“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.

“Meet the NASGA Members” – Out of the Blue Sea Glass Jewelry, Lisl Armstrong

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 introduce our first “Meet the NASGA Member”, Lisl Armstrong from Out of the Blue Sea Glass Jewelry, Florida.

Hello, Lisl!   Thank you for being the first member in our “Meet the NASGA Member” series.   Since you’re on the NASGA Communications Committee, and helped with the inception of this new series, and the fact that you’ve been involved with NASGA since 2007, we thought you’d be the perfect choice!  We look forward to reading how you started your love of sea glass.

NASGA:  How long have you been a member of NASGA? 

Lisl:  I have been a member of the NASGA since 2007

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

Red sea glass collected in Puerto Rico
Red sea glass collected in Puerto Rico

Lisl:  I was living in New York City in 1987 and needed a break from the cold. My grandmother who was from Puerto Rico gave me a two week vacation trip to the island as a gift. While walking on a beach in Rincon during a giant swell the surf literally threw a piece of sea glass at me. I watched it fly through the air and hit the hard wet sand. It was a cobalt blue bottle rim. The experience was otherworldly. Everything around me slowed down and there was a silence and I heard an enchanting, chiming gong like sound in my mind. A few days later the swell died down leaving behind piles of sea glass and seashells. I became addicted to collecting sea glass and my return ticket back to the states expired. I lived in Puerto Rico for the next fifteen years all because of sea glass!

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

Lisl:  I needed to find a way to support my beach combing habit. I started making jewelry within weeks of finding my first piece of sea glass and learned as I went along. I use to sell my jewelry from a portable card table in front of a small hotel. I quickly became addicted to making sea glass jewelry. It is amazing to me that the sea has taken in something manmade that was meant to be forgotten and then returns it to us as a gem like treasure.

NASGA:  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?  

Collected shells and pottery from Florida's Gulf Coast
Collected shells and pottery from Florida’s Gulf Coast

Lisl:  Yes, I am still a collector. I live in Florida now and our beaches do not have a lot of sea glass. I go beach combing just about every day though and have found a few nice pieces here. I also love to collect seashells, ancient fossilized sharks teeth, driftwood etc. My husband and I travel the world looking for sea glass. I am fanatical about aquamarine and turquoise sea glass.

 

NASGA:  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? 

Lisl:  My collection consists of sea glass that we collected ourselves in Puerto Rico, England, Italy, Costa Rica and in the USA. I do not use sea glass that would be hard for me to part with in jewelry that I sell. Sea marbles are very special to me. After living several years in Puerto Rico I found only a few. When I met my husband we would go beach combing together and he would find sea marbles all of the time. I guess my eye does not see the round shapes. I have a special collection of sea marbles that I will never part with because they mean so much to me.

NASGA:  How has your craft evolved over time (how has experience helped you to perfect your craft and whether you were self-taught or took classes or had some other type of training, or whether you perhaps happened to discover your craft by accident or had an experience that shifted your focus from one type of craft/skill to another)?  

Collection of Lisl's red sea glass buttongs
Collection of Lisl’s red sea glass buttons

Lisl:  In the beginning I taught myself. Over the years I have taken a lot of jewelry classes. When I lived in Puerto Rico I went through several hurricanes and lost just about everything I owned during Hurricane Georges in 1998.  After that experience, along with living in an open air house in the tropics, made me yearn for things that did not rust or degrade. So my main focus in my art is to make very strong jewelry with unusually thick wire. I do not use anything that could degrade like plated metals, stringing materials or glue etc. I find that sea glass has an ancient beauty so I make jewelry that I imagine the ancients would have made with simple hand tools and thick wire. The wire methods I use were originated thousands of years ago by nomadic people that travelled the silk route. They did a lot with only a few tools. I strive to make jewelry that will still be around in a thousand years. It all comes from living in the tropics where things would rust, breakdown or mildew etc. right before your eyes.

NASGA:  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)?  

Lisl:  I have always devoted myself to the NASGA in some way whether it be in helping to organize the collectors area at the festival, serving on the board, moderating the Ning site etc. I have also lectured at some of the NASGA festivals.

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

Lisl, Cindy and Linda during  NASGA's Cape May festival in 2014
Lisl, Linda and Cindy during NASGA’s Cape May sea glass festival in 2014                                                Photo courtesy of Cindy Mullin

 

Lisl:  Being a NASGA member has benefitted me tremendously. I have made a lot of really good friends through the NASGA and have had a lot of good times at the festivals. Those of us that have sea glass businesses are always dealing with the hassles of those that present fake sea glass to the public as being real. I find the NASGA to be a sanctuary for those of us that work with authentic sea glass. NASGA protects the sea glass customer which is very important. There are still a lot of fakes out there but without the NASGA I think it would be a lot worse.

NASGA:  Is there a particular NASGA festival that stands out as your favorite (if the member has participated in several, or more than one), and can you a share a memorable experience associated with a previous NASGA festival (whether sentimental, humorous, ironic)?

Lisl:  The first NASGA festival I attended was in Lewes, Delaware years ago. That was where I first met other sea glass enthusiasts. That festival was the Woodstock of sea glass. It was really crowded. It was warfare, lol. I gave a lecture on Sunday and I was really nervous. I had never lectured before and decided to just go for it. My lecture was written on several pieces of paper. In the beginning I was so nervous that my voice was shaking. At some point I just decided what the heck and threw my notes up in the air and the audience really liked that. I relaxed and was able to give my lecture.

NASGA:  Do you have any specific plans or goals for your craft or business (new designs or objects you wish to create or perhaps a desire to expand your business or change directions when you have more time at some point)?  

Lisl:  Yes, I am always striving to make things that are primitive and ancient looking.

NASGA:  What are some of your other interests or hobbies?  

Lisl:  Yoga, nature, ecology and the ancient world.

NASGA:  Where can readers find out more about your craft or skill, and if applicable, access information about your upcoming events or festivals? Also, are readers welcome to contact you, and if so, what is the preferred method for them to reach you? 

Lisl:  On my website naturalseaglass.com 

NASGA:  How have you helped strengthen and support the NASGA Mission?

Lisl:  I do my best to participate in a broader sea glass community which is made up NASGA members as well as countless enthusiasts from all over the world through social networking. Social networking is an ideal modality for sea glass enthusiasts. There are various places on the internet where sea glass collectors congregate and empower each other. On any given day people are sharing information online with each other and helping to weed out the fakes. For those of us that have businesses I think it is important that we validate one another in terms of sea glass authenticity. This empowers the honest seller and helps protect consumers from getting ripped off.  While on the board I took on the task of organizing the collectors area for the festivals so there would be a display only component at the festivals. I have continued to help with this effort to some extent. Last year I helped the NASGA to create an informative card about the differences between real sea glass and artificial sea glass. After serving on the board, I know how much work it involves and how time consuming it is. So when asked by the NASGA to help,  I make it a point to say “Yes”, even if it is in only a small way. I think all members should keep in mind that NASGA is made up of volunteers and what little the rest of us can do to help makes a big difference in keeping NASGA and it’s mission going.