From trash to treasure - Saint John hosts first local sea glass festival

·4 min read
The first ever Saint John Sea Glass Festival is set to take place today in Saint John’s Market Square, showing locals that one person’s trash can always be another’s treasure.  (Submitted by Karla Rodriguez Moran - image credit)
The first ever Saint John Sea Glass Festival is set to take place today in Saint John’s Market Square, showing locals that one person’s trash can always be another’s treasure. (Submitted by Karla Rodriguez Moran - image credit)

The first ever Saint John Sea Glass Festival is set to take place today in Saint John's Market Square, showing locals that one person's trash can always be another's treasure - even several hundred years later.

Karla Rodriguez Moran, the organizer of the festival, was inspired to put on the event by similar festivals she took part in on Campobello and PEI.

Submitted by Karla Rodriguez Moran
Submitted by Karla Rodriguez Moran

Originally from El Salvador, she had always loved the beach and would go to the Pacific Ocean to collect seashells every weekend.

It wasn't until she moved to Saint John three years ago that she even knew that sea glass existed.

"I was very excited when I moved here... I could barely wait to go to the beach… that was my first time in the Atlantic Ocean," she told Shift NB.

"I was looking and looking and I couldn't find any seashells. A lady approached me and gave me a piece of green sea glass. Beautiful, very worn down, very old, I will say. And so I said thank you, but I didn't know what she was giving me."

'Every piece has a story'

Submitted by Karla Rodriguez Moran
Submitted by Karla Rodriguez Moran

The next day, her coworkers told her what sea glass was - and the range of colours and shapes you could find.

She was immediately drawn to its natural beauty and began to collect it, using the various pieces she'd find to make unique gifts for her loved ones.

"For me, it was the idea of something that was thrown away as garbage in the ocean and became something so beautiful and unique," she said.

"Every piece of sea glass has a story."

Submitted by Karla Rodriguez Moran
Submitted by Karla Rodriguez Moran

In searching the beaches for sea glass, beachcombers can find a range of pieces, some that have been there for 100 years or more – smoothed and transformed by ocean waves and sand.

Since she was young, Rodriguez Moran says her dream was to create her own jewellery.  Sea glass gave her that opportunity and she's aiming to share it with others in the Atlantic region.

The festival will feature 50 vendors from across the Maritimes to showcase their personal collections and creations.

Since beginning to plan the festival, Rodriguez Moran said it built up 'like a storm' - the event's Facebook page has reached almost 100, 000 people.

'Some call it trash, I call it treasure' says vendor

Trina Whipple began to collect sea glass after being stuck at home due to the pandemic.

"I was going to the beach everyday picking up sea glass and my husband said if you're not going to do anything with that, you should stop bringing it home," she said, laughing.

Submitted by Trina Whipple
Submitted by Trina Whipple

So she did the opposite. She began to use it to make anything from bowls to candle holders to holiday ornaments.

According to Whipple, a lot of the glass found in the area is called pirate's glass. It's black in colour, but when you shine a light through it, it could be any colour imaginable, depending on the length of time it's been in the ocean.

She remembers as a child seeing garbage burned right on the Saint John river, resulting in glass falling into the water. Ships sailing the ocean would also dump bottles as they set sail.

" I always think I'm doing the world a favour by picking up all of this, what some people call garbage on the beach, but what I call, like a treasure," she said. "These are real treasures for us."

Making something beautiful

Suzanne Barlette is also a vendor at the festival and has been creating sea glass jewellery for the past couple of years.

She too sees the beauty and value in cleaning the waterways and making something beautiful.

Submitted by Suzanne Barlette
Submitted by Suzanne Barlette

"Instead of everything going and turning [glass] into garbage and throwing away, why not make it something beautiful,"

She thinks that it's important to get people out to the festival, to change their outlook and encourage them to start looking for sea glass treasures of their own.

While Rodriguez Moran gets ready for the festival, she wants locals to recognize what they can learn from sea glass itself.

"For me, sea glass represents transformation, resilience," she said, emphasising that like glass, it's okay to feel broken at times.

"It's ok to have trials and difficulties. But then you become stronger and your soul becomes beautiful because of all the experiences that you have been through.