These artists aren’t just making beach art—they’re making a difference on our beaches.
Virginia Casey is an avid beachcomber who lives in Perth, Australia. She helps run her family’s real estate business, but does beach art as a side passion. She’s been collecting since 2017 but has always been a beach person.
She adores the beach, especially during wintertime. Her father was a navy man and always wanted his family to live by the ocean.
She collects trash—all types of plastic pieces, rope, tin cans, and driftwood. She uses the microplastics she finds in her art, which she’s been creating since 2017. She loves to find new pieces that she can’t recognize but have patina on them to show their journey. Her favorite find is a coconut that looks like a face.
She displays her creations, along with her excellent marine life photos, on Instagram. She says she’s less interested in selling her art and more focused on exhibiting it online and at schools to raise awareness.
“People are amazed at how much they like the art even though it’s made from something that they hate. I enjoy using items that are considered ugly and making them striking.”
Sharon Boon calls the seaside town of Weymouth in Southern England her home. She was born in Australia, and though she left at a young age, she has always lived by the sea. She usually beachcombs alongside her husband, who loves fossil hunting, while she looks for a bit of everything. Sharon’s favorite places to search are her local beaches, but she dreams of one day going to Seaham, finding a frozen Charlotte, and adding marbles to her collection. Her favorite find is a brass livery button from the late 19th century that has a greyhound carrying a banner that says “beware.”
Sharon has always been an artsy/crafty person, but she just started beach art about a year ago and now sells her art on Etsy. She started using only sea glass and pottery but then discovered lots of trash metal and plastic on a nearby beach that was near an old dump site. Now she uses the metal and plastic for her art and cleans the beaches in the progress.
“Sometimes the pieces I find inspire me by their shape or design. I like to make pictures of marine life to reflect the source of material and to raise awareness about micro plastic and the harm it causes to our sea birds and animals.”
Sharon believes the trash she collects on her local beaches is a way to turn something negative into a positive. A self confessed eco-warrior, Sharon makes a donation to the Dorset Wildlife Trust each time she sells a picture. She wants to be able to enjoy the coastline for years to come. The “Jurassic” coastline of Dorset is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is complete with stunning beaches, coves, and backdrops, in addition to fascinating fossils and geology. Sharon warns that not all beaches are ideal for beach combing, but they are still diverse and beautiful. Since the area is primarily known for its fossils and geology, Sharon says that many people come to the coastline in the warmer months to hammer rocks and search for the ichthyosaurus. If you are interested, there are even organized fossil hunts available to join.
Two of Sharon’s favorite beachcombing locations are Charmouth and Lyme Regis. If you’re in her area, she recommends visiting Durdle Door, Lulworth Cove, Chesil Beach, Abbotsbury, and Weymouth Beach. Around the area, you can visit the Dorset Wildlife Centre, Portland, The Heritage and Fossil Centre, Charmouth, and the Lyme Regis Museum. For food, she recommends the Oasis Cafe in Weymouth, Billy Winters at Portland Harbour, and the Hive Beach Cafe at Burton Bradstock.
When not working full time as a cardiac radiographer in the Cardiac Catheter Laboratory in her local hospital, Sharon enjoys kayaking, walking along the coast, riding donkeys on the beach, or spending a few hours with a glass of wine at a local beachside cafe.
“I am actually obsessed with beachcombing. For me it’s all about being able to walk by the sea, hear the waves on the beach, and relax. It resets the equilibrium in a crazily busy life and restores the soul. I try to get there whenever I am not working and when the tides and weather allow. It’s most definitely my go-to place where I can forget everything and where time passes very quickly. I can easily waste a couple of hours looking for treasure.”
Christina Gray is an avid beachcomber from Point Loma, California. She collects sea glass and driftwood, along with all sorts of sea debris. She started beachcombing on Thanksgiving Day 2015, when she and her grandchildren barely escaped a sea cave as the tide came in, and she looked down, seeing two pieces of sea glass at her feet.
Her favorite places to beachcomb are rocky cliffs and pebble-covered areas—no sand—and most of her spots involve rappelling, because she prefers places where most people won’t go. Christina has a few local beachcombing friends that she connected with through Instagram, but she prefers to hunt alone and sees beachcombing as a time for prayer and meditation.
Christina started making sea glass art in November of 2018. “It starts with one piece that I find intriguing, and I build around that,” she explains. “For instance, I found a piece of driftwood that reminded me of the shape of a face, with the bottom of it all scruffy like a beard. So I created a person and named him Tinker, because that’s what I am. But his beard is more impressive than mine.”
