Sea Glass Association is unique; it is a love of history, reclamation, recycling, and treasure -hunting, all wrapped into one. It’s extremely rewarding to see the excitement and joy of our attendees as they learn through our lectures and shard identification experts, and purchase unique and artistic pieces from the exhibitors to add to their home and jewelry collections.”
However, unlike annual events that are held in the same location, and on similar dates each year, the fact that the sea glass festival is a “traveling show” requires never ending planning and fails to lighten the workload from one year to the next. For instance, solely selecting a venue each year – one that can not only accommodate the specific needs of the festival, but is also affordable, conveniently located for the majority of exhibitors and attendees, and available on preferable dates – can be particularly challenging. Promoting and advertising the event can be trying too, especially since the members of the planning committee, who also vary from year to year, are often unfamiliar with the city chosen to host the event. Yet probably the most difficult task associated with a traveling festival is recruiting volunteers, and NASGA could not be more blessed in this area.
While enlisting help is vital to the success of a show, it requires a very special person to establish a group of loyal, devoted volunteers. Therefore, the association is indebted to our festival chairperson, who just happens to possess such talent. Williams, an ardent sea glass fan who has extensive experience in the non-profit sector, was asked to chair NASGA’s fifth annual festival in Hyannis Port, MA during 2010, and no one else has been given a chance to fill her shoes ever since. Her strong organizational skills and compassionate nature make Williams an ideal mentor and leader, and she has a knack for fostering meaningful friendships and camaraderie among the festival volunteers. As long-time NASGA volunteer Dr. Barbara Boyce states, “The people are the reason I volunteer my time for this event, and Roxann (Williams) and her husband, Steve, are great people and easy to work with. They deal extremely well with all of the challenges and stresses of putting on a fantastic festival.”
According to Williams, without the excitement and commitment of the volunteers, it would be difficult to handle all of the behind-the-scenes tasks that allow the festival to operate smoothly. Throughout the event, as avid hobbyists display their impressive sea glass collections, exhibitors offer their artwork and books, and speakers share their special knowledge, the volunteers oversee NASGA’s information table, distribute tickets and programs, answer questions, direct attendees, and provide coverage for exhibitor booths. And on Sunday, the second and final day of the show, the volunteers assist with the culminating event, the infamous SOTY (“Shard Of The Year”) Contest, which many consider the highlight of the festival. For the contest, attendees are encouraged to enter their most impressive sea glass finds, and cash prizes are awarded for the “winning shard” in each category (frosted bottle, art glass, buttons/beads, figural, most unusual, whimsical toys, pottery/ceramics, historical, marbles, and the grand prize, the “Overall Beauty”). The contest is comparable to a “traveling sea glass museum” and is an absolute treat for those interested in the pastime.
Not surprisingly, Dr. Boyce and her friend Sharon Brubaker were inspired to contribute to the event due to their mutual affection for sea glass. In September of 2014, the two friends embarked on a road trip to Cape May, New Jersey to volunteer at the association’s 9th annual festival, which proved to be a particularly memorable experience. For the first time in the show’s history, the number of attendees exceeded the maximum capacity of the ballroom, and the fire marshal had to step in to monitor the number of individuals exiting and entering the hall. As Boyce suggests, “The Cape May NASGA festival was my first experience. Every person who attended can likely recall a crazy, fun, and crowded time. I was hooked. I thought I was familiar with sea glass through reading, but I realized that I had much to learn. The folks at NASGA are the experts, and I drank in every word and could not wait until the next year to volunteer.” Today, both Boyce and Brubaker are extremely knowledgeable about sea glass, and it is a joy to observe them respond to questions from attendees and help educate the public about the tumbled treasures.
Each year, the allure of the hobby encourages seasoned and new volunteers alike to contribute to the festival. Among the group of devoted “regulars” are mother and daughter teams, husband and wife pairs, and close peers who share a passion for sea glass and enjoy working together. Some volunteers have been assisting at the festival for over six years, and as each show kicks off, it is especially rewarding to overhear shrieks of delight as friendships are reignited between returning exhibitors, volunteers, and attendees. Yet even though NASGA is blessed with loyal volunteers, further support at the show is always welcome, so the association reaches out by advertising on the festival’s Facebook page and contacting local sea glass groups and non-profits, as well as the hosting city’s Chamber of Commerce in an effort to recruit enthusiasts.
Particularly when an event is running smoothly, attendees are unlikely to give any thought to the source of organization and support behind the scenes. Therefore, it bodes well for the sea glass festival that those who are busy pulling the strings often go unnoticed. However, if it seems to defy logic that the individuals who do the most work also receive the least amount of credit, keep in mind that the explanation is all in a name: “volunteer” – a person who does something, especially for other people or for an organization, willingly and without being forced or paid to do it” (dictionary.cambridge.org). A statement made by volunteer Sharon Brubaker lends credence to the definition, “It has been a pleasure to interact with everyone at NASGA. Now that I am a repeat volunteer, I genuinely look forward to seeing sea glass kindred spirits each year.” Without a doubt, the NASGA volunteers are the hidden gems of the annual festival.