Tag Archives: sea glass adventures

Destinazione: Italia!

On the Adriatic, my grandfather and crew sailing his boat, the Luisa V.

Next week I’ll be setting my feet down for the first time in Vasto, Italy, the hometown of my grandfather. It’s located on the Adriatic coast, in the Abruzzo region.  Having heard about Vasto my whole life, it’s always been on my list of places to visit “someday” but thanks in part to my daughter studying art in Greece and Italy this spring, the time is now! Soon I’ll be traveling with a friend to Rome, Naples, Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast before joining Sophia in Florence at the end of her school term.

How This Came About- The Sea Glass Connection

 

Full circle-from Vasto to the Pacific NW and soon back to Italy,

Through the sea glass world, I met Ornella di Filippo, who makes beautiful wire-wrapped jewelry and ornaments from the glass she finds on Italian beaches. And… she happens to live in Vasto.  I had questions about my family’s ancestral town, and Ornella was most kind and helpful. After sharing a few photos from my grandfather’s album, she was able to locate the home where he once lived and places related to my family history, including graves.

After learning so much from her, It was easy to put Vasto at the top of the list, and go from there to other, more known destinations.

We will stay in Vasto for three nights and soak up the local seafood and sights. Ornella will give us a personalized tour of Vasto and also serve as our sea glass guide, and I feel so fortunate!

 

Vasto sea glass ring

Countdown

As the trip gets closer, I am inspired to make some pieces of jewelry with Italian roots to photograph on location at ancient sites like Paestum, Pompeii, and Herculaneum.  Currently I’m making some rings with ancient coins that I’ve been saving for just the right project.

Larrissa, ancient Greek silver coin c 356-342 B.C. with old Mediterranean coral.

While near Pompeii, we will meet another person from the sea glass world, Rebecca Di Donna. She has already been helpful in pinpointing places a glasser would not want to miss. I can hardly wait to visit the museum of coral located in her hometown, along with the fantastic natural beauty of Capri and the Amalfi Coast. And let’s not get started on Firenze!

There’s going to be a lot to share, and until my next blog, please follow my Instagram feed https://www.instagram.com/judithaltrudajewelry

Till then,

Ciao Bella!

 

The Best Things in Life are (nearly) Free

“Will brake for sea glass” photo by Eric Fitzpatrick

Recently I was headed down the coast with my sister to a sea glass festival on the central California coast. Along the way, we stayed a couple nights in Ft. Bragg, to visit world-renowned Glass Beach. This post will include highlights of that journey down Highway 101 through the beaches and redwoods of Oregon and Northern California.

We began in Astoria, Oregon with a thermos of coffee and about a year’s worth of conversation stored up between the two of us.  Our last road trip, the previous March, had been to place our dad’s ashes inside a niche at Forest Lawn.  We had a lot of catching up to do.

 

Netarts, Oregon

Whatever Happened To? 

We hadn’t driven very far from Astoria when we took a side trip to find Lex’s Cool Stuff  in Netarts. We had not seen Lexi since we were living in Sunset Beach, California, way back in the seventies. Back then she made candle holders and other crafts from shards of broken automotive glass and surely must have been at the forefront of upcycled art. Our brother told us that Lexi had moved to Oregon and opened a shop. We found her tiny place on a road that overlooked the sea. Unfortunately, it was closed that day.

 

 

Lex’s Cool Stuff, Netarts, Oregon

Having many miles to travel, we moved on down the highway, vowing to return at a later date. Our drive took us through the towns of Newport, Lincoln City, and Gold Beach with scenic points of interest in between such as Devils Punchbowl, Devil’s Lake and Boiler Bay. Just before spring break, the towns were quiet, the highway uncrowded, perfect timing.

Pt Orford, Oregon

We stopped for the night close to the Oregon/California border, in Pt. Orford. This is a magical little place, with an amazing restaurant and art gallery nestled on the bluff above the small commercial harbor. We took a sunset stroll before checking into our room and then heading to Redfish for dinner. We knew this would be a special dining experience and were so glad to make it there before the final seating of the night!

Daybreak, Pt.Orford harbor

We slept with the sound of crashing surf coming through the open window and woke to a colorful sky at daybreak. We started the day with a walk on the beach as the sun cleared the hills.

