By Sue Botos
Most residents of the Lake Erie shore have probably spent time during the summer collecting beach glass, those colorful nuggets worn smooth by years of sand and surf. Usually, these treasures are collected in a jar as a reminder of warmer days. But jewelry artists Eva Sherman and Beth Martin have some creative ideas for these gems, and have recently shared their ideas in a book, “Organic Wire and Metal Jewelry,” designed for everyone from a beginner to advanced metalworkers.
Like their studio’s eclectic surroundings in Lakewood’s Lake Erie Building, the former Lake Erie Screw Factory, the two women are also a contrast that melds into a working partnership. “Together with Beth, we make a whole brain,” quipped Sherman during a recent interview, adding that she was the laid-back designer, while Martin was more outgoing and detail-oriented.
“I am the aggressive one,” Martin agreed.
Trained as an architect, Sherman, who was born in Budapest and came to the U.S. as a baby, began her retail career in a 400-square-foot shop on Center Ridge Road, where she worked on drafts between customers. Eventually she joined other artists at the former Silverthorne Gallery on Detroit Road in Rocky River.
“They wanted to expand, so they brought me in for jewelry and beads. They all left in 2008, and I stayed,” Sherman recalled. She then renamed the shop Grand River Beads, and Martin, a Rocky River native, often taught jewelry-making classes there. The two artists have known each other nine years, meeting at BAYarts, where they were both instructors.
“After seven years in the retail business I was exhausted,” Sherman stated, adding that she often put in close to 60 hours a week, leaving little time for her own art. “I was CEO, janitor and everything in between. I’m more of an artist than an entrepreneur. I much more enjoy being an artist, teaching and writing. It was time,” she noted.
Even though their book editor originally thought that sea glass was too narrow a topic, Martin and Sherman saw the need to “bridge the gap between design and sea glass lovers.”
“We bought a book on how to write a book,” Martin said. “We worked with a publisher, Kalmbach Publishing Co., (which) specializes in arts and crafts,” she added, stating that she and Sherman are working on a second book. Martin took all of the pictures for the book, which highlight her sea glass finds worked into Sherman’s designs, which range from intricate to simple bracelets, necklaces and other jewelry.
Like most sea glass hunters, Martin is reluctant to reveal her favorite haunts, although she did name Presque Isle in Pennsylvania, Bay Village’s Huntington Beach and Bradstreet’s Landing in Rocky River as promising spots. “But it’s becoming a dwindling resource because more people are recycling,” she noted.
“Before the (federal) EPA stepped in, the (Lake Erie) shoreline was a dump,” Martin added. Showing a visitor jars of multihued glass in various stages of wear from sea and sand, Martin said that much of it was tossed overboard.
“Everything is, ‘It could be from …,’ everything is a guesstimate,” she noted, speculating on the origins of the glass.
While the artists specialize in recovered glass, they do use some ordered online. While faux sea glass – shards smoothed in a tumbling machine – has some artistic merit, Martin noted it was important to distinguish it from the real thing, which appears to frosted.
“The heavier the frosting, the older the piece,” Martin said adding that only about 10 percent of what she finds on the beach is smooth and aged enough for a project. “The rest goes back into the lake for future generations,” she stated.
Coming off a successful book signing and trunk show at BAYarts in March, the artists are planning an event at Mitchell Sotka Ltd. in Rocky River on April 25 and 26. They also plan an open house and introductory mini classes during June. Visit www.grandriverbeads.com for a full calendar of events.