It’s one year ago since Gina and I moved from the Rocky Mountains to the Wild West Coast. Twelve months went by in a hurry. I recall driving out in the rain and wind on Hallows’ eve. Backyards were illuminated with pumpkins, tombstones and skeletons. Fireworks lit the sky. A few days ago the trick or treat scene repeated itself. After a long wet winter and a splendid sunny summer, we’ve come full circle.
Life has changed a bit. We have morphed from mountain “men” to island dwellers. We’ve moved from a quaint bustling town to a small scenic city, from a competitive outdoor mecca to what feels a bit like the land of the lost souls. It took some time to adapt to traffic and the colourful characters inhabiting this place. But now that we’re settled in, we do like it.
Work has taken an unexpected turn. After years of home renovations and sales jobs, I am tentatively starting calling myself an artist. It’s a odd experience. I don’t feel like an artist. Aren’t artists strange and eccentric? They stand out from the crowd. They aim to be different. They go against the flow. They paint abstract art that a toddler can make. I’m quite the contrary. I feel like an average guy that comfortably blends into the background of coffee shops. I dress simply, speak moderate language and always aim to please. I guess I’m a closet artist. Even though I have pursued the pseudo-accepted art form of photography for years, this summer, I actually made art for a living.
One sunny January morning Gina and I ventured onto a new local beach to soak up the salt air once again after being landlocked for years. In a short period of time we found enough sea glass to catch a fever much like a gold miners in the Klondike. We filled our pockets to the brim in a hurry and waddled home trying to look casual yet sounding like a glass recycling bin. After unloading and observing the bounty on the coffee table, I felt like we had robbed a bank. A feeling of ecstasy and a sense of guilt dominated. Gina pointed out that only a catholic would feel guilty about “stealing” garbage. Yet, in weeks to follow, I made some sea glass offerings back to the sea to balance my karma account.
I acquired some old window and photo frames and started working on some homemade sea glass mosaics. After all, my new part time sales job in the window coverings store was not soothing my soul. Plus, the hours demanded were conflicting with ongoing health issues. So I was motivated to embrace an island lifestyle and become a part-time artist. It seems like a cool choice, but sometimes the most daring appearing choices originate from a desperate attempt to pay the bills and reinvent yourself once again.
As Gina binge-watched vampire shows on Netflix and studied hard for mid-term exams, I puttered about at my art-desk. I produced some questionable kindergarten results. Cute, not great. But there was potential. I contacted one of the local arts markets, intending to sell some of my photography in combination with a handful of sea glass art. Surprisingly, my request got honoured. Panic set in. In a hurry I acquired a pop-up tent and folding tables. I invested into banners, business cards and easels. I spent a third mortgage on canvas and photo prints, relying heavily on all the years I had invested in photography.
The first few Sunday markets were rather disappointing. While the new scene was fun and other vendors were supportive, sales barely covered cost. Uninspired and un-energized, I limped back to my part-time job on Mondays. But stubborn and always keen to put the bar (too) high for myself, things slowly moved in the right direction during the following weeks. Sea glass or beach glass seems to hold a spell over people. Despite its origin as bottles or jars being tossed into the ocean, people can’t resist the gemstone-like appeal of it when it washes up on the shore, all frosted and rounded by the surf. If only plastic had the same appeal, our oceans and beaches would do a lot better.
As weeks went by, I got a better feel for what subject, sizes and prices I needed to deal in. The typical cruise ship or airline tourist arriving in Victoria aims to find a small souvenir they can take home with them in their carry-on bag. Often land-locked, they long to take a piece of the ocean home with them. So I indulged and sold them bags of seawater and sand. No, not really, even though I probably could. Instead I started producing simple sea-side scenes. They don’t fill the inspiration void but paid the bills for a while. Once a week I set some time aside to be a bit more creative with larger art pieces that don’t fit in a suitcase. I need to fuel the creative spirit at least part of the time.
At the end of the Summer I did a tally of the market sales. The score: sea glass art pieces: 100+ sales, photo prints: 3. Yes, you read that correctly: 100 plus. And yes you that that correctly too: 3! While the 100+ was celebrated with much surprise and rejoice, the photography sales were shocking. It was frustrating enough to consider throwing all photography prints, including years of dedication and patience, into a big bonfire. I would burn away frustrations, move in to a driftwood beach shack and solely do beachcombing and sea glass art. Who knows, I might still do that.
So here we are. It’s Halloween again. Tomorrow the retails shop displays switch overnight from Halloween to Christmas. The shopping malls will play the inevitable jolly tunes to drive me crazy. I am hesitantly becoming a vendor in my first Christmas market. People will be annoyingly cheery. The decor will be more festive than I can handle. And much like this Summer, it might be surprisingly wonderful.
You can find more info about my sea glass art endeavours on the Sea Glass page of this website.