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In Search Of: Japanese Sea Glass



As a child I grew up on the beaches of Southern California, where my siblings and I spent long summers collecting shells, sea glass, and other treasure.  I was always fascinated by stories like Robinson Crusoe and Swiss Family Robinson. The idea of improvising for your needs with what the sea provided seemed a fabulous challenge. 

There were lots of beachcombers but I don’t know how much general appreciation there was for sea glass in those days excepting an old lady who displayed jars of sea glass in the windows of her beach shack. She lived alone and after she died, her house was torn down. Who knows what became of her glass collection.

Fast forward a few decades-sea glass is now being recognized as a disappearing resource worldwide. There are signs proclaiming it an “archeological resource” at a famous Northern California beach (another post on that soon). What was once trash has been elevated to treasure, and the prices for certain kinds of glass has skyrocketed according to its beauty and scarcity.

The first sea glass jewelry I made was with glass I found on my beach here in Tokeland. I was introduced to Japanese sea glass by a neighbor who traveled to Hokkaido Island to hunt for sea glass for her jewelry business. Liking my designs, she commissioned me to make a ring for her in exchange for a box of Japanese glass. It took me a long time to use any of the glass because I couldn’t imagine parting with it! Eventually I used most of it and hoped that maybe someday I would go to Japan and find some of my own.


 Ohajike, collection of Barbie Ball Stovall

Ohajike, collection of Barbie Ball Stovall

The next best thing to going to Japan was finding an online source to buy sea glass. I discovered Barbie Ball Stovell through a sea glass website/auction and bid unsuccessfully on her Ohajike pieces. Resembling flattened marbles, originally used for a children game similar to tiddlywinks, they are even more beautiful after tumbling in the sea for decades. Always outbid, I never did win any of them at auction, but did get some tiny heart shaped glass pieces from Barbie. Even better, we struck up an online friendship, never dreaming that one day I would actually visit her, get a private tour of her beaches AND find my very own ohajike!

 Barbie found this miniature glass tea cup on the first of many beach walks we took together.

Barbie found this miniature glass tea cup on the first of many beach walks we took together.

As in England (and everywhere) the best beaches to find sea glass are kept secret. Short of blindfolding me, Barbie let me know that this applied to her beaches as well. I know I was lucky because her husband, Robert kept remarking in surprise-“Barbie never takes ANYONE to —–Beach!”

With full respect to Barbie, I will not be divulging longitude or latitude, let alone beach names or signage. But I can say we were on the coast about an hour from Tokyo. Even if I had come as a tourist, there is no way I would have found these places on my own. Some of them were non nondescript stretches of sand along the highway, others were lush secluded coves. Each is known for being a good place to find specific types of items-pottery shards, sea marbles, ohajike, and other treasure.

 Old pottery and ohajike in cobalt blue, photo by Barbie Ball Stovall

Old pottery and ohajike in cobalt blue, photo by Barbie Ball Stovall

To backtrack a bit….In late June Barbie contacted me about making a ring for her. I mentioned that I was going to Fujirock with my brother Joey and his band in July. Hearing that we would be in Tokyo after the gig, she invited me, Joey and his girlfriend, Amy, to visit her family at the beach. Learning that Fujirock was on their musical bucket list, Joey arranged for free passes for Barbie’s family. (They brought their tents and camped on the ski slopes with thousands of other fans, having a GREAT experience. ) None of us had met in person yet, but we were discovering we had some major interests in common-music, sea glass, and junk stores!

 Robert and Barbie at the entrance to FujiRock 2016

Robert and Barbie at the entrance to FujiRock 2016

After the three day festival was over, we took a train from Tokyo to the coast and were met by Barbie and her husband, Robert. After a stop at the 99 yen store just for fun, we headed straight to the ohajike beach while the tide was still low.

 Local fisherman checking out the gaijin taking their photo.

Local fisherman checking out the gaijin taking their photo.

 Sea marble hiding in the rocks.

