Once Upon a Time, I had a very "Different" Business!

I spent most of yesterday tidying up the space I use for art and creativity... and pretty much putting it aside. It's not that I am no longer going to do things artistic, but for the moment I need to focus on something else: Sorting sea glass.

Sorting... WHAT???

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Orange-red sea glass is both the RAREST and BRIGHTEST you can find

Some years back, I created a pretty unusual "micro business" for myself.

It grew out of my fondness for doing walking meditations on our local beach... and my eternal fascination with beach combing for anything interesting along the way, from sea shells, to rocks, to driftwood, to... sea glass.

If you live near the coast, chances are you know what sea glass is: Those small pieces of broken glass that — with time — have been transformed from dangerous sharp shards to smoothly rounded little "jewels" that look like they are sugar-coated when dry.

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Most people are familiar with sea glass like this; this clear glass probably spent 20-30 years in the ocean to become this soft and rounded

Once upon a time, most of the things we humans bought and used came in glass containers... now pretty much everything comes in plastic. Once upon a time, we also weren't as careful about where we put our garbage, and a lot of it was discarded along the coast because people just assumed that "the tide will take it away."

Anyway, when I first moved to our seaside town in 2006, I learned that the old town dump had basically been on the escarpment overlooking one of our beaches, and they would basically bulldoze the garbage from three nearby towns over the cliffs into the ocean... a practice that continued till the early 1960's.

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Some pieces tell us where they came from: This was from a bottle of Phillips Milk of Magnesia.

Consequently, there was a lot of sea glass (which I had been collecting since I was a little kid) on a certain stretch of beach, in a myriad of colors, not just clear and common beer-bottle green and brown.

Now, how do we get from there to a business?

Not that long after moving to town, I accidentally met a woman who was a jeweler who worked exclusively with "found objects;" primarily from the beach. We got to talking about our shared love of sea glass... and she explained — much to my surprise — that she bought most of her sea glass.

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Bright aquamarine blue (from old seltzer bottles) is probably the most popular color for jewelry

The more detailed explanation was that she felt her time was better spent in the studio making jewelry, rather than looking for pieces to use. Part of her reasoning was that she you buy exactly what she needed, but beach combing offered no guarantee that she would find what she was looking for.

I soon discovered that she was not alone, in that approach!

It was not long before I started "dabbling" in selling some of my beach finds on eBay and Etsy, and thus "North Beach Treasures" was born!

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This type of steel gray glass actually came from old TV and CRT screens!

I never expected it to be more than a fun way to earn a little spare cash, now and then... but it turned out that I had a better understanding of what jewelers were looking for than most of the other sellers — having owned and operated an art and fine crafts gallery for 13 years.

By 2009, my "little sideline" was generating $25,000 a year, just from beach combing!

So, what happened after that?

Well, as I mentioned up top, we used to get all our stuff in glass bottles and containers, but now most things come in plastic, AND environmental awareness means there is far less trash on the beach. Which is generally a good thing, but not so much if you're a sea glass collector.

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There are some pretty amazing colors out there!

The other thing that happened is that glass that spends many years in the ocean, especially along rough and windy coasts like ours, slowly gets beaten to smaller and smaller pieces against rocks, and eventually just disappears.

You see, glass is basically just melted silica sand (70-75%) with some soda ash and smaller amounts of metal oxides... so when you put glass in rough coastal waters for long enough, it basically just reverts to sand.

Starting around 2012, there was just less and less glass to be found and nowadays there is very little. $25,000 became $10,000 became $3,000 became $1,000 and finally $283 in 2020. It's one of my many vanishing income streams, sadly.

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Sea glass even exists in bright yellow... also very rare.

But... with walking on the beach being one of the few available things to do outside in this Age of Covid, I'm planning to step up my beach combing again this year... because we need every cent we can get to survive! The reorganizing of my art space I was doing earlier was basically to make room to sort the sea glass I already have and start selling it... and hopefully, I'll be able to add to it this year. I set myself the goal of getting $5,000 out of it this year... and that would certainly help our "cause."

Anyway, the pictures you see mixed into the text of this post are all some of the original colorful sea glass I was selling, back around 2008-12.

Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend!

How about YOU? Have you ever had any hobbies or pastimes that accidentally turned into a business? If so, what was it? Comments, feedback and other interaction is invited and welcomed! Because — after all — SOCIAL content is about interacting, right? Leave a comment — share your experiences — be part of the conversation!

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Created at 20210122 22:15 PST

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I've never seen beach glass, except in photos, but it looks so pretty! Your post is fascinating and I really enjoyed reading it, looking at the photos, and learning about it! Thanks for sharing all of the personal experiences, too! Loved this post! 😊

Most people never see any in colors other than what you find food and drink in at your local supermarket; typically clear, brown and green. And Coke bottle "seafoam."

It's quite fascinating, once you get down inside it, though... there are actually serious collectors all around the world, and really unusual/rare pieces might sell for $$$ hundreds on eBay.

For me, it was just a great meditation and hobby... that just happened to turn into cash.

What a brilliant business you had going there, sir! Kudos.

'Tis a bugger about the changes in your available product though...

Thank you! 'Tis a bugger, indeed, about the supply... but hopefully there will still be a little bit to be found, and who know? Maybe inspiration will strike for a new angle that'll carry my "beach bum" tendencies forward!

Hi @denmarkguy , while I was stationed in Lompoc Cali at Vandeberg AFB I spent quite a lot of my free time on the local "clothing optional beach" so I wasn't exactly looking down at the pebbles and sand, if you get my meaning.
I did find quite a few unusual (to me) rocks and oddities, can't say as I ever noticed any glass such as you mention here. It is fascinating though. I wish there were more of that and less plastic now.

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For many reasons, I wish we were still using more glass and less plastic.

There are all sorts of interesting things on the beach... sometimes I find old sparkplugs from 50-75 years back; I've found Asian glass fishing net floats, old copper and steel machine parts and much more.

Well of course, glass is FAR superior to anything plastic.
I too, have found at least one of those glass net floats, (seen more for sale in shops that on the beach though)
Plastic should be outlawed, I know or civilization would collapse, but still.
I agree with you @denmarkguy

Wow, that is all news to me!

It is a pretty esoteric thing... a niche market where I had maybe 300 customers worldwide, at best.

What a brilliant idea, I would have never imagined you can make beach walks profitable. I guess there's plenty of opportunities, you just have to be clever enough to see them.

It was really somewhat of a "happy accident" and being in the right place, at the right time. And it also happened right at a time when the whole "upcycling" movement was really starting to take off.

I love the look of sea glass.

You sure did find some pretty pieces back in the day.

Thank you! It can be really pretty, and it seems to fascinate people of all ages... I remember picking it up when I was a little kid, whenever we'd vacation somewhere near the beach.

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Hello @cuddlekitten, always lovely to see your many incarnations here!

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Thanks for sharing your experience with us!
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