“Meet the NASGA Members”- A Day at the Beach, Jane Claire McHenry

The North American Sea Glass Association (NASGA) has been working towards integrating NASGA‘s online presence, including the NASGA website, NASGA’s Facebook pages, the NASGA‘s NING social networking site, the Shorelines Newsletter, as well as our blog, to strengthen NASGA’s mission and increase NASGA’s presence within the sea glass community.

Each member of NASGA will have the opportunity to share their involvement with NASGA and the NASGA Mission, and “introduce” themselves as members of the North American Sea Glass Association. We’re calling this the “Meet the NASGA Members” blog series. We’re excited to share our next member with you.

Jane Claire McHenry, A Day at the Beach, from Islamorada in the Florida Keys.

Hello, Jane Claire

How long have you been a member of NASGA?

I have been a member of NASGA for 6 years now, since 2010 when I participated in my first NASGA Festival in Cape Cod.

Jane  Claire McHenry, A Day at the Beach
Jane Claire McHenry,                           A Day at the Beach

Can you share your “personal sea glass story” (how and when you became interested in sea glass)?

Wow! I’d have to go back a long way to remember when I first became interested in sea glass. It would have to be when I was 5 or 6 years old spending summer weeks with my grandparents in Wareham, Mass., near the Cape Cod Canal. My grandmother collected sea glass on her many beach walks and, of course, like all early sea glass collectors she had them displayed in a big vase in her sunniest kitchen window. I loved to play with the sea glass, look at all the beautiful colors and help add to her collection. Sure wish I knew what happened to that sea glass!

Please tell us about your particular craft and when you formed your business or began practicing your skill.

Jane's collection of sea glass displayed beautifully in an abalone shell
Jane’s collection of sea glass displayed beautifully in an abalone shell

My sea glass business, A Day at the Beach Sea Glass Jewelry, was formed in 2009 after I retired from my publishing job of 25+ years. Even while I was still working I always dreamed of having my own business. So when I considered what kind of business to begin as my next “career” I remembered the advice I was always given, “explore your passion and do what you love to do.”

My husband and I were already avid beach combers and during our many island vacations had started our own sea glass collection. After working with the Center for Women and Enterprise in Providence to develop a business plan, “A Day at the Beach Sea Glass Jewelry” was born. After much trial and error, lots of jewelry classes and a long traverse along an even longer learning curve, we began selling our designs in early 2009, always amazed and a little thrilled when people actually purchased them!

Since then we have exhibited at over 100 Juried Art Shows, have many happy, regular wholesale customers and a successful online jewelry boutique. After being in business for 7 years I can say that one of the most rewarding takeaways has been our good fortune to meet wonderful people who we never would have met if not for the sea glass connection. Some of these people have become very close friends and we treasure them!

Are you also an avid sea glass collector (or do you solely enjoy working on your craft or skill), and are you partial to a certain type or color of sea glass?

Jane searching for Sea Glass Galway, Ireland
Jane searching for Sea Glass Galway, Ireland

Yes, we are still avid sea glass collectors and our “vacations” inevitably revolve around sea glass hunting. Even during our trip to Ireland last summer we were looking for glass during brief stops in small fishing villages. When we had a little extra time in Galway we finally found a beach where we were able to collect and we’re looking forward to finding more this year in Northern Ireland! I would love to travel to Spain, Sicily, Scotland, England, Greece and Japan to find sea glass, but I haven’t told my husband yet!

We are always interested in sea glass even if we can’t use it for our jewelry. We like to pass along what we don’t use to someone who may find a use for it! Favorite colors? Blues, aqua, sea foams. For me, personally, I am terribly fond of sea foam, one of the most underrated and beautiful sea glass colors. Favorite type of sea glass? A toss-up between bottle stoppers and marbles.

If you are a collector, can you tell us about your collection and whether it may be difficult to part with some of your creations or incorporate your favorite pieces into projects? 

Jane's collection of pastel sea glass
Jane’s collection of pastel sea glass

We have a nice collection of our best beach finds displayed in a glass top table that my husband made for me for one of our wedding anniversaries. Some of our favorite pieces displayed are a collection of sea glass hearts, bottle stoppers, marbles and buttons.

We also have glass vases filled with small pieces of every sea glass color displayed in our living room windows, small sea glass filled vases on the mantle, a beautiful sea glass photo frame (made by my friend, Paula Fedele and NASGA Member, All About Sea Glass), two sea glass windows made by my friend, Robin Pierson.  Our children and grandchildren have already “reserved” certain collections so I don’t think we have to worry about parting with them as we are passing them on when we pass on!

