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Beach Jewelry

Making jewelry from sea shells has occurred to me before (one of the thousand ways to make money which never made it to my resume). But making jewelry from beach glass? That's a great idea, and just one of several covered in this Working Outside Contest entry from California.

Unusual Ways to Make Money at the Beach

Claudia M. Doege

Living in Southern California has many advantages. No, I'm not talking about Hollywood or Disneyland. I'm referring to all of the unique climates that converge within 100 miles of downtown Los Angeles: pine forests, mountains, deserts and the beach.

Aah, the beach. The reason California may topple into the ocean someday has nothing to do with earthquakes, and everything to do with millions of people trying to live, work and play as close to the beach as possible. Some even make a living at the beach using normal methods such as food (restaurants, food stands, etc.), amusement (carousels and rides, street magicians, skate rentals, etc.) and even using metal detectors to sweep the sand.

Beach Glass(Flickr photo by Dennis Redfield)

But there are not many people who make a living using what is at the water's edge. Two women come to mind who make nature's jewelry from what washes up onshore. One successfully sells her sea glass jewelry in a shop in Ventura, California (coastal town between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara), and does amazingly well with necklaces, earrings and such made from glass that the Pacific has given back. Just like the rocks that wash ashore, the glass has been smoothed by the water into unusual shapes and pastel colors. She drills holes into the glass to attach gold or silver wire, and then artistically wraps the wire around the glass making the designs even more unusual.

The second woman sells her unusual wind chimes and mobiles at local arts and crafts fairs. Made with driftwood, sea glass, shells, smooth rocks from the beach, bird feathers (anything from gulls to pelicans, all no longer used by their original owners) and anything else she finds (like rusty old cowbells), she easily gets $30 or more per chime/mobile.

Arts and crafts aren't the only way to make money from the bounties of the ocean. Just offshore from Ventura Harbor is Channel Islands National Park, which is comprised of five islands and a mile of ocean surrounding each one of them. The size of the underwater area makes this park unique because more than half of the park is under water. The protection of this amount of ocean has also provided unique opportunities for people who think outside of the box.

Under the islands is the one of the largest kelp forests in U.S. waters, and it is home to over 1,000 different marine animals. Because of the amount of available food and safety provided by the forests, several species of whales come to visit, from humpbacks to migrating gray whale mothers and calves, to the elusive blue whale. When the Park Service shut down much of the area for fishing, a few innovative fisherman took what was in-hand and have made a successful living from it. Several fishing boats, either permanently or in off-season, are now licensed by the Park and take visitors out to the islands for camping trips, kayaking, dolphin and whale-watching excursions and even scuba-diving adventures in the kelp forests. Of course, they also sell merchandise related to all of the marine life in the area in the store they own where visitors wait for their tours. Pretty smart.

However, simple is always better. One day at Ventura Harbor, I saw an Asian couple clambering over seaweed (kelp) covered rocks. Upon closer inspection, I realized that they weren't trying to avoid falling off the slippery rocks, they were harvesting the seaweed from them! Having seen this couple more than once, I can safely assume that some local restaurant offers fresh seaweed on its menu!

Thanks Claudia. The beach jewelry part got my attention especially, because as children we spent summers on the beaches of Lake Michigan, and collected beach glass. Old Coca Cola bottles were transformed by the waves into pastel green rounded shapes. Purple ones were common too, though we never did figure out what they started out as. And alas, we never thought to make them into jewelry to sell.

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