Beachcombing on Guåhan
Håfa adai from 13.4443° N, 144.7937° E!
We've gone back and forth over the years about doing a blog for Tåsi Treasures. And now finally, here it is- our inaugural blog post to coincide with the first Virtual Beachcombing Festival!
When we started our business selling jewelry made with our beachcombed finds over 3 years ago, it seemed that very few people outside our circle of family and friends were familiar with sea glass and sea pottery. And they only knew because we'd invite them to beachcombing sessions...at times, forced them because safety in numbers and all that.
There were local artisans working with shells; among them skilled carvers who worked with the prized hima (giant clam shell) and spondylus (also known as spiny oysters though they aren't actually oysters) to create much sought-after traditional Chamoru jewelry. But we didn't know anyone on island who was making sea glass jewelry. Two friends of ours who did, had left the island years before. And although we did eventually discover one other sea glass jeweler, we felt relatively alone in our pursuit.
We are all familiar with seashells. That was clear. But did anyone else on island beachcomb for sea glass and sea pottery? At the markets, our sea glass jewelry stood out...at times, in an odd duck sort of way. And I won't lie. It can be a bit disheartening to explain to someone what sea glass is, speaking from your heart about the history and natural forces involved, only to have them look back at you with complete disinterest and walk away without a second glance at the table of jewelry. But fellow artisans, like the weavers, forgers, jewelers, and carvers were encouraging in those early days as they continue to be. I believe that they recognized in us the shared imperative to make and create with one's hands even though sea glass isn't their medium and they may not necessarily share our fascination and love for it.
This is where I realize that I've meandered my way into musing about the maker's existence. Recalculating...
The more market pop-ups we did, we went from thinking that we were among only a few "weirdos" on island combing our beaches for old glass and pottery to finding out that we share this treasure hunting activity with many others of various age groups and backgrounds.
A couple of teenage boys came by once and one said, "I have a lot of this. Maybe if I remember, I'll just give it to you."
Quite a few manåmko' (elderly) have collections; one lady saying that she had been picking them up for years and just collecting them in jars. She was surprised when we told her people make jewelry all over the world with such finds.
Once, at the Chamorro Village Night Market, where pre-pandemic we had a pop-up every Wednesday evening, a family strolled by and the mom happened to look my way. I smiled, she smiled back, and then her eyes went to our table display. She came over excitedly and called to her husband. "See!" she told him. "I'm not the only one picking these up." Ah, a kindred spirit! I got the feeling he had probably been teasing her about her hobby. Shells made sense, but old broken glass and crockery? And now he was surprised to see "these" had names (sea glass, sea pottery, sea tiles) as well as industry standards for rarity as he saw the ISGA and Carter guides that we had on the table.
Until we got on Instagram, we had no idea how large our international community was. It's a delight to connect with beachcombers (not to mention mudlarkers and privy diggers!) near and far. One we always enjoy hearing from is a Chamoru lady who discovered sea glass while living in Guantanamo. She has become an avid collector and has even sent us some pieces. Another Instagram bonus is seeing what other Guam beachcombers find on their hunts.
So what can one find beachcombing on Guam? Quite a variety! HOWEVER, if sea glass be your aim, be warned- it isn't easy to find fully cooked sea glass. By fully cooked, we mean the evenly frosted, smoothly rounded pieces that beachcombers' dreams are made of. We rarely just stroll along the shores picking up handfuls of sea glass.
We pay attention to the tidal patterns and swells. The most successful beachcombers among us exercise great focus and diligence. Strenuous effort is needed to hike and kayak to the island's more remote shores. The beautiful tourism magazine looking shores are not the spots to expect sea glass. Look for our beautiful rocky shorelines!
A few who notice sea glass for the first time through Tåsi Treasures or who see our posts of certain shells are incredulous that we find such pieces here on the island. That may be because they only frequent the sandy shores of Ypao beach, which does have sea glass, but I think most of it is in the water. I have only 3 pieces of fully cooked sea glass from Ypao beach. Snorkeling/diving to comb the sea floor, as many shellers and sea glass hunters do in Hawaii, would be necessary.
In addition to finding the right spots, make sure you have sun protection and water. Lots and lots of cold water...maybe electrolytes and some snacks for those longer beachcombing sessions.
Your efforts WILL be rewarded. Over time. Beachcombers on Guam have found lioconchas, large clam shells, sugar cowries, spondylus, olive shells, fossils and coneshells and cowries of color, pattern and shape too numerous to list. While the most common colors of sea glass here are white, brown, green, and sea foam, they have found sea glass of almost every color. Yes, even red and orange, cobalt blue and cyan, sienna and lilac! Rare, but possible to find. Once you find one, you will be filled with the excitement knowing that there must be more out there.
Beachcombers have found whole glass floats, mermaid nipples, remnants of Clorox bottles and Vicks jars, bottle stoppers, sea glass marbles, World War era Coke bottles, a vintage Kilmarnock whisky bottle, and those tiny pocket-sized Tabasco bottles. I recently found a little frosted glass bottle only an inch tall! It's so cute and makes me feel like a giant :)
I'm pretty happy with my relatively small collection. You can view some of it, as well as Lisa's and Rebekah's on Instagram @tasitreasures. Here are a couple of my favorite IG accounts for Guam beachcombing-
@mamageecity often goes kayaking with her husband. But whether she's
hunting on a kayaking trip or just walking the shores with her family and
friends, she finds some great pieces! Check her out to see that beautiful
Kilmarnock bottle. And I believe she has 9 granulated cowries to date,
which always gives me hope that I'll be able to add to my collection of 1
(insert laughing emoji here).
@thebluelatitude is a local designer and maker of artisanal leather goods
who also features handpicked shells in her jewelry line. She often stories
her beachcombing sessions. (Or should I say posts stories of her
beachcombing sessions? Does anyone else turn the noun story into a verb
like I've been doing for some time now?) It's relaxing to watch her stories
and can feed your motivation to get out there and do some ethical shelling
of your own.
This blog post has ended up longer than I intended. Thank you so much for reading. Please visit from time to time to read future posts about our beachcombing adventures and finds, product information, and who knows what else :)
If you would like to learn more about Guam in general, such as it's values, ancient past, and geography, please visit The Encyclopedia of Guam at https://www.guampedia.com/