By Kirsti Scott
If you’ve ever been to a beachcombing festival, you know the fun of hearing talks from experts, meeting vendors, and seeing the collections of fellow beachcombers. With so many in-person events canceled this year due to the pandemic, we created the Virtual Beachcombing Festival to give beachcombers around the world the chance to experience the fun of a festival from the comfort of home.
I had been considering putting together an online festival for a while, as I often heard from people that they are unable to attend beachcombing shows as they live too far away. In early April 2020, after so many events were canceled this year, I finally decided there was no time like the present to give it a try! I contacted speakers, exhibitors, and collectors over the following days and weeks and before I knew it, I was overwhelmed with support for this first-ever event.
“The festival was a huge success and really brought the worldwide beachcombing together in a way that normal festivals can’t do!” said festival speaker, Jason Sandy. “I was lucky to attend the NASGA festival last year, but so many people globally are not able to attend these festivals in the U.S. Your virtual festival gave everyone the chance to attend.”
The speakers selected the topics of their talks and began filming their presentations. For some, this was a snap. For others, family members became videographers, phones were knocked over by wind gusts, and there were many, many, many reshoots and edits. The results were worth it, though. “This was such an amazing, varied panel of knowledgeable and engaging speakers with wonderful videos,” said festival attendee, Karen. “The day flew by and it was the highlight of my past few pandemic months!” Thousands of people showed up on festival day to watch the videos, chat live with the speakers and other attendees, and rewatch the videos after they premiered.
A fun part of in-person shows is getting to see private collections of beachcombers from around the world, and we were thrilled that so many people shared photos and videos of their own beach finds. Collectors from the Great Lakes, Hawaii, Japan, Australia, Florida, Mexico, Delaware, California, Maine, and Turkey showed off their beach treasures and coastal art. The videos offer a sneak peek at what fellow beachcombers have squirreled away in their homes.
Once exhibitors committed to the show, they got to work creating beautiful art, jewelry, and accessories to stock their shops. Several of the vendors did not have an online shop at all before the show, relying on in-person events to sell their products. The festival created a real incentive for artists to start or update their online presence. Jewelers worked tirelessly to bezel and drill and polish rings, earrings, bracelets, necklaces, and more. Artist gathered supplies and painted and glued and framed.
And, on June 20th, they were ready. A few vendors set up tables at home and held live sales on festival day. Others offered discounts or add-ons to purchases. Visitors loved seeing all the booths, and artists loved the opportunity to show their products even when they couldn’t be in-person. “My sales never stopped,” said Aileen Cabral from Art of Sea Glass. “I could barely leave my computer the entire day and had to make 20 more charms to give away with my orders. I’ll be busy all day packing up orders.”
After the whirlwind day was over, I had a million ideas on what to do for future online events. But for now, read on for a wrap-up of a fantastic day with our beachcombing community.
Virtual Beachcombing Festival Speakers
On festival day, we premiered talks from a lineup of beachcombing stars from Europe, the U.S., and Japan. Their videos covered beachcombing, the history of finds on different beaches, and fun things to do with your collection.
You can watch all the videos from start to finish on the festival playlist.
Virtual Beachcombing Festival Speaker Videos
- Seaham Sea Glass - Paula Newman. Join Paula, who hunts for sea glass in Seaham, England, to learn more about Seaham, the beach, and history of the area.
- Scottish Sea Pottery - Nicole Lind. Learn about the kinds of things you can expect to find on Nicole’s beaches in Scotland.
- Jewelry Found in the Thames - Jason Sandy. In the River Thames in London, mudlarks have found some exquisite pieces of jewelry which reveal fascinating insights about the people who once wore them.
- Making Framed Beach Art - Kristin Batista and Virginia Whitted. A step-by-step guide on how to use your favorite beachcombing finds to make beautiful framed sea glass beach art with epoxy.
- Sea Glass Identification - Richard Lamotte. Richard LaMotte presents an abundance of tips to identify the dates and origin of both common and unique shards.
- Distinctive International Beach Finds - Mary McCarthy. Learn some of the differences among beach finds as they are distinguished by the geographical areas where they’re found.
- Pacific Road Trip - Mary Beth Beuke. Join Mary Beth as we pop the top on the beachy convertible and take you along a thousand-mile journey of vast, rugged Pacific Coast shores.
- Beachcombing Ocean Safety - JJ and Pat Caldwell. Explore lifesaving techniques and tips to make hunting for sea glass and empty shells underwater more enjoyable.
