Let me start off by saying I’m not an expert on sea glass. I won’t go into the different names and categories. There are plenty of good books on the subject. I am however, an insatiable collector (read addict) of these colorful frosted beauties tossed on the beach by the sea.
My first time searching for sea glass was on a beach in Stamford, Connecticut. Funny thing is, we had a much bigger beach in our hometown of Westport just a half hour up the coast, but I was never able to find a piece there. Years went by and my family and I would collect a bit here and there in the summers, but it didn’t become a full blown passion until I moved to Santa Barbara eight years ago.
The question I get asked most, is where and how do I find sea glass? I’ve noticed people at the beach carrying special rakes, nets, and small shovels digging through piles of pebbles and wet sand. I guess I’m a lazy hunter… I’m not quite that intense. All you really need is some old sneakers, good vision, and a bag for all that glass you will hopefully find. You will also need some good luck. There are days that are bountiful and other days when I find nary a piece. Sometimes our beaches are full of pebbles and rocks, and at other times free of everything but a clean sweep of sand. I have found sea glass at most of the beaches in Santa Barbara, Summerland, and Carpinteria. My three best outings ever were right in front of the Biltmore after a huge winter storm (people were literally filling large bags full of it!), Summerland, and most recently an 8:30 am Sunday beach walk from the Biltmore towards East Beach (see below).
Here is what I do. I check the tide table and always go at low tide. Winter is better than summer because of the bigger surf and swells. Early morning low tide is usually the best, because there are fewer people on the beach. Gray days are also not as busy and easier to see without the bright glare of the sun. This is how the beach looked yesterday at 8:00 am. There was an abundance of pebbles and overcast skies.
This is usually a good indication that there will be sea glass hidden somewhere amongst all of those tiny stones. That said, some of my largest, best pieces were just laying alone on the sand with nothing around them! It really is a game of luck. I walk close to the water line (hence the old sneakers because sometimes the waves are faster than I am) and have found incredible pieces on my return walk. Either they were newly washed up or I was simply noticing them from from a different vantage point. Always keep looking and you will be amazed that sometimes there is a jewel of a piece right where you thought you had already looked! Here’s what I saw on today’s beach walk…
That was my first find of the day and about 1.5″ long to give you an idea of its size. It’s much easier to spot them when they are wet. Greens and white/clear are the easiest to find, while blues and aquas are not as numerous. Here is another look from this morning…
Sea glass hunting is fun to do with friends or family, although it can become a wee bit competitive! But there is something to be said about going for a long walk on your own. For me it is a form of meditation…the sound of the waves, the beauty of the beach, and the way your mind is quieted while hunting for those elusive little glass gems. Add the benefit of fresh sea air and a nice long walk, and it’s a win all around even if you don’t find any!
The other question I am asked, is what on earth do you do with all that sea glass? At first when I started out, I put it all in a large rectangular vase…with the exception of browns and greens (they just aren’t my favorites). I never thought it would be filled!
I collect a few browns and put them in a bowl in the office…
The green go in a large 16″ tall vase.
Almost all of the white/clear I send to my mom who has them in a large tray at her home in Florida. I do keep a few of the round pretty ones for myself.
The aquas and soft blues go in a bowl on the coffee table.
They have since outgrown that bowl and are now in a larger bowl where there is room to add a lot more!
For our favorite collected pieces, there is a large 27″ shallow cement bowl on our dining table to showcase them. These are large pieces, unusual colors, marbles, small bottles, and even a geode!
It’s ironic that The Little Glass House was named for its abundance of doors and windows, but now it works equally well as a name for all of the sea glass stashed around our home!
There are some wonderful books on sea glass if you want to learn more from the experts. Here are a few of my recommendations: Pure Sea Glass , The Lure of Sea Glass , and The Ultimate Guide to Sea Glass . I also did a post on sea glass about a year ago. For those of you who are local, the Santa Barbara Sea Glass & Ocean Arts Festival is September 9-10, 2017. I went last year and have never seen so much beach glass in my life! The jewelry is stunning and I was able to get a lot of my Christmas shopping done.
What will I do when I run out of room? Buy a new house! ( I’m only half joking 😉 ) I’m happy to answer any of your sea glass questions if I can. Happy hunting!