Sea marble hiding in the rocks.

 I am looking for another marble!   

I am looking for another marble!  

After visiting a couple beaches, we settled into a comfortable guest house and got ready for the evening’s entertainment. We happened to arrive on the date of the town’s annual fireworks celebration. Walking from their house to the nearby beach, we were joined by friends and neighbors of the Stovalls to eat, drink and watch the firework show.

Barbie and Robert’s home is a treasure trove of sea glass finds, artfully displayed in table tops and pretty much everywhere else!


It was a warm and beautiful evening, we walked around the area surrounding the beach as the sun got ready to set. Street vendors sold all kinds of delicious food and treats, the atmosphere was festive and fun!

 Many residents dressed in traditional wear for the festival.   

Many residents dressed in traditional wear for the festival.  

 Enjoying Japanese cocktails on the beach at Hanabi Festival (L-R) Me, Barbie, Amy and Joey.

Enjoying Japanese cocktails on the beach at Hanabi Festival (L-R) Me, Barbie, Amy and Joey.

Day Two: a whirlwind of beaches-and junk shops!


 Amy finds treasure!

Amy finds treasure!

 One of the most beautiful beaches we explored...

One of the most beautiful beaches we explored…

 Beach etiquette, Japanese style

Beach etiquette, Japanese style

 Beautiful lemon drop marble, photo by Barbie Ball Stoval   

Beautiful lemon drop marble, photo by Barbie Ball Stoval  



 The cuff that started it all-made with sea glass (except for the red) purchased from Barbie. Photographed on the beaches where glass was found.   

The cuff that started it all-made with sea glass (except for the red) purchased from Barbie. Photographed on the beaches where glass was found.  

Its been an amazing trip, now that I am back to my studio, I look forward to many happy hours this winter making new pieces with my Japanese treasure!


 Local shrine we visited after sea glass hunting      

Local shrine we visited after sea glass hunting    

Domo arigato Barbie and Robert for the amazing hospitality and fun-I am sure we will be back to continue this adventure and friendship!

PS: I just published this post and the mail truck delivered a box from Barbie! She shipped my junk store ‘finds’-silk kimonos, knick-knacks and extra sea glass that would not fit into my over stuffed suitcases…Perfect Timing. 🙂

Until next time…Mata ne!

From Tokeland to Tokyo

“I am not the same, having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.” – Mary Anne Radmacher

Its hard to describe the impact the travels in Japan have had on me. It was an amazing journey. On so many levels it was inspirational-and the friendships I made are at the top of these experiences!

In a series of blog posts, I plan to share the highlights with you. From traveling with a band to Japan’s largest rock festival, to picking up sea glass with a wonderful local guide (and friend!), the trip included many milestone moments.

So let this brief post serve as a prelude to much more-as soon as I get back down to earth!

 Tokyo manhole cover and made in Tokeland belt-a match made in heaven!   

Tokyo manhole cover and made in Tokeland belt-a match made in heaven!  

 Sea Glass finds from a Japanese fishing cove.

Sea Glass finds from a Japanese fishing cove.

 Jared Meeker rocking one of my ancient coin rings at Fuji.

Jared Meeker rocking one of my ancient coin rings at Fuji.

Summer 2016

Yesterday was the Summer Solstice and a rare full moon to boot-I was lucky to wake up to a beautiful visitor (two of them, actually) coming in off the beach.

In a few weeks, I will be heading to Los Angeles, and then Japan. Inspired by the upcoming travel, I am making rock star pieces for photo shoots in Tokyo, and Fuji Rock. Japan’s biggest outdoor music festival, the line up features The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Beck, Lee Scratch Perry, Wilco, Courtney Barnett, and many more! I will be traveling with my brother and his bandJump With Joey (playing the theme song in the video below)

Recently Jeffro, Spencer and I got out the big guns to texture some copper  for a sculpture project. We tried different calibers and ranges to see what kind of patterns we could create.  As everything seems to be interconnected, the “scraps” from the sculpture are being made into some “killer” cuffs and buckles. 