 

Beachcombing

Beach at Pt. Orford

Another Roadside Attraction

We had barely said goodbye to Pt Orford and crossed the California border on Highway 101 when we had to stop again-for dinosaurs.

To my sister’s great disappointment, this roadside attraction was closed. We will have to visit the lifesize T Rex and brontosaurus another time, I guess.

We continued south on Highway 101 which offered sublime views as it hugged the cliffside high above the sea before plunging into misty stands of ancient redwood groves. Sprinkled between tiny towns, art galleries and quirky roadside attractions offered everything from redwood burls and bigfoot carvings to monumental metal sculptures and more.

The art of Val Polyanin, it was closed the day we drove by but had a telephone number on a mailbox at the side of the road. Maybe next time?

The Redwood Highway

Trees of Mystery, Klamath, CA. Monumental Paul Bunyon and Babe statues oversee the entrance to gift shop and End of the Trail Native American museum.

We stopped here to stretch our legs and for my sister to buy a redwood seed at the gift shop. The museum is really worth touring, especially if you admire Native American basketry. We drove along the Redwood  Highway, the twisting road flanked by massive trees, dark and moody. It is indeed a “Place of Wonder”.

Ancient Redwood Grove

We stopped to picnic in the LadyBird Johnson Grove.

In  Humbolt county, as we drive through the towns of Fortuna, Scotia, and Garberville, there were ample opportunities to stock up on redwood in many forms for those seeking a souvenir.

Humboldt County

Or maybe something larger?

Bigfoot Country

At the end of a long day’s drive, we emerged onto Highway 1 and reached Fort Bragg at sunset.

Without Further Ado; Glass Beach

Glass Beach, CA

We timed our trip to coincide with the tide, knowing we would have two low tide mornings to explore the beaches. We woke early the next day and drove to the Glass Beach approach. We left our car there and proceeded down to the trail along the bluff. For those who don’t know, what makes Ft. Bragg a major destination for sea glassers is the fact that it had four city dumps located right there on the beach from about 1895 to about 1969.

Our mission was to shoot some of my sea glass jewelry on location at the beach. I did see a few people on the beach picking up glass, but it is highly discouraged by the city of Ft. Bragg, which seek to protect this amazing treasure for all to enjoy. I recommend a visit to the International Sea Glass Museum, operated by Captain Cass. It will give a better understanding of what makes Ft Bragg’s beaches so unique and has well-organized sea glass collections from all over the world on display. As an extra bonus, Captian Cass will mark the best beaches to hunt for glass on the maps for sale in the gift shop.

Sea glass rings by Judith Altruda, at Glass Beach.

Climbing down to the beach, feeling the crunch of sea glass underfoot and seeing the ground shimmer as the sun comes out, is an out-of-this-world experience.

Abalone

Ravens at Glass Beach

Sea glass and Fiesta ware pottery shard

Sea Glass cove

Sunlight intensifies the carpet of glass!

Farewell, Glass Beach

After two days it was time to move on to Cayucos for the SeaGlass Festival, which will be the topic of a future post. And speaking of the future… those attractions that were closed when we passed by? Perhaps just as well, as it gives us another reason to return.

 

Sister Shadows

What I did for Sea Glass-Part One

 A Seaham stroll A Seaham stroll

On the last day of 2017, I am finally sorting through the hundreds of photos shot on a sea glass trip to the UK this summer, with the goal of sharing some highlights with you before another year goes by. My friend Jane, who I visited in Sunderland in 2014 (read more in archived blog posts) generously penciled in three weeks for my return visit, which included sightseeing in London, sea glass hunting on England’s Northeast coast and a glamping road trip through Scotland, stopping at every beach or charity shop that crossed our path (not to mention pubs). I traveled by plane, train, car, bus, ferry, and foot-walking an average of 17,800 steps a day, or about fifty-two miles in one week, (thank you fit bit.) Dining experiences ran the gamut from swanky gentleman’s tea in Wynyard Hall to microwavable haggis at a Scottish hostel on a very rainy night, too exhausted to go out, lovely Indian takeaways and delicious home-cooked comfort food prepared by Jane’s husband, Trevor.

