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
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.
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
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
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.
Sea marble hiding in the rocks.
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.
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!
One of the most beautiful beaches we explored…
Beach etiquette, Japanese style
Beautiful lemon drop marble, photo by Barbie Ball Stoval
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.
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
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!