 Our target was copper sheet, which we shot full of holes at various ranges.

Our target was copper sheet, which we shot full of holes at various ranges.

 Shot through the heart!

Shot through the heart!

Belt buckles, detail of texture

 Lichen Buckle- buckshot texture, acid etched copper with sea glass

Lichen Buckle- buckshot texture, acid etched copper with sea glass

Here is an in-process shot of our Kingfisher sculpture…. 

 After being shot, the copper is etched in acid, then cut into smaller pieces...

After being shot, the copper is etched in acid, then cut into smaller pieces…

 Jeffro uses the torch to selectively char the wood.

Jeffro uses the torch to selectively char the wood.

Our process began with a shotgun blast, followed by an acid bath and fire…we can hardly wait to see what happens next!


 I have been doing a lot of etching this Spring, including a series of the Major Arcana.

I have been doing a lot of etching this Spring, including a series of the Major Arcana.

Here are some recent jewelry projects:

 Custom ring for Jessamyn

Custom ring for Jessamyn

 Ammolite pendant, photo by Marcy Merrill

Ammolite pendant, photo by Marcy Merrill

 Gemini ring-ancient silver coin, Greek. circa 280 by Marcy Merrill

Gemini ring-ancient silver coin, Greek. circa 280 by Marcy Merrill

 Crown buckle, fresh off the bench!

Crown buckle, fresh off the bench!

 I will end this post with the promise to update my blog from Japan, and the hope that you have a magical summer !


Oh Wow-my first post on a new website…Where to begin?

There are so many exciting projects on my bench these days. One of the new features I am going to enjoy is sharing them with you on a weekly basis through the WHAT’S NEW tab. Currently I have belt buckles under development, and am collaborating with Lala West, of Salt Lake City,Utah. I met Lala while we were both in Los Angeles for a show about two years ago. I love her leather creations-they were high quality, highly creative belts, bags and more. I knew then that we would one day collaborate-and now the time is right!

This was the first buckle, using etched copper with brass rivets and black stones that I find on a tiny island where I live.

I am so excited about the unlimited possibilities for these-shapes, etched designs, stones, mixed metals and combining the finished buckle with the perfect belt!

So please stay tuned, check in weekly and follow this evolving partnership with me!

Auld Lange Syne Again

sunset 1 13 2014

Should Old Acquaintance be forgot

and never thought upon

summer solstice 2015

The flames of Love extinguished

and fully past and gone:



Is thy sweet Heart now grown so cold,

That loving Breast of thine;

santa cruz

That thou canst never once reflect

on Old Long Syne?


Robert Burns immortal poem reminds us to appreciate the virtues of reconnecting with old friends and memories. On this last day of 2015, I want to let everyone out there know how much I appreciate your interest and support in my jewelry endeavors. I look forward to the journeys  that 2016 has in store!


The Spirit of Materials-Earth, Water, Air and Fire

metal etched and chased.2jpg

MATERIAL ~The Matter from which a things is or can be made.

The dictionary definition of material lists it as a noun or adjective, a name or a description. Used as an adjective, it describes something that is “important, essential and relevant.” 

Recently I have been a participant at several art events where the material shines through and guides the process of art making. This post will be about those materials -clay, paper, metal and wood, and show the process by which they are transformed into something new.


Sophia and I attended a cultural exchange workshop in Astoria, Oregon that featured six indigenous Maori clay artists from Aotearoa, New Zealand. The accompanying art exhibit, art lectures, and hands-on clay workshops were called Uku-Aotearoa-The Spirit of Materials.

baye riddell

Artwork by Maori clay artist Baye Riddel

I have not really worked with clay before, except for an ash tray I made in second grade. It was made with coiled rings of clay. It had a green glaze and marbles melted in the center. ( I gave it to my grandfather, who smoked.)