Christina has been a treasure hunter, dumpster diver, yard sale enthusiast, and thrift shopper her whole life, so transforming sea debris into a treasure trove is right in her wheelhouse. “Without God’s grace and without sobriety—five years now—none of this would have happened,” she says. “It’s only been in the last two years that I’ve been clear enough to be divinely inspired and truly creative.”
Her spiritual life informs her art. “Transformation. Resurrection. This stuff has been tumbled and tossed around, caught between a rock and a hard place, discarded and broken. For me to breathe new life into it—I relate to it on a cellular level,” Christina continues. “It’s a metaphor for my own life. I once was in pieces and I’ve been transformed and redeemed into something of beauty and value.”
Christina picks up sea glass, shells, and driftwood, along with trash. “It’s pretty cool to have a way through art to bring awareness to sea debris.” She’d love to find game pieces of any kind, such as chess pieces, dominoes, or dice—she wants a companion for her 500 marbles. Her most treasured find is her Lord of Mercy scapular, which she wears often and which she had her priest anoint with holy oil. “The Lord has shown me so much mercy and grace and it just washed up at my feet.”
Along with her local coast spots, Christina loves La Jolla and San Clemente. There are great hiking trails, beautiful lagoons, and lots of other outdoor treasures. If you’re in the area, she recommends going to Sea World and the San Diego Zoo, along with the Midway Museum and the Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
When she isn’t beachcombing, Christina is a full-time live-in nanny, and has worked with many families. She loves spending quality time with her children and grandchildren.
The beautiful, bright colors of resin-coated surfboards are the inspiration for a line of jewelry from ocean lovers Donna von Hoesslin Pu’u and David Pu’u from Ventura, California. Together they are the Designer and CEO of Ocean Ohana and Betty Belts, where they have created the Surfite Upcycled Surfboard Resin Project.
Before coming to Ventura, Donna was immersed in the arts world in Berlin. She worked as an extra at the opera, created a bespoke fashion line, translated screenplays, performed in jazz clubs, and toured as a supporting vocalist for pop star Sin With Sebastian. David is an editorial and commercial photographer and filmmaker. He was previously a touring professional surfer, board designer, and manufacturer of more than 40,000 surfboards and other synthetic polymer plastic projects.
David and Donna met when Donna was a new surfer and coastal tourist, visiting California from Germany. Donna moved back to California and started her company, Betty Belts. Six years later, she and David fell in love.
“As surfers, both Donna and I feel a deep connection to the Ocean, and see our responsibility as one of stewardship with a goal of sustainability in the things we design and use in our daily lives,” says David. “We endeavor to leave a shallow footprint and maybe even help a little in creating a healthier world-ocean.”
Donna conceived of the idea of upcycling surfboard resin waste into jewelry in 2008 when speaking with board builder Dennis Ryder, who was looking for a use for the waste resin piling up in his shop. After a year of research and development, Donna and David built a production team and group of collaborators in the surf industry to move the product forward. “It’s been quite a journey transforming this waste byproduct from our local board builders into jewelry,” Donna says.
When coating surfboards with protective resin, some of the plastic drips onto the floor. With each successive board that is coated, a new colorful layer is added to the waste. David and Donna slice and shape this multihued stack of colorful plastic to use in jewelry.
“It took quite a bit of creativity, ingenuity and hard work, but in time Donna worked out the process and we had Surfite at last,” David explains. “She created her brilliant multi-hued Surfite design line, where every color stripe represents the actual manufacture of a custom board someone is riding in the ocean today.”
Donna has been beachcombing for over 20 years and loves to collect sea glass, heart rocks, shells, and trash. David brings his camera along to the beach. “David collects pixels!” laughs Donna. Together, they have devoted their lives to helping people stay connected to the ocean.
Donna says that your best bet for sea glass in Ventura is a river mouth at low tide. She loves downtown Ventura, one of the last Southern California coastal communities that still has a small beach town vibe, with lots of small local businesses, along with thrift and antique stores. She recommends surf lessons with Mary Osborne Surf and a Channel Islands excursion for some whale watching. If you’re a little hungry or thirsty, they’ll take care of you at Paradise Pantry, VenTiki, and Fluid State. And, don’t miss Sea Things, a legitimate mermaid’s lair right across from the Ventura Visitor Center.
No sea glass lover’s visit to Ventura is complete without a visit to the Betty Belts shop and Ocean Room Gallery. You can view the entire Surfite and sea glass jewelry collections in person, see some of David’s gorgeous photos in the gallery, and hang out in this sweet beach boutique, where you’ll feel like more like you’ve dropped in at a friend’s beach house than a shop.
This article appeared in the Beachcombing Magazine May/June 2019 issue.