Langley jewelry artist creates pieces from beachglass

"Almost everyone who has walked a beach has found some of its treasures: pebbles, shells, driftwood, the bits of flotsam that wash up with the tide. Found not as often are items that are created through the combined efforts of man and nature: pieces of glass that have been naturally processing into smooth, distinct shapes by the wave action of the water. They are what Langley jewelry artist Patricia Larzelier calls beachglass, which she seeks out in treks on remote beaches and then uses as the centerpieces of pendants, necklaces, earrings, rings and bracelets.The glass comes from old telephone insulators, mason jars, apothecary and Noxema jars, Larzelier said. It may have been left behind by previous visitors, or tossed overboard and washed ashore. Over time, the tide has washed the glass in and out so often that it is now worn down to a perfect, smooth surface.Larzelier has been making and selling her jewelry for about three years, under the name The Mermaid's Tears. She finds most of the glass she uses on a beach in Port Townsend, accessible only twice a month because of the tides.It was an old dump site, used from the turn of the century until as recently as 1970, she said. That's why there are so many pieces of glass, and of so many colors.Those colors range from the green of a 7-Up bottle to the cobalt of a Vicks bottle. Larzelier can often identify the origin of the glass through a raised indentation, from a Coke bottle, for example, or the raised letter A from an old Ball canning jar. Sometimes the pieces she finds are intact, such as perfume bottle stoppers, but transformed by wave action into a new version of itself.The old glass has a new dimension, something very different from the original broken glass, Larzelier said.The beach in Port Townsend has yielded lime colored glass that probably started out as dishware in the 1940s, and red glass that was once a car's taillight.They used to dump whole car chassis onto the beach there, she said.She's also collected a huge gallon of marbles, she said, leading her to wonder whether there was perhaps a marble factory in the neighborhood.I display the marbles in my booth, and they bring a lot of people over, she said. Larzelier shows and sells her work at craft fairs from May through December, traveling to events such as Bumbershoot, the Folklife Festival, Bellevue Arts and Crafts Fair and Coupeville's fair. She'll be at Choochokam this weekend. In the wintertime, she restores her inventory and searches out new beaches.I just met someone who told me about a beach in the Florida Keys that had been an old dump site. There are also beaches in California I've not been to, she said.And nearby, in Bremerton, there's a Navy dump site where a beachcomber can find a lot of purple glass. It must have been something with a lot of magnesium, she said.New colors are the most exciting finds, Larzelier added.I've always loved anything to do with color. She studied interior design at Cornish and graphic arts in Seattle, and spent 20 years painting faux finishes in homes. Her training and a natural feel for blending colors, shapes and textures gave her the confidence, she said, that she could use her talents to create original works.People can see Larzelier's jewelry at Choochokam this weekend, at the booth called The Mermaid's Tears. She'll even tell you the story of the sobbing mermaid whose gleaming tears wash up on the beaches of Puget Sound as beachglass."

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