It was a good opportunity for beginners mind, also known Shoshin. This is a concept in Zen Buddhism that refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject. Also inspiring was the opportunity to see experienced  artists build clay sculptures using age old techniques. There was a grace in watching coils of clay transform into an abstract angel, the artist’s hands building and smoothing every bit of it inside and out. The workroom filled with the energy and camaraderie of students and professionals, each making something with their hands. Maybe it was process that informed the final shape, for some it was an idea wielded and realized through process. The heart beat of it all was the building of a paper kiln. Like paper wasps building a home, the group slathered paper and mud to make a giant hive that breathed fire!

paper kiln7Step one: shelves are assembled to hold ceramics

This is an ancient, changeable and customizable method of kiln construction. The paper kiln uses simple materials-tree branches, paper and mud to construct an oven around stacked shelves of ceramics. These low-tech, versatile kilns are used in India today.

paper kiln6Wood is stacked tipi-style around the shelves.

paper kiln2

Sheets of newspaper are dipped in mud, then wrapped around the frame

paper kilnA fire is lit outside the kiln

The heat is from the fire is drawn into the structure. Coals are shoveled inside and a close watch is kept, repairing the walls as needed and keeping the fire stoked. (It was lit around 4:00 in the afternoon). Flames shot out of the top before it collapsed into itself around 1:00 A.M.

paper kiln opened up

Aftermath-a pile of burned paper, mud and wood coals surround the fired ceramics

paperkiln fired potOne of the fired pieces-organic material including mosses and shells were attached to the piece with copper netting to produce the random color and markings.

After returning home, steeped and stimulated by what I experienced, I started texturing sheet copper for a wood and metal sculpture collaboration with Jeffo . It feels great to work big-much bigger than jewelry mode. I will share more on our project in a future post.metal etched and chased

metal etched and chased.2jpg

Last week, Jeffro and I showed at the studio/ showroom of HIIH Lights in Astoria, Oregon.  Lam Quang and Kestral Gates are a husband and wife team who make handmade paper light  sculpture at their wonderful farm.

hiih barn

hiiih jeff photo

papermaking hiih 3Lam demonstrates paper making…

papermaking hiih

Wet mulch drying on the screen

 hiih papermaking

a few hours later, it starts to look like paper.

hiih show me

I need some of their lights for my display!

jeff horse hiih

Jeffro with Arabian Horse Bust, constructed from driftwood with his partner Zela Dove

jeff and zela


And more raw materials: piles of small wood that will eventually become part of Jeffro’s art:




“From around the age of six, I had the habit of sketching from life. I became an artist, and from fifty on began producing works that won some reputation, but nothing I did before the age of seventy was worthy of attention. At seventy-three, I began to grasp the structures of birds and beasts, insects and fish, and of the way plants grow. If I go on trying, I will surely understand them still better by the time I am eighty-six, so that by ninety I will have penetrated to their essential nature. At one hundred, I may well have a positively divine understanding of them, while at one hundred and thirty, forty, or more I will have reached the stage where every dot and every stroke I paint will be alive. May Heaven, that grants long life, give me the chance to prove that this is no lie.”

-Hokusai Katsuhika


This quote was hanging on the wall of the ceramics classroom at Clatsop Community College in Astoria. It certainly expands the art and age horizons!

Going to close post with a photo of a recently made pendant, featuring an ancient Greek coin.

artemis on the beach

Artemeis Solteira. on the beach- ancient bronze coin from Syracuse, Sicily 317 B.C

bud namaste Bud, my studio mate

Until next time-may you be inspired!



Compared to the rest of the USA or other countries, our winter weather has been mild and easy. But there has been an unduly amount of rain, even for us..fortunately my favorite escape from endless grey is to lose myself in the studio. It’s better than a trip to Hawaii-even though I am sure Sadie Thompson might disagree with me on that!

