Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Starfish, Shells and Beachcombing Tips

This summer I began working on a series of multi-hued, sparkly starfish cuffs. The starfish, adorned with Swarovski crystal, wraps around the wrist in a fun, modern design. These unique pieces of "arm candy" can go anywhere, but they're just begging to be worn to the beach!

The starfish (the non-jewelry kind, of course) is a pretty amazing animal. They come in a dazzling array of colors, shapes and textures. Some are smooth, some nubbly, some even spiky.  Red, orange, pink and yellow are popular colors for the sea star. And speaking of the name "sea star," that's the correct name for this cool echinoderm, which is related not to fish but to urchins and sand dollars. We think of a typical sea star as having five arms, but did you know that some have as many as 40?  Starfish have no blood (they pump seawater through their bodies instead) and no brain. Instead of a brain, they have nerves throughout their bodies that give them information about their environment, including the location of prey (like clams and oysters) and approaching predators, like king crabs.

Starfish are one resident of the intertidal pools on  the beaches and coasts of Maine. But there are plenty of other interesting tenants, as well as non-living treasures, like polished seaglass, fascinating shells, and driftwood. At the end of August, the summers will start to cool in Maine, but there's no better time to try beachcombing. 

Beachcombing is a longstanding tradition of searching the shores for objects beautiful or useful. While people have probably always looked to the beaches for unique adornments and trinkets, the term beachcombing was first used to describe the activities of wayward sailors, who stopped off on warm tropical islands and conveniently forgot to re-board their ships. They often made a living for a while by combing the shores for useful items which could be sold to whomever would pay. When they became tired of this vagabondish lifestyle, they would find another ship passing through that needed a crewmember to replace some other who'd run off to scour some warm beach for valuables.

Modern beachcombing is often a recreational activity, although there are some who have made a lifestyle out of the practice. Usually a metal detector and a dedicated attitude accompany the serious commercial beachcomber. For the rest of us, the beaches are simply places of wonder. The sea yields up it's leftovers and long-kept secrets, in the form of polished fragments of pottery and bottles, discarded marine refuse, weathered wood and empty, perfect urchin shells.

Many websites give tips for the recreational beachcomber. If you prefer to just meander along and find what catches your eye, there's still a good chance you'll find something beautiful. If you prefer to enhance your luck, try out these beachcombing tips!

Beachcombing Tips

1. The first tip for beachcombing is to dress appropriately. Wear good shoes-- perhaps even water shoes that will keep your feet cozy and grippy even on slick tidal rocks. And remember how much cooler it can be at the seashore, and pack a sweatshirt and jacket for your comfort.1

2. Bring a camera! Not everything you spot at the beach can come home with you, so you may want to "collect" some things with pictures only. Of course, any living creature should stay at the beach. It's also fun to document your finds, and take some pictures of the beautiful shoreline as the day passes.2

3. Bring a few bags! And bring an extra bag for picking up trash that you find so that you can drop it in a trash container on the way out. You can also line a nice canvas bag with a plastic bag and use it for your treasures. It will be both strong and more waterproof. Check out these beautiful recycled bags by the Green Bag Lady.

4. A low tide is a beachcomber's best friend. You can always check tidal times for your area online. If you arrive when the tide is receding, you'll have plenty of time to get into your groove and explore the farthest reaches of the low tide area.

5. Check the beach after a storm! Of course, be careful if the ocean is still turbulent, but after-storm beachcombing can be very exciting and rewarding. Likewise, the early morning hours may offer more treasures, as the day's visitors have not yet arrived to pick through what has washed up during the night.3

6. Extra ideas: Try bringing along a few ziplock bags to store and protect individual items. Grab some hand sanitizer. If you want to do a bit of trekking along the beach, you may wish to use a backpack to carry your beachcombing gear more easily. And above all, remember to enjoy your adventure. Not every beachcombing trip results in amazing finds, but every day on the beach can be wonderful. Bring a lunch, bring a friend, and bring your joy of discovery and silly grins! Maybe you'll even find a starfish.

Suzanne Anderson is the creator of YIKES! Studio Jewelry. Suzanne has been busy creating for most of her life. After graduating with a BA from Maine College of Art, she worked as a graphic designer and a painter. Suzanne works to ensure that YIKES! Studio creates work that is fun, beautiful, always interesting, and adorns the wearer with joy. Catch up with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Etsy, or her website at www.yikesstudio.com.

No comments :

Post a Comment