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Last year, while on my way out of the Manx Wildlife Trust Shop, I spotted a new display of beautiful sea-glass jewellery made here on the Isle of Man. Most of the frosted pieces, both large and small, were crafted into pendants wrapped in silver designs but the one that caught my eye was an unadorned shard of light blue glass set on a simple silver mount. I bought it then and there and this necklace has since become one of my favourite everyday pieces.
With it being such a small island, I met the designer, Eve Kelly, shortly after and was cheeky enough to ask her to take me beach combing sometime. To my delight, she got in touch last week and invited me along for a morning of hunting for sea glass along the rocky beaches near Castletown.
I’ve been on a few beaches on the island and to be honest haven’t had much luck in finding anything interesting. Maybe I wasn’t looking hard enough but after my day out with Eve I think I might have just been looking in the wrong places. Starting on a rocky beach near Pooil Vaaish we walked slowly, backs stooped, trying to spot glimmers of colour in the grey stones and sand. Every now and again Eve would let out a little cry of discovery and pull a piece of blue or green glass up from the beach. I found a few pieces at the beginning but walked past many without seeing them at all. Eve would point those out to me from time to time but after awhile my eyes started getting a bit sharper. I quickly saw how this hobby could become addictive – the thrill of finding a pretty piece of glass really hits on those hunting and gathering instincts we all share!
What was most fascinating to me, other than the sea-worn treasures themselves, was how each tiny cove would have a different offering. Eve knew which ones we should visit and also what types of things we might discover in each. In one there were pieces of broken pottery and glass from a 19th century shipwreck but in the next there was nothing other than weathered driftwood and washed up bits of plastic rubbish. As we trekked our way towards Scarlett I started thinking of how the sea is really a strange creature, leaving treasures scattered across some beaches and others scoured of anything other than large boulders.
When Eve first started hunting for sea glass three years ago, she used to pick up everything. Now she’s more selective and looks for pieces of a certain size, colour, and weathering. If a piece doesn’t fit the bill she’ll toss it back down towards the sea in hopes that maybe in time it might transform into something more beautiful. The exception to this rule is blue glass. If she spots any, she picks it up with a whoop of delight and takes it home for her collection. Blue glass is relatively rare and but when you spot it, it can sparkle like a sapphire amid the grey stones. Interestingly, the blue glass found on Manx shores comes predominantly from 19th century poison bottles rather than from modern sources. Eve also explained that many of the pieces we found on the day were also from 19th century or earlier; she could tell this just by seeing the thickness of the glass. Glass bottles in the past were made to last and were often more than a centimeter thick.
After a couple of hours of climbing down into windy inlets and filling our carrier bags with glass, shells, and other discoveries, we headed back to Castletown to defrost. Over cups of hot coffee we had a look through Eve’s finds which also included two glass bottle tops – we actually found them in the same spot together. She found the first and explained what it was and then within a minute I’d found another more intact one. I gave it to her to take home and I wonder what she’ll end up making with them eventually.
After an initial sort, Eve laid out the best pieces on the table and then selected one from the bunch. Then out came her tools and silver plated wire and she began working her magic. She works quickly, wrapping wire around the glass in a way to both hold the piece securely and to also add visual interest. A twist from one tool can create a spiral and another one gently crimps the wire into an elegant bend. Within a matter of minutes she created a pendant that would have looked lovely around anyone’s neck. It was incredible to think that that piece had only hours before been lying alone on the beach under the cold January sky.
I have a collection of finds that I’ve taken home with me but will leave the jewellery making to Eve. Instead I’ve got some another idea in mind and hope to share my finished on the blog soon. But if you are interested in seeing some of Eve’s work, or purchasing her jewellery, she does appear from time to time at local events and has her pieces for sale in a few shops – including the travel agency she works in for her day job. Each piece is absolutely unique and has a story behind it, from the source of the glass, to how the colour has changed over time, to Eve’s discovery and critical selection of it for use in pendants, earrings, and other items. I can’t think of a more beautiful way to be reminded of the beaches of Mann!