There have been some bright spots to start the new year. Jeffro made an incredible display bench for my studio. He salvaged the maple top from the beach in front of my house. The support pieces are from a ship wreck on nearby Washaway Beach.

jeffro display bench    Judith 17

I can’t even express how much I love it-made by a good friend and truly one of a kind.

Another friend, photo journalist Erika Langley, stopped by the weekend this bench was delivered. It also happened to be Super bowl Sunday. In Washington state this was a HUGE deal. (BTW: The Seattle Seahawks won.) Erika and I took advantage of the completely empty beach-not even any footprints in the sand- to take some artist shots.

me  Judith 16

photos by Erika Langley

Without realizing it, she took a series of shots that formed a narrative of place- the source of artist inspiration, the artist at work and finished jewelry pieces.

Since I dislike having my picture taken, (unless there is wine and a fedora involved) I was trying to relax and forget about the camera. Erika made that easy. I have recently had another birthday and am now in my mid fifties. Okay I said it! Recently I have been giving thought to the aging process. There have not been a lot of widely publicized role models or mentors for women until recently for this time in life. I have decided to embrace it. Be nicer to myself. Enjoy  the little and the big things. Ditch the rules. Dream big.

On that note, I now must share a few pictures of my pet project. The restoration of my 1971 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia.

I bought this car four years ago from a local fisherman. It was barely running and pretty much in shreds. My ex husband, Tom, got it into running order and did a lot of interior restoration. After saving up money and a  search to find the right body and paint man, the project started in January 2014. With any luck at all it should be drive- able by June.

ghis restortation 1743470_526872930759532_43213501_n

 1601587_526874277426064_1334216138_n    005

This is the color it is going to be-it’s called Seaside. The job is being done by Three Crows Garage in nearby Westport, WA.

Back to the studio…

Here are some action shots from our Superbowl Sunday Shoot:

Judith 21   Judith 31

And a piece of finished work. These are wedding rings for  Rachel and Nick of Portland Oregon. They will be getting married on the summer solstice 2014. Their rings feature Victorian era sea glass from the coast of England set in 22KT gold with reticulated silver bands.

Judith 48 photo by Erika Langley

And now for some shots of recent pieces:

blue lagoon ring 029 031 large008 photos by Judith

All of these feature English sea glass. Did I mention that I have recently renewed my passport? I am hoping to take a trip to the NE coast of England in later summer to visit the beaches where this sea glass is found. One of the people I buy it from has very kindly invited me to visit her and her family. (and also the working man’s club!) I am a firm believer in planting seeds for whatever you want to manifest. So taking the action to get the passport renewed was step one.

Judith 43

 photo by Erika Langley

Hope this scattered sharing of some of the past month’s highlights has been of interest and not too rambling…Until next time, I remind you that even though it is still winter for another six weeks or so, it’s time to plant the seeds for whatever you want to manifest your life.

In the immortal ad copy of Fredericks of Hollywood (and the Rocky Horror Picture Show):

Don’t dream it-be it.”

Low Tide/Lunch Break

Low Tide/Lunch Break

11:30 this morning there was a minus tide. Perfect time for a studio break. This is the view of the beach on the “mainland” side, before crossing the small channel and walking to the island…


Our dogs, Bud (Akita) and Jade (mini-pin and major pain on the butt) are always ready for a beach run…


The weather is what you would expect for living on the Washington coast in the Spring-clouds, sun, showers, wind, and beautiful light. We cross the channel….


While the dogs chase ravens and eagles (not kidding) I look for the elusive perfectly round black stones -so far I have only found three. They make beautiful prong set pendants. I will keep looking and let you know when I find one again!

IMG_6296 IMG_6298

My First Blog Post

First, a big thank you to Scott Docherty of Redhare Design, for redesigning my website, and adding the blogging feature. I am excited to be able to share current studio projects and work “fresh off the bench” with you…Also- bits and pieces of life in a small beach community, raising two kids as a working artist and single mom, restoring my 1971 Karmann Ghia , dogs, crows, Trippen Shoes,vintage paperbacks, film noir and more!