Drinking experiences were decidedly egalitarian- in London, Jane and I drank canned Gin and Tonic purchased at a nearby Waitrose store under the Tower Bridge, and also enjoyed the decidedly nicer and more expensive G and T’s in the Kings Cross railway station bar, (almost missing our train to Sunderland.)

 Cheers! Cheers!

When we weren’t on the beach hunting for sea glass,  we were using the scenery as a backdrop to photo shoot jewelry I brought along for this purpose. It was especially fitting because the sea glass used in making the collection was found on the English coast, some of it by Jane and Trevor. Jane was a very good sport about it, especially when her crazy American friend used the very food we ate as photo props!

There are so many great memories in all of it, that I must simply stop for a moment and thank Jane and Trevor again for their wonderful hospitality and friendship.

 Gentleman's tea at Wynyard Hall, with scotch egg, piccalilli, sandwiches, scones, and more-a great setting for a sea glass ring. Not pictured: the glass of whiskey that was included with meal. Gentleman’s tea at Wynyard Hall, with scotch egg, piccalilli, sandwiches, scones, and more-a great setting for a sea glass ring. Not pictured: the glass of whiskey that was included with meal.  Faceted sea glass marble and Big Ben   Faceted sea glass marble and Big Ben

From London we go to the source of some of the world’s best sea glass, the beaches of Northeast England.

 In keeping with protocol I will not be naming beaches, but this is in the general area of Sunderland.   In keeping with protocol I will not be naming beaches, but this is in the general area of Sunderland.

Jane and I had the entire beach to ourselves on a very warm August day. As the afternoon wore on a few other glassers rounded the cove and came into view. I was already friends with one of them through a facebook sea glassing group and it was a pleasure to meet in person. Jane and I flying the flag of Tokeland that day, and our mutual friend took this photo of us.

 Sea Glass Sister. Jane and I examine the sea glass she she picked up that was lying at our feet! Sea Glass Sister. Jane and I examine the sea glass she she picked up that was lying at our feet!  A very rare purple sea glass nestled in kelp near the beach where Jane originally found it. A very rare purple sea glass nestled in kelp near the beach where Jane originally found it.

A view from the top-the beach is accessible by a steep path winding down through the tall grasses.

The reason there is so much sea glass found in along the Northeast coast is because it was perfectly situated to produce glass, having the natural resources of sand and lime and easy transport by rail or ship. Factories disposed of waste glass by dumping into the rivers or sea, which was transformed by the action of tide and time into sea glass.We visited museums and the Glass Centre to learn more about the history of glass making.

 There are many fine example of the glass produced in the Sunderland area in the museum and the Glass Centre, both are definitly  worth visiting. There are many fine example of the glass produced in the Sunderland area in the museum and the Glass Centre, both are definitly  worth visiting.

Coalmining was a major enterprise here, with mines tunneling out under the sea. I am standing in a now defunct elevator, that would transport miner down to the tunnel where they would work off shore. The film Billy Elliot was shot in the nearby village of Easington, and the death scene in Get Carter, the original film with Michael Caine, shot further north of here. I walked along a path with markers outlining the history of the mines, accidents and strikes that ended in the early 1990s when the last mine closed. The environmental damage wrought on the beaches is being reversed, slowly but surely.

Jane and I planned a road trip to visit sea glass beaches in Scotland which included glamping in a “posh pod” along the way as we drove from east to west along the Firth of Forth. In Oban we would take a ferry to the isle of Mull, where further adventure awaited…

 Arriving at Lower Largo as the sun sets. Arriving at Lower Largo as the sun sets.  St Monans St Monans

My new “happy place.”

 St Monan's church St Monan’s church

 Empire Biscuits After several hours walking along the beaches we were ready for a coffee and treat. I love the Scottish bakeries! Empire Biscuits After several hours walking along the beaches we were ready for a coffee and treat. I love the Scottish bakeries!  This was one of the best pieces of glass I found in Scotland. This was one of the best pieces of glass I found in Scotland.

Inside our posh pod, glam-camping with all the comforts of home and a pub within walking distance nearby!

End of Part One-Stayed tuned for Part Two, Isle of Mull and Beyond

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  

 II FOUND AN OHAJIKE!   

II FOUND AN OHAJIKE!  

 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!