Homage to Found Art: Glass, Shells, and Leaves


One cannot collect all the beautiful shells on the beach. One can collect only a few, and they are more beautiful if they are few. -Anne Morrow Lindebergh


Collecting sea paraphernalia has long been one of the most delightful aspects of taking a walk through different beaches.

Shells, close up

Shells, close up

Whether you are moved to make records of encounters with ladyboys in the balmy nights of a tropical April, crush up shells while you contemplate your maturity to the swaying of a hammock, whilst you pay homage to Rudyard Kipling’s “If” with crushed up shells creating a colorful mosaic, or are spellbound by the secrets the morning air breathes upon you during your navigations through clear blue expanses, or even if the only accomplishment you achieve is a conversation with a stranger on a secluded beach, chances are that you have that the idea of being on the beach has occurred to you, and if you haven’t already, you intend to get to a beach before the end of the summer.

I’m an obsessive fan of the beach, and in recent months, found myself filling my bag in Thailand, not with any conventional souvenirs, but with shells, leaves, and sea glass that I found on the beaches. The result of the trip to Thailand was several journal entries about inspiration, thoughts on love and hours spent poring into skeletal shells, whilst I pondered over a conversation about enjoying a day on the beach with the one, the one who could never come, and all at once, I was all alone to pay pay homage to the treasures of strange shapes and colors I found littered along the shores.

Made of shards of glass containers ranging from perfume bottles to discarded cans, sea glass remains the source of much of my fascination.

On a simple and reassuring level, sea glass provides the ultimate proof that sharp edges can become rounded with age and time can wear away anything.

A few years ago, whilst visiting my friend Michael during a weekend in Shelter Island, he showed me a 36 inch jar, filled almost to the brim, with sea glass that his mother had collected from the beaches around their shaded wooden house.

At that time, he told me that sea glass can take between 15 and 60 years to lose its jaggedness. Apparently sea glass is much more visible in the sites of factories and spaces of industrial waste. Whilst this makes complete sense, of course there were no factories in Taormina that I could spot, Taormina which paid homage to the most amount of sea glass I have seen anywhere.

sea glass and shellsWhilst in Taormina, I wondered whether sea glass piled up there because of exorbitant parties and uncleaned waste. The magic was mixed with danger, and I warned my friend Aruna to take care of her feet as she was playing in the water. I was inspired, but until Taormina, I did not see such a wealth of sea glass.

Throughout my walks along beaches, I have aimed to push farther, walking along shores where the water never seemed to touch the toes of others, aiming to move from pristine to private. By doing thus, I have come to find that there are high volumes of green sea glass on some beaches, such as those that connected Isola Bella to Taormina in Sicily.

I picked up over two handfuls, and by a stroke of fate, found a few more in Koh Phi Phi, and recently at Clacton. Whatever the reason is, sea glass makes for a wonderful element to any shell collection, and can make for very creative collages and word plays. I had a great deal of fun rearranging the leaves, shells and stones I have picked up into various patterns, and hope that you enjoy them too.



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