There's a little bit of Whitby in every piece. Jewellery designed by the sea, handcrafted especially for you by Amy Kelly.
Lindsey Ebbs speaks with Amy about her unique handmade jewellery in this fascinating interview.
Have you ever looked at the coloured glass swept up on the beach mixed up with the shingle, taken it home, left it on a shelf, admired the beautiful colours and usually that is where the journey ends?
Amy Kelly from Whitby Seaglass has taken it much further than that, she has recycled beach glass into the most amazing jewellery and then made a business out of it!
I came across Whitby Seaglass before Christmas last year when as a family, we decided to only buy Christmas presents from local businesses and I can vouch that they look just as lovely when worn as they look on the website. I was intrigued at how this interesting business had come about and how recycling can be imaginative and beautiful.
Amy has given me an insight into how her business started and has grown into something she had never planned for.
1) Where did the idea come from to make jewellery from sea glass and when did you start making it?
I always used to love finding ‘treasure’ on the beach when I was little and growing up in Whitby meant I could go whenever I wanted. As an adult, I started collecting sea glass after losing my lovely dad back in 2017. It helped me through a tough time, trawling the shores picking up the glass. In fact, I believe my dad helps me hunt it out as I find myself wandering, on autopilot and then finding the most beautiful pieces of sea glass. When it started to take over my house, I decided to turn it into something beautiful, to help spread joy to others. It was here that Whitby Seaglass began its journey.
2) Do you know how old the glass is or where it comes from?
Most pieces of glass are probably from old bottles and jars, there is always a possibility it could have been a shipwrecked antique vase, a child’s treasured marble or a Victorian poison bottle. Glass can take anywhere from 20-200+ years to be broken down and smoothed by the waves bashing it against the rocks and sand. Authentic sea glass usually has a rounded edge, pitting on the surface and little ‘c' like marks. It has been tried before, to be replicated, by tumbling glass in a machine, but it ends up too smooth and the small ‘c' markings are unable to be reproduced mechanically. There is a lot of broken pottery around the shores too, from old shipwrecks that used to use crockery as a ballast to weigh the ships down.
3) What are the range of colours of the glass that you pick from the beach?
Mostly, a translucent light green I have renamed ‘seafoam', which is most likely from vintage coke bottles. Many pieces can date back to the late 1800's. I’ve found whites, greens of all shades, yellows, oranges, blues and red but the rarest I have found are lilac and pink. You can find marbles, two tone pieces, even black sea glass. The possibilities to me are endless which is why I love to go treasure hunting.
4 ) Which beaches are the best for sea glass collecting?
I do most of my collecting on the walk between Whitby and Sandsend, but I have been to the famous Seaham beach for a beach comb, as there used to be a glass factory there between 1780 and 1914 and all the waste glass used to get dumped into the sea. Whitby sea glass is really a little piece of Whitby.
5) Roughly how long does it take to make a piece of jewellery?
It can take me a few hours to a few months, it all depends on the piece. Usually, I’m working on a few items at once, so I have a little production line going on in my workshop. A day of making bezels, a day of polishing etc. A ring can be made in a day if I’m doing one at a time and do nothing else.
6) Which are the rarest colours that you find in the glass?
The lilacs were my favourite and rarest find. I had to keep those for myself, some things are priceless! Also, you would probably be able to hear my children scream when they find a blue, red or a marble as that’s their mission every time they go beachcombing.
7) Is there any type of sea glass that doesn’t work for making jewellery?
Yes, there are types of glass that don’t really work for jewellery making but I try to incorporate them in any way I can. I have found a few pieces of old security window glass with rusty wires running through it, I doubt anyone would like to wear a pendant with it in, so I use it in the garden making sea glass mobiles, with driftwood and the thinner shards of glass.
8) What size was the largest piece of glass that you have made into a piece of jewellery?
I made a large green heart for a lady into an open bezel wire wrapped pendant, at her request. I still get excited when I find a large lump of glass, even though I cannot turn it into anything – jewellery wise at least.
9) Do you plan to have a shop in Whitby or are you happy with your online presence?
I am happy being online, especially given the current situation, it has been a godsend. I never say never though!
10) Has the pandemic given you time to think of any future plans that you would like to make for the business?
Yes. I’m always thinking about how I can grow and expand, and I’m pleased to say I’m working closely with Raithwaite Hall on a few projects, all will be revealed very soon!
Learn more about Whitby Seaglass
Learn more about Whitby Seaglass on their website or socials listed below to see the amazing glass transformations and maybe take a little bit of Whitby home with you. If you are wondering why the photographs look so professional, well that’s because Amy is a wedding photographer at www.amykelly-photography.co.uk
Clearly, there is no end to this ladies talents!
Thanks to Lindsey Ebbs of Lindsey Ebbs Podiatry for this fascinating interview.