Looking at the sea glass collection of Natalie Brooke, it’s hard to believe she has collected it all. But Natalie has worked hard to find every piece.
Natalie’s idea of a sea glass hunting trip is less a relaxing day on the beach and more of an adventure. She and her beachcombing-partner husband, Matt, brave huge and powerful waves alongside fellow sea glass hunters, rocks and debris pummeling their legs, and hours searching through massive boulder piles. But for her the rewards are worth the risks.
After hours on the beach, she and Matt return home, their faces lit with smiles. They are exhausted and bruised on their legs and feet but their thoughts are only for their finds.
“Seaglassing for me has been just as much for the search as what is found, even though some of what I’ve found is out of this world,” she says. “I feel so lucky to have found my collection, but also know how much work I put into to finding them.”
Natalie lives in Scotts Valley, California, just a short drive to the beaches in Davenport, world-renowned for their art glass sea glass. She loves visiting the beach a few times a week in the early morning, when a trip comes with solitude, quietness, brisk air, and good lighting so she can see the glass and other treasures hidden in the rocks and sand.
Natalie’s favorite beachcombing spot is any beach that has rocks and other debris along the shore, as opposed to beaches of pure sand. On occasion, she visits and beachcombs with family in Hawaii.
Like most beachcombers, Natalie collects more than just sea glass, coming home with rocks, shells, driftwood, and fossils for her collection. She has been collecting treasures from the sea shore, mostly shells and sand dollars, since she was a young child. About five years ago it became an obsession when she began finding mind-blowing treasures: art glass sea glass from Davenport.
“I have been so fortunate to find many amazing pieces that choosing favorites has been impossible,” Natalie says. “Generally, I get most excited finding any art glass, marbles, stoppers, and sand-dollar and shark-teeth fossils.”
Her favorite memories from Davenport are the days of heavy surf pounding the cliffs with a deafening noise of tumbling rocks. Natalie and Matt have built their amazing collection by taking more risks than the average looker.
“We run back and forth with waves that are often massive during the winter, like sandpiper birds on a suicide mission,” she says. “Rocks and debris often pummel us in the waves and we wear shin guards underneath our wetsuits.”
In winter, large storms can bring heavy rain and a rough ocean. Natalie and Matt run after the receding waves, over football-sized boulders tumbling beside and beneath their bootie-covered feet. Heavy steep waves form and crash, pushing tsunami-like surges up the beach, reshuffling the massive boulder piles, invisible until the waves recede.
“Without hesitation we chase the wave outward, stumbling over uneven, moving rocks, reach down and grab the small, colorful glass peeking out,” Natalie says. “Just as often, I see a treasure moments before a new wave smashes through, and I never see the piece again.”
One of Natalie’s passions is photography, including taking photos of her sea glass, which she shares on Instagram @nataliefeddema and sells on her website. When she is not on the beach searching for sea glass treasure, she works at a senior community center and continues to build her photography business.
Although she has given pieces away, she hasn’t sold any of her finds because she remembers fondly the moments when she found many of them. When asked what her family and friends think of her collection, Natalie says, “Everyone’s mind is blown, including my own.”
Ours are, too, Natalie!
See more of Natalie’s photos at @nataliefeddema on Instagram.
All photos ©Natalie Brooke Photography