Tips for the Sea Glass Artist Studio

By Meg Carter

Sea glass is a unique medium to work with as an artist. It is often different in size and shape, and breakable, which requires some special care compared to other artistic media. During almost a decade of time as a sea glass artist, I have found a few tricks that I just couldn’t imagine living without. I hope these tricks might help you to work more efficiently and give you more time to create.

Usable Pieces Only

When you are using your sea glass in art pieces, whether in a mosaic or jewelry, the key is being able to find pieces quickly. Having your collection organized is key. The most important rule when it comes to organization is deciding what your standard is for usable pieces and then only organizing those. Your standards may change over time and you may have to adjust your collection to this rule from time to time. Any piece that does not make the cut, put it in another location. Although your classified “usable” pieces might be a smaller collection, having them separate from the rest of your collection will save you a lot of time. Now when you are looking for a particular piece you will not be wasting time weeding through pieces over and over that you will never use in your art. This will also avoid a misinterpretation of how much sea glass you have for future work.

Sorting Surface

Organizing containers for seaglass

Organizing, classifying and sizing your sea glass is an inevitable task of any sea glass artist. It can be a calming but also a daunting task to pour out a bag of freshly picked glass to be organized. Everyone has their own process and feelings about sorting sea glass but having a great surface to do it on is essential. I use a yard of white quilt batting. I have found this is a great surface for sorting for a few reasons. The consistent bright white color helps to identify the colors of the glass. The material has the texture of felt and is soft and quiet. Since many designate their dining room table as a sorting location, having a surface that can be moved is convenient. Just simply putting a piece of cardboard underneath will help you when it is time for dinner and you need to move things. When you are finished sorting and need to pick up the glass you can grab both sides and make a quick funnel to carefully pour the glass back into its container.

Squeaky Clean

Getting your sea glass clean can be a tricky task. The small holes and pits that are created by the hydration process are literally dirt traps. Often you will see sand stuck in some pits. To get the glass clean I have found the best trick is to use an ultrasonic cleaner. Ultrasonic cleaners use sound waves to agitate a bath of water which shakes the items to be cleaned. You can find a wide range of sizes and quality of these cleaners. You will literally see a cloud of grime come off each piece when the unit is turned on. Another great cleaning agent I use on my jewelry pieces is Goo Gone. This all-natural cleaner works wonders on black residue from jewelry polish and doubles as a great silver cleaner.

Oil It Up

Oiled seaglassIf you don’t already know this trick, it is worth a try. Adding a bit of oil (any kind will work—baby, coconut, mineral, and so on) to your frosty sea glass will bring out the color and take away a bit of the frost. Some collectors and artists like it and some prefer the natural frosty look of sea glass. The oil will eventually rub off and need to be reapplied. A little bit goes a long way. I have a little jar in the studio with a cotton ball so I can simply dab a bit on my finger and rub it onto the glass. If you want to remove the oil, just simply wash it off with soap and water.


Although mason jars or vases are beautiful ways to organize and display your collection, they are not practical for being efficient with your time. Plastic organizers that have individual compartments are also time suckers. Drawers or baskets are ideal for organizing your collection—you can finger through the pieces to find the right piece quickly. Jars or vases require you to pour out the contents every time you need a piece which is nine times out of ten at the bottom. The plastic divided containers are a nightmare to find the perfect tiny piece. Scooping out the contents of one compartment nearly always results in accidentally getting pieces in the wrong compartments to (again) get at the piece on the bottom.

This article appeared in the Glassing Magazine May/June 2018 issue.

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1 comment

Great suggestions from the extraordinary Meg Carter. I have yet to add an ultrasonic cleaner to my studio, but I will now! Thanks, Cheryl, Victoria, B.C. 🇨🇦

Selkie’s Sea Glass March 30, 2020

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