How has your craft evolved over time ?

Thank goodness, our skills have improved over time. Experience is the ultimate teacher. I am the type of person who learns from my mistakes and sometimes I make the same mistake more than once. What I have also learned is to improve, you have to have the desire to expand your skills and your horizons. You can’t be complacent and comfortable. You always have to be slightly uncomfortable and that pushes you to be better, more careful, more meticulous. Another important lesson, one of the most difficult for me, is that everything takes longer than you think it will. So if you want to start a business, especially a sea glass business, be patient and plan ahead but above all be patient.

Have you previously been (or are you currently) active in the association (have you had the opportunity to organize a festival, serve on the board, deliver a presentation, participate in educational-related events)?

I have yet to have the opportunity to be active in the association but have offered my help with projects in the past and hope to be able to contribute assistance in the future.

How has your membership in NASGA benefited you professionally and/or personally?

Credibility: When you are a member of NASGA you agree to make the commitment to sell items that are designed with authentic sea glass. If you are in this business, credibility is key.

When you are selling real, beach found sea glass it has intrinsic value that cannot be replicated, especially by something that is man-made or altered to mimic its appearance. Real, surf- tumbled sea glass is 20-30+ years old, is not available in abundance and is not available in every color of the rainbow. The value of real sea glass is its story, its unique shape and color, its history and the effort required to find it.

When we meet people and talk about sea glass we always tell them that we are members of the NASGA and that we, and all NASGA members, pledge to sell only authentic sea glass. Most of the time our audience is truly impressed that a national organization dedicated to educating people about sea glass even exists!

 Friendships: We feel fortunate to have developed so many wonderful friendships through our NASGA Membership and Festival participation. I am in awe of the talent that is displayed at the Festivals and always impressed by how much camaraderie and support there is among participants. I consider this one of the best benefits of a NASGA membership.

Is there a particular festival that stands out as your favorite, and can you a share a memorable experience associated with a previous NASGA festival?

I would have to say that my most memorable festival was my very first one in Hyannis on Cape Cod. I remember being very nervous before the doors opened because I didn’t know what to expect and didn’t think I was ready. Then I heard Roxann’s announcement countdown to the doors opening “5, 4, 3, 2, 1” and I thought I would pass out! I did survive, and have survived five festivals since and look forward to  NASGA Sea Glass Festival in Ocean City Maryland, August 29 and 30th, 2015. But Roxann, can you dispense with the countdown? (Just kidding!)

What are some of your other interests or hobbies? If you could learn another skill (does not need to be art related) what would it be?

Oh my. Where would I begin? I am sure that most of my friends and family consider sea glass collecting and jewelry design as a hobby when it is my full time job with no time for hobbies! If I had to give it up for some reason I would improve my photography and writing skills. I’d love to write a children’s book about sea glass and life lessons.  Maybe (just maybe) I’d even travel to places where there isn’t a chance to find sea glass.

Where can readers find out more about your craft or skill? Also, are readers welcome to contact you, and if so, what is the preferred method for them to reach you?

I would love to hear from readers who are interested in sea glass and sea glass jewelry. I have an online sea glass jewelry boutique, www.seaglassjewelrybyjane.com. I am also on Facebook  and Pinterest  and welcome emails at shopping@seaglassjewelrybyjane.com

What is your favorite beachcombing find?

Sea glass bottle stopper found by  Jane's Grandaughter in Bermuda
Sea glass bottle stopper found by Jane’s Grandaughter in Bermuda

You know, years ago I found a large, thick piece of pink sea glass in Bermuda. I saw it on the beach while I was still on the street walking towards it. I was so afraid someone else was going to arrive at the beach and pick it up!   But I’ll have to say that my favorite find is actually my granddaughter’s favorite find (so far), also in Bermuda! She and my husband were snorkeling right along the water line and she found a beautiful aqua, flawless bottle stopper. She was so proud and I was so happy to think that this could be the beginning of a new generation of sea glass hunters.

How have you helped strengthen and support the NASGA Mission? 

By always trying to educate the public about the value of real sea glass; about what it is, how it is formed, where it is found, why some pieces are priced more than others and about the differences between real sea glass and artificial sea glass. The members of NASGA are like an Army, spreading the word about this wonderful creation of man and nature.