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Buried treasures: Carpinteria Sea Glass Festival packs them in on opening day

Lisa Karey of M&L Coastal Creations helps a customer shop during Saturday's Sea Glass Festival in Carpinteria. KENNTH SONG/NEWS-PRESS

Lisa Karey of M&L Coastal Creations helps a customer shop during Saturday’s Sea Glass Festival in Carpinteria.
KENNTH SONG/NEWS-PRESS

Was the first Carpinteria Sea Glass Festival a success? You could ask the two lines of eager people that stretched down Linden Avenue and then around each corner of the block, just waiting to get into the marketplace.

Or you could ask the 800 people who rolled through the building in just one hour, looking at all sort of handmade jewelry.

Best of all, ask Christi Boyd, co-owner of Porch in Summerland, and part of the 12-member committee that set up the festival.

“It’s been phenomenal,” she said. “It’s been overwhelming. Sea glass hunters are avid about it. They’re crazy about it. When you find a piece, there’s the thrill of the hunt, and then coming here you get to see all the ways people use it.”

Sea glass collectors, beachcombers, jewelry makers and craftspeople – the sub-culture that loves these mysterious pieces of bottles that get smoothed and frosted by the sea is huge.

Ms. Boyd said some of the local festival’s success came from tapping into the customers of California’s two other sea glass fests, in Cayucos and Santa Cruz. Members of the committee advertised there as well as advertising locally.

The event was ticketed, and proceeds will go to Carpinteria Arts Center, which was also hosting its own arts fair across the street.

Kiona Gross, head of the committee, formerly owned Curious Cup coffee and used her small business acumen to gather the sponsors and get the word out to the 28 vendors who were selling their wares.

Alan and Karen Clarke of Santa Barbara sold sea glass and driftwood sculptures under their business name, Whimsea.

They walk the beaches two to three times a week looking for glass.

“Blue (glass) is pretty rare, as are thicker pieces of glass,” Alan Clarke said. “Certain colors are really rare: yellows, oranges, reds. Green, amber,and white are more common.”

A longtime surfer, Alan Clarke has always been collecting things along the beach, and this is an indulgence in creativity, he said.

The two were also surprised by the turnout. “It’s a good problem to have,” said Karen Clarke.

Melissa Compton, of Santa Barbara Beachcombers, credits online craft store etsy.com for plugging her into the sea glass community.

When she started selling her sea glass mobiles she found that people couldn’t get enough of her work, and when she offered two free tickets on Facebook for the festival, she got 25,000 views.

Some sea glass pieces can go for $100, she said, and what started as a meditative walk on the beach has turned into a business. And she has some idea why the attraction is so huge for some people.

“Being green is such an important part of our community,” she explained. “And glass is becoming a kind of lost treasure the more we recycle, and the more we use plastic.”

Beachcombers keep their favorite beach locations secret, but for Krista Hammond, who started the Santa Cruz sea glass festival seven years ago, she has a very special location that makes them the rock stars of the sea glass world.

One year in the 1970s during heavy rains, the scrap barrels of James Lundberg, a famous glassblower who had many rich clients (including George Lucas), washed out in a flood.

Since then, his creations turn up periodically on the shores of Santa Cruz. Beyond simple colors, these are multicolored objects turned into new creations through the ocean currents. Ms. Hammond wears all these creations, including a blue-and-white star that has been turned into a ring.

“There’s no other beach like it in the world,” she said of the location where Lundberg glass still turns up.

By the end of Saturday Christi Boyd reported more than 2,400 visitors.

“Vendors reported their best-ever sales,” she said. “And a good time was had by all.”

The festival continues today, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. at 700 Linden Ave. For more information, visit www.carpinteriaseaglassfestival.com.

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