Diamonds in the rough

Beach glass collectors in Victoria running out of material

  • Jul. 4, 2013 10:00 a.m.

Once upon a time, before the invention of plastic, all containers and many other items were made out of glass.

Just like its modern, petroleum-based replacement, much glass ended up in the ocean. The difference is rather than float, glass sinks and is pummelled by tides for years, sometimes decades, until the glass becomes smooth and frosted.

Sea glass washes up on the beaches of Victoria and is used in art by a variety of hobbyists and professional artists. But perhaps not for long.

“Plastic changed everything,” says Norra Mirosevic, a beach glass artist based in Victoria. “My days are numbered because the glass is running out. But I used to find lots and lots of glass.”

When beach glass was plentiful, she would make everything from lamp shades to candle holders to display pieces. Now, with supplies dwindling, Mirosevic focuses on smaller items such as high-end jewellery.

Drawn to the glass, she started making crafts with it and went on to take a stained glass course to create her art, which is currently sold in galleries in Victoria, Tofino and Sooke.

“When people ask me about my work I always say ‘Poor me, I have to walk the beach,’” Mirosevic says. “Some people I talk to don’t even know what the heck it is, but the people that do know and do like it, they love it.”

The rarer colours are the most valued finds. Green, brown and white are fairly common, but red glass is a treasured find, as is blue, or any glass with texture from bottles with etched writing and designs.

Mirosevic spends part of her time in Europe and finds beach glass all over the world, but still finds Victoria to be a treasure chest for the increasingly rare substance.