Beach Glass Bash
Two upcoming festivals will toast these treasures of Lake Erie.
For most of us, beach glass is a casual hobby. We spend a few hours hunting on our favorite Lake Erie beaches, or we indulge in some beach glass jewelry crafted by a local artisan.
But a worldwide industry has built up around beach glass — known as sea glass in salt bodies of water — complete with events that draw international beach glass artisans and lecturers.
“Sea glass is almost like a cult,” says Jennifer Reed, co-owner of the Erie-based beach glass jewelry studio Relish, with a laugh. “When we said 17 years ago we wanted to start a beach glass company, people said ‘huh?’ We were one of the first in the industry.”
Now, Reed and her sister and business partner, Terri Reed, are the organizers behind the First Annual Great Lakes Beach Glass Festival on May 25 and 26. She estimates the event will draw 7,000 to 9,000 attendees and more than 70 vendors from as far away as Japan to Erie’s Bayfront Convention Center.
This juried exhibition permits only the use of genuine beach or sea glass — not glass artificially smoothed with rock-tumbling equipment — for use in jewelry, mosaics, home decor items and a variety of other non-glass coastal art. Contests will award $100 prizes to specimens deemed to be the most beautiful, historical or unusual.
Just an hour west down the shore, beach glass jewelry artists Lorie and Troy Dalrymple, owners of Beaches Jewelers, will host their fifth annual Ashtabula Harbor Beach Glass Festival on June 29 and 30. This street fair will close down the harbor’s Bridge Street with about 70 vendors and nearly 5,000 people.
At Beaches’ festival, beach glass artists get first preference, but exhibitors also will bring a variety of artwork in metal, paint, pottery and other media.
But just as important as celebrating the beauty of Lake Erie beach glass, says Reed, is education about the lake’s ecosystem and our role in restoring it. Her Great Lakes Beach Glass Festival (of which Lake Erie Living is a sponsor) will offer seven lectures, including “The Fantastic Fishes of Lake Erie” and “Beach Ecology.”
“When you are hunting, take a bag and pick up garbage while you’re there,” Reed says. “We have to be keepers of the lake.”
If You Go
For more info on the Great Lakes Beach Glass Festival visit relishinc.com or call Relish Jewelers at 814-836-1827.
For more info on Ashtabula Harbor Beach Glass Festival, visit beachesinc.com/festival or call Beaches Jewelers at 440-964-8453.
We asked three beach glass artists for tips on where to find these Lake Erie treasures. Here are their suggestions for getting started.
Pennsylvania — Jennifer Reed, Relish’s co-owner, suggests hunting at Beach 1 on the Presque Isle peninsula in Erie or at the Walnut Creek Access Area in Fairview, Pa. “Go early in the morning in the spring and fall when the weather kicks up,” she says.
Eastern Ohio — Beaches owner Lori Dalrymple recommends Walnut Beach Park in Ashtabula or Conneaut Township Park. Both are a mix of sand and pebbles, which Dalrymple says is the ideal consistency for finding beach glass. A beach that is too rocky gives the treasured glass too many places to hide.
Ontario — Hamilton-based beach glass artist Anita St. Denis at times finds a few good pieces along the shore between Port Dover and Port Colborne but, for better results, she suggests driving the extra hour north to Hamilton Beach on Lake Ontario. There she’s found glass in nearly every shade, including a few frosted beach-glass marbles.
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