It was on a windswept, icy cold beach in North Eastern England in the misty January gloom that I met my first English Sea Glass Multi…
Raised in Northern California, I was familiar with rare Sea Glass Multis that would occasionally wash ashore in the Santa Cruz area - the fascinatingly lovely remains of “End of Day” cast-offs of the local Lundberg art glass studio. During the 1970’s, glass artisans would toss “oooopses” and End of Day glass (glass pieces made from the colored bits of glass left at the end of the day) into the stream by the studio to make their way down to the Pacific, and eventually become the rarest of all Sea Glass - the Multi.
Among Sea Glass aficionados, multicolored Art Glass frosted by the sea is most prized. The cast-offs of Art Glass studios up-river or right on coastal waters are another art form to come from the hand-blown vessels and decorative objects formed by the hands and breath of gifted artisans. If you’re lucky enough to know the few, secret locations where once-in-a-great while you can still find the elusive “Art Glass Multi,” you are lucky indeed.
But, back to my story…
Now I lived in England, and spent every free moment away from my corporate position with a multi-national company exploring the land of my ancestors. With what my new Brit friends called my “Yorkshire” nose, I could roam all over my stunning host country as a local (until, of course, I opened my mouth)! Perhaps because I looked “local,” or perhaps because, let’s face it, mid-January isn’t exactly tourist season, the lovely couple at the B&B we were staying at had kind-of adopted me, and invited me into their private sitting room for a cuppa.
My hostess had, of course, followed me, and, I’m sure, she had been talking for at least three minutes before I came back to reality. I turned back to her somewhat guiltily, but didn’t need to apologize – for the two of us had discovered a shared passion – the bond I sometimes jokingly call (but really, as corny as it sounds, do actually believe in) – the Sea Glass Sisterhood.
These precious Sea Glass shards were from Seaham beach – the local hunting grounds for collectors who revered the Sea Glass Muiltis that appeared as a result of Art Glass studios and manufacturers that had been producing mulit-colored art glass for well over 100 years. Following the millennia-old tradition of hand-blown glass vessels first introduced by the Romans, these modern-day artisans had inadvertently created one of the most legendary Sea Glass beaches in the world.
But I get ahead of myself a bit. For my younger readers, this may sound odd, but back in the 1990’s we weren’t quite as globally connected as we are now, and I had no idea that Seaham, like Santa Cruz back home in California, was one of only three areas in the world to where Sea Glass Multis could be found with any consistency.
And, of course, that day started a love affair with the English Sea Glass Multi. Over two decades, and thousands of shards later, I am still fascinated by each unique shard. While it is true that every piece of Sea Glass is unique, when you add the vibrant spotted, banded and speckled riot of colors, unique becomes truly one-of-a-kind.
So, for those of you who are new to these amazing little gems, here’s a quick primer on the elusive Sea Glass Multi that my English friends and I have created. As you can imagine, in the Sea Glass Sisterhood, a shorthand language has developed to make describing shards to each other easier, and here’s ours:
Fish Eyes: These pieces are mostly clear (although sometimes they have a base of blue or green color) with a bright spot of solid or banded color. Often these pieces originate from the end of the pontil rod – the rod used to gather the molten glass in glass blowing.
Stripies: As the name implies, these pieces have strong banded “cross sections,” clearly showing the colors of the original piece.
Halfsies: Yep, sometimes English Sea Glass Multis are almost evenly divided in half – usually with one side clear and the other colored – from top to bottom.
Double-Sided: Because art glass is made by layering and combining colors; one color formed on top of or around another, some Sea Glass Multis are one color on each of the flat planes of the shard. Viewed from the larger, flat plane of either side they may look like a solid color, but when viewed horizontally, they are two distinct colors.
Multi-Multis: Yes, we do laugh at this nick-name, but it’s one of those names that just got started one day and “sticks.” Most multis are shades and tints of one color – banded blues, swirls of pink, etc. But, some pieces have two or more distinct colors – making them even more rare Multi-Multis.
So, there you have it! To this day, creating unique pieces of Sea Glass jewelry with English Multis is one of the highlights of my time in the studio. Each one is art twice over – born through the hands of a gifted glass artist and perfected by surf, sand and sea.