- Japanese Sea Glass - Christina Sawka. Learn about Japanese sea glass and fishing floats, including their origins, markings, patterns, and symbolism.
- Beach Art Mosaic Workshop - Mary McCarthy. Mary led a fun, hands-on beach finds workshop to create a seahorse, starfish, or flat lay from beach finds. Take a look at some of the art that festival attendees created at home!
Virtual Beachcombing Festival Collectors
Beachcombers from around the world shared their finds in a Collector Showcase. These videos are a visual treat and a sneak peek at some wonderful beaches and collections from our global community.
- Beachcombing Finds from Hawaii from the Collection of Heather Ganis, Maui, Hawaii
- Beach-Found Beads from the collection of Mary T. McCarthy, Tilghman, Maryland
- Great Lakes Glowers by Tarah Hoffman, Kenosha, Wisconsin
- How to Decorate with Your Beach Finds by Christina Sawka, Sendai, Japan
- Florida Seashells from the collection of Jaime Sawczyn, Jacksonville, Florida
- Tasmanian Sea Glass Stoppers from the Collection of Fiona Dart, Tasmania
- Tiny Seashell Museum on the Sea of Cortez, Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, Mexico
- Beachcombing on Lake Superior with Ann Primozich, Duluth, Minnesota
- Florida Seashells and Art by Amanda Collett, Sebastian, Florida
- Bottles and Bits from the collection of Danielle Perreault, Kennebunk, Maine
- Colors of Asli, Asli Ersahin, Istanbul, Turkey
- Shells of Japan from the collection of Tina Terry, Pacific Grove, California
- Macro and Micro views of the Beach by Kate Clover, Dania Beach, Florida
- Antique Caribbean Sea Glass from the collection of Mary Louise “Wiesy” Lauffer, Lewes, Delaware
- Floats of the Pacific from the collection of Tina Terry, Okinawa, Japan
Virtual Beachcombing Festival Photo Contest Winners
Thanks to everyone who sent in photos of their incredible beachcombing finds! Congratulations to our winners in 12 categories. Winners were selected for a combination of a great beach find and a beautiful photograph. The People’s Choice Winner was selected by online voters on the day of the festival.
- Best Marble and People’s Choice: Wave and Marbles by Jessica Kendrick, Jamestown, Rhode Island
- Best Bottle: Fiona Dart, Tasmania
- Best Fossil: Chain Coral by Audrey Whitlatch, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
- Best Sea Pottery: Sandra Rivera, Aguadillo, Puerto Rico
- Best Figural Piece: Wendy by Jody Jewett, Avalon, Catalina Island, California
- Best Multicolor Sea Glass: Rainbow on Driftwood by Paula Newman, Seaham, England
- Best Stopper: Murano Art Glass Stopper by Daiva Satunaite, Venice, Italy
- Best Novelty/Toy: 1913 Glass Candy Jar by Veronica Bagnato, Galveston, Texas
- Best Historical Find: 17th–18th Century Apothecary Bottle by Jason Sandy, London England
- Best Color: Two Tone by Shari Colquhoun, Ontario, Canada
- Best Industrial Find: Hercules Float by Michael Ley, Port Aransas, Texas
- Best Abstract: Caged by Miki Klocke, Vashon Island, Washington
View winners of past beachcombing contests:
- North American Sea Glass Festival Shard of the Year 2022
- North American Sea Glass Festival Shard of the Year 2021
- Mermaid Tears Seaglass Festival Photo Contest Winners 2021
- Sanibel Shell Show Photo Contest 2021
- Beachcombing Magazine Seashell Photo Contest 2022
Learn what judges are looking for in sea glass contests in You be the judge: The inside scoop on sea glass contests.
Beachcombing Festival Shopping
While shoppers couldn’t take their items home with them on the day of the show, the vendors quickly packed up purchases and sent them off to their forever homes, or perhaps, forever beaches. Thank you to everyone who supported these small businesses during a very challenging time.
Whether you checked in on the day of the festival or watched videos, visited booths, and crafted afterward, we hope you enjoyed a dose of Vitamin Sea. Attendee Tarah summed up her day, “I really enjoyed the historic talks—I learned a lot! Was able to grab a beautiful ring at a steal of a deal. And the crafting inspiration! Oh, and let’s not forget talking to so many astounding people from around the globe! What a spectacular day!”
Thank you to everyone who poured their talent, energy, enthusiasm, and hard work into making this inaugural festival a success. Sea you next time!
This article appeared in the Beachcombing Magazine September/October 2020 issue.