Seoda na mara (treasures of the sea): that is what Caoimhe Hodgins sees when she spots sea glass on the beach. It is also the name of her business.
Sea glass are pieces of glass that have been shaped and smoothed out by the ocean and then washed ashore. What started out as picking up those treasures of the sea has turned into her making jewellery pieces such as earrings and necklaces out of sea glass.
Hailing from south Co Wicklow, Caoimhe finished studying a bachelor of science in applied freshwater and marine at Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) in 2020.
It is her love for the sea and creativity that is the biggest inspiration to make the jewellery. Spending many days foraging for sea treasures, Caoimhe explains what the fascination is.
“I think it's finding something that isn't supposed to be pretty, and that could be conceived as rubbish. Some people could pick it up and just throw it out, but I like picking it up, upcycling it and making it into something pretty,” she says.
Where it all started
Collecting sea glass has always been a hobby of Caoimhe’s. When the pandemic hit in 2020 and she was out of a job for a while, she decided to take it a step further.
“I used to collect sea glass and I was like, ‘I have loads of sea glass sitting here, I may as well try and do something with it.’ I've seen a few pages on Instagram [where people were] making jewellery out of sea glass. I said, ‘Why don't I just give it a go?’”
Caoimhe went off, got craft wire and pliers and started making her jewellery. She loved it from the get-go.
“I could sit and make pieces all day and I’d just get carried away,” she says.
Her parents encouraged her to set up an Instagram page to showcase and sell her jewellery. Although Caoimhe was very nervous starting off her business venture, she got her Instagram page up in November 2020 and saw a huge interest in her jewellery.
Caoimhe found the majority of her sea glass on a holiday in Co Cork.
“I was actually on holidays with my family in August 2020. We were in Cork and we took a trip out to Spike Island.
"There's a little beach there and there's so much sea glass and loads of sea pottery (pieces of pottery or porcelain that have been smoothed and shaped in the ocean) - that's where I found the majority of my glass.”
Friends and family always keep a look-out when they are going for walks on the beach and often bring back sea glass for Caoimhe. Location also plays an important role in Caoimhe’s business.
She says: “When I'm sending out my jewellery, I like to keep track of the co-ordinates of where I've got each piece of sea glass; I'll write that on the little packaging that I put the jewellery on. That's a nice keepsake to have; to know where your sea glass was found.”
Each piece of sea glass tells its own story and stems from its own time. To have the sea shape old pieces of glass is a form of art in itself.
“There's some sea glass that I could find; the deep blues, and there’s turquoises – they’re kind of older sea glass. They could come from old medicine bottles. They wash up and they're all rounded and shaped.”
It does not take many tools to make the stunning sea glass jewellery. Caoimhe uses round nose and flat nose pliers as well as her hands to shape the wire around the stone and snips to cut the wire. She then sources chains and earring hooks from Irish businesses.
“At the moment I'm using Vibes and Scribes in Co Cork. They supply my chains and then there's a little business in Dublin called Dink Designs and they’ll supply my earring hooks,” she says.
Once you have the tools, the sea glass guides you on how to shape the wire to make a pendant or earring.
Caoimhe explains: “I love the creativity of it. I can sit down and I don't have a plan of what design I'm going to do on each glass. The wire kind of shapes itself around the glass, depending on the shape.
"I like how bespoke it is and how each piece is so different, because there's no chance I can get them exactly the same.”
Although Caoimhe mostly uses the sea glass she has found herself, she also custom-makes jewellery.
“A few of my customers have also sent me glass that they have found. One customer sent me a little marble that they found on the beach, so I wrapped that [with wire] and sent it out to them,” she says.
Caoimhe would love to have a stall in a craft market over the summer and sell her jewellery. For now, she will continue making keepsakes out of glass shaped by the sea, each with their own story, co-ordinates and unique colour. True treasure of the sea.
You can find Caoimhe on Instagram under seoda_na_mara.