Photos by Lynda Haycock
Signe (“Sig-nee”) Lawson is a beachcomber from Livonia, Michigan. A lifelong artist and retired dental tech, Signe today makes idiosyncratic and beautiful sea glass jewelry.
Signe started collecting sea glass 20 years ago, and has been a professional artist for about 15 years. Though she doesn’t beachcomb much anymore, she still occasionally goes out with friends. Her favorite finds are stoppers and marbles, and her favorite place to collect is the Caribbean island of Saint Martin.
Signe worked as a dental tech for 36 years, and when she lost her job, she started searching for an outlet to express her artistic passion. She found that outlet in jewelry, which proved to be very popular among her friends—so she decided to start a business. In 2004, she combined two of her passions, and began integrating pieces of sea glass into her jewelry.
“Designing and making jewelry is my passion,” Signe says. “It brings me more joy than 36 years as a dental tech ever did.”
Today, collectors and beachcombers from all over send Signe sea glass, which she uses in her jewelry creations in combination with sterling silver wire.
“My best days often start when I open a package from my wonderful sea glass collector friends from all over the world,” says Signe. “These packages are filled with amazing possibilities and inspiration. I use authentic surf-tumbled, jewelry-quality sea glass that I do not alter in any way. Then I surround them with sterling silver wire in a non-traditional, contemporary way.”
Signe says she occasionally plans ahead when making jewelry, but most of the time the shape of the sea glass informs how she’ll design the silver around it. Once she gets to work, Signe uses a combination of bezel setting, soldering, forging, hand-polishing and nontraditional wire-wrapping—skills which Signe says are somewhat similar to those she mastered in her career as a dental tech.
Signe almost experienced disaster in the form of a stroke in 2016. “Weeks in the hospital and months at home recovering took a toll on my emotional and creative abilities. I worked very hard to regain the strength in my left hand and even harder to bring back my creative thinking. I am grateful for an almost-full recovery and the ability to continue with the craft I am so passionate about.”
In her spare time, Signe enjoys gardening and watching her favorite TV shows. Although she doesn’t live directly nearby, Signe recommends beachcombing at the Great Lakes. She also recommends Upper Michigan for its natural beauty and adds that Ann Arbor and Detroit are filled with great cultural experiences.
Find Signe’s jewelry at SignetureLine.etsy.com
This article appeared in the Beachcombing Magazine September/October 2019 issue.