Gemstones a “shore thing” for local see glass enthusiast –
Story and photo by Patricia Beech –
Crystal Arnold is a beachcomber.
The former Peebles native found her true passion trolling along the beaches and remote shorelines of Lake Erie – sea glass washed ashore by the lake’s pounding surf.
“I found this stuff on the beach and I had no idea what it was, but I began taking it home.” she said.
Sea glass, lovely though it is, originated far more prosaically than one might imagine – in garbage. “People used to throw trash into lakes and oceans,” Arnold explains. “Broken beer bottles, Coca Cola bottles, Vicks Vapo-Rub and Noxzema jars, and after years of being tumbled around by the water, sand, and rock, the glass develops smooth edges and a frosted color.”
An avid collector, Arnold says after a few years she had amassed a sizable collection of the gemlike glass also known as mermaid tears.
“My brother suggested that I create something with them,” she says. “I’ve always been creative, always had a project in the works, so I decided why not? I had a room full of the stuff, plus stones, broken terra cotta bricks and drift wood.”
Arnold begin making her eco-friendly sea glass sun-catchers and giving them to family and friends who in turn encouraged her to seek a broader market for her light-reflecting mobiles.
She opened a store on Etsy and on Amazon Handmade – Crystal’s Sea Glass Creations. Her work began drawing the attention of art collectors. She was featured in Green Craft magazine and a short time later was contacted by a representative for designer Ralph Lauren.
“They were interested in my sun-catchers, and bought one for their Hong Kong store,” she says.
As sales grew Arnold began keeping a push-pin map showing where in the world her work was located – England, Scotland, Australia, and Sweden. While her art has found an international market, she hasn’t forgotten her southern Ohio roots. Returning last week to take part in the Peebles Old Timer’s Days Craft Show, she chatted happily about her work while her hands stayed busy winding hemp string around a twisted piece of drift wood.
“People send me photos of how they display their sun-catchers,” she says. “I love to see them hanging in windows, but you can hang them from mirrors, in your garden, from a tree, by a pool or hot tub, on a bare wall, from the ceiling, or just anywhere.”
All of the sea glass and drift wood used in her creations comes from the shores of Lake Erie. While many people do sea glass jewelry, very few use natural products like the hemp and drift wood which makes Arnold’s creations so unique.
“I bring the glass home, put he pieces in water with Dawn, collect sort and clean the wood, and come up with a design.”
In addition to selling her designs on Etsy and Amazon Handmade, she also does custom orders through her Facebook page, Crystal’s Sea Glass Creations.
“I would love to do this full time,” says Arnold, who works as a nurse in the Cleveland area, “It’s been a real whirlwind experience.”