My grandmother was an absolute beast of a sea glass collector, with green, white, blue, and brown harvests of saltwater-worn glass chunks scattered throughout her house. Sometimes sorted by color, sometimes not, her bounty was stashed in crystal vases, old bottles, and other oddly-shaped vessels. They adorned tables and bookshelves and windowsills, from the bedrooms and bathrooms to the living room and kitchen, sparkling in the light, filling my little mind with wonder, and begging my imagination again and again to answer the question, “Where did this soft, smoothed, and age-old glass come from?”
Those sea-glass-sparked daydreams of pirate’s treasure, scuttled smuggling boats, and high seas adventure have faded with age, but my love affair for these “mermaid’s tears” that occasionally pepper high-tide lines on beaches the world over never recedes. Even now, some 3,000 miles and decades removed from the Cape Cod beaches of my youth, I still scour the shore most days, my eyes looking down among the kelp and sand and flotsam for the telltale glow of sea glass, each piece as unique as a snowflake and pregnant with the potential of a fabulous backstory. I am definitely not alone in this pursuit.
This weekend, in fact, Carpinteria is hosting the inaugural Sea Glass Festival, an impressive gathering of both regional and national sea glass collectors and artists. The idea was hatched at previous sea glass get-togethers in Santa Cruz and Cayucos, where Carpinterians Alan and Karen Clark struck up a friendship with fellow enthusiast Marcia McNally. The trio agreed that Carpinteria, home to the “World’s Safest Beach,” would make a perfect landing spot for a sea-glass-themed hootenanny. Then a fourth sea glass lover named Kiona Gross came aboard, and the Carpinteria Sea Glass Festival was born.
Happening this Saturday and Sunday in the old Austin’s Hardware Store on Linden Avenue, the festival will feature private collections, art and jewelry for sale, live music, food trucks, beer, a wine garden, and a dark chocolate truffle made just for the occasion by the folks at Chocolats du Calibressan.
I’m just hoping for a glimpse of the ever-elusive red sea glass, a rare and precious type that I’ve been searching for since childhood. As my grandmother Ga used to say, “You find a red one, you keep that forever — they aren’t making those anymore.”
The first-ever Carpinteria Sea Glass Festival is Saturday-Sunday, August 29-30, at Austin’s Hardware Store (700 Linden Ave.). Tickets are $5 per day, $15 for a pre-fest preview. See carpinteriaseaglassfestival.com.