I met my husband Ronnie in early 1999 while we were both living in Rincon, Puerto Rico. Prior to that I had just lost about everything I owned in Hurricane Georges, a category 4 hurricane, except for my sea glass collection. My sea glass was safely stored in buckets that were covered with plywood and a tarp that were weighted down by cinderblocks.
Early in our relationship Ronnie was offered a job in Vieques, Puerto Rico. Vieques is a small island off of the Puerto Rico mainland and is a huge part of my family legacy. We spent several blissful months there and collected sea glass daily. We found the sea marbles you see here on a beach in Vieques.
My grandmother and great aunts lived there for much of their childhoods. My grandmother enjoyed an unsupervised freedom and spent her days exploring the island and swimming in the islands waters. She was fearless in the sea and had a scar on her back from a mishap with a US Navy boat. This did not deter her! I have childhood memories of her swimming way out past the breakers off of the Outer Banks of North Carolina. We could barely make out her elaborate bathing cap and could barely see her as she was leisurely swimming parallel to the shore.
While beachcombing in Vieques I enjoyed a magical intimacy with the shores my grandmother had explored before me . I gazed into every piece of sea glass that I collected wondering if she or another relative had once held the original glass item in their hands.
Sea glass not only has a physical beauty it also has a magical intangible beauty. With every piece of sea glass it is possible to narrow down the possibilities of what type of glass that it came from. However, the life history of the object is a true ocean washed mystery. Every piece of sea glass is sacred and evokes a sense of the mysterious. I can't think of anything more beautiful to adorn yourself with!
On the beach in Vieques ~ my grandmother is the one on the right with the white, striped bathing suit. Yes that is a bathing suit!
A child's birthday party in Vieques in which my grandmother was in attendance.
Ronnie and I getting ready to take the lancha ( ferry boat ) back to the Puerto Rico mainland.
Some of Vieques beautiful country scenery.
The view of the Puerto Rico mainland from El Fortin Conde de Mirasol, a fort that was built by the Spanish in 1845. The mountains you see are of the rainforest El Yunque which often slows down or deflects hurricanes approaching the island.
Isabel Segunda the main town in Vieques.
Calling All Sea Sirens! Magical things have been happening in our studio. We are especially excited about some of our newest arrivals - Earrings with multicolored sea glass! These enchanting pieces of sea glass are like sea-jewel dreamscapes and have a contemplative beauty. Our simple earring design leaves the sea glass uncovered so that the color striations are visible from all angles.
This sea glass was found hiding amongst the sea pebbles on a beach in Seaham, England near the site of a now vanished Victorian glassworks. During the Victorian age this glassworks stoked it's furnaces with locally mined coal and produced glass items around the clock. Glass scraps in a wide range of colors including multicolored scraps were routinely tipped into the North Sea. What was once meant to be forgotten now emerges from the North Sea as frosty sea jewels. The ultimate story of transformation!
We have spent a lot of time exploring beaches in Seaham, England. The conditions are often foggy and rainy and sea glass can be hard to see hiding in the pebble spread. We found ourselves looking for sea pebbles that appeared to be holding light! The picture below is of the North Sea on a sunny and calm day.
I was honored to have been invited to present a lecture called "Beachcombing - A Spiraling Journey" at the 2014 Great Lakes Beach Glass & Coastal Arts Festival this past Memorial Day weekend! Here is an excerpt from my lecture. More excerpts will be posted in the coming weeks.
The general consensus amongst collectors is that red sea glass is extremely rare and many consider it to be a once in a lifetime find. While living in Puerto Rico I always classified red sea glass as rare but in my mind it leaned more towards the rare/uncommon side of the spectrum than it did the rare/extremely rare side.
In my experience on the island it wasn't at all unusual to find a piece of red sea glass on the beach. I have experienced epic days where I found anywhere from a dozen to thirty or so pieces in one beachcombing session.
So why so much red sea glass in Puerto Rico compared to other sea glass locations? My theory is that it has to do with Puerto Rico's political history.
Most of the sea glass found on beaches today comes from glass that found it's way to sea sometime between the mid 1800s-1970s. The late 1930s to the 1950s was a defining political era on the island. Notice where these dates reside on the sea glass timeline?
The late 1930s saw the birth of one of Puerto Rico's main political parties which is called the Popular Democratic Party and a man named Luis Munoz Marin was the party leader. The PDP is often referred to as the Populares or the red party. The color red is the official color of the PDP.
The Populares dominated the political scene for decades. Puerto Rico's other main political party, the New Progressive Party or blue party did not come into existence until the 1960s.
The late 1930s to the 1950s saw a lot of fevered excitement. Political energy was very charged and was that of a movement. Up until the 1940s Puerto Rico's governor was appointed by the president of the United States. In 1948 Puerto Rico held it's first gubernatorial election and Luis Munoz Marin became the first democratically elected governor of Puerto Rico. He was elected time and time again until the 1960's. During the era of Luis Munoz Marin the Populares heavily dominated the political scene.
Puerto Ricans have a long tradition of expressing political pride with color. So Populares incorporate red into home decor and personal adornment. So basically red table settings, red decorative glass items, red bottle Schlitz beer, various red glass Avon products etc. would have been in high demand starting sometime in the late 1930s. To this day Puerto Ricans continue to express political pride with color and it would be very unusual for someone who is red party to wear blue clothing and vice versa.
We had a great time at the Great Lakes Beach Glass & Coastal Arts Festival over the weekend. It was a treat to see our many sea glass friends. I presented a lecture on Sunday called Beachcmbing: A Spiraling Journey about the sea glass of Puerto Rico, spiraling forms and beachcombing adventures in Australia, Tahiti, Costa Rica and other locations. Over the coming weeks I will be adding experts from my lecture to my blog. Enjoy! Lisl