“For a Room of One’s Own”
The creative mind is a mystery all unto itself. Only a few of us are artists, and for those who are not, the one thing everyone wants to know is, where do you get your ideas, a question that really has no definitive answer. Part of it, I suppose, is simply seeing connections to which the rest of us are blissfully oblivious. The picture that tops this blog is a case in point. It’s a piece of sea glass, glass that has been in the ocean for some period of time and has been polished by the wave action.
Environmentalists who go camping in the woods are adamant on the subject of trash. “If you brought it in, bring out,” is their axiom, to such an extent, really, that many of them will fill up a knapsack with the trash left behind by others. I suppose we could paraphrase Robert Frost’s “Mending Walls” and say something like:
Something there is that doesn’t love a paradise,
That sends philistines into it to leave their litter.
Sad to say, pretty much the same thing happens at sea, but the rubbish tossed into it stays. Beyond the trashing is the tragic, the shipwrecks, of which there have been so many down through the millennia. Along with the garbage and other debris there is also a fair amount of glass, from dishes to glasses to bottles, some of which retain their original shape and configuration, but glass being glass, it often breaks. These shards then roll about in the ocean for any number of centuries until they rest at the feet of some opportunistic beach comber, looking for that very thing.
It started as trash, that sea glass, but the restless salt waves have transformed it. If there were sharp edges, they have been smoothed and rounded, and the shiny surface has become—well, I was going to say “frosted.” but, really, it’s much more of a luminosity that actually coats hard, brittle glass with a soft texture quite unlike anything else one can imagine. Most people who find such things are content to bring them home and place them on a shelf before a window, the better to catch the light. A few others find ways to shape these shards into bottle stoppers or cufflinks while retaining the characteristics that make sea glass what it is. But a favored few—true artists, we may call them—look at those shards and see something that never was. How does one do that, I wonder, start with a simple piece of sea glass, however gorgeous it might be, and come up with something altogether different, an idea, a concept, a vision like this latest from New Ravenna.
Sara Baldwin grew up on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, which she describes as an idyllic upbringing because it’s “a place where beauty and inspiration seem inexhaustible.” It feels a bit strange to write these lines in my own San Diego, some fifteen miles from a beach that really does not look at all like the beaches Sara is familiar with. A day at the beach here is about as serene an event as one can imagine, whereas pretty much every movie scene I’ve ever seen filmed on east coast beaches depicts a wind that seems to blow all the time. But along with that wind there are all those wonderful occasions for finding things like, well, like the sea glass with which I began this blog. Sara began collecting it as a child, but it is only just recently that she began wrapping her creativity around a new concept—tiles and mosaics formed of sea glass.
I have only had the privilege of talking to Sara once for half an hour at KBIS in 2011, so I am clearly not privy to her thought processes. I have no idea of how she came to design her latest offering, but even so, I can’t shake the mental image of this tawny-haired lady walking along a wind-swept beach, the wind blowing that glorious mane asunder. She comes across a piece of sea glass that’s larger than usual, picks it up, walks a bit farther, comes across a huge piece of driftwood, more tree than branch, sits upon it and examines her latest find. She sits there lost in thought, turning that piece over and over in her hands, admiring its beauty, but even as she does so the wheels are going round. She’s beginning to see connections lost to the rest of us, beginning to develop ideas for how this item could be put to use in her favorite artistic medium. It wouldn’t be possible to transform this piece into all the chips she would need for even a single backsplash, let alone all the creations that could be made with what would be, in essence, a new type of tile, but it might be possible to do that if the wonderful look of this glass could somehow be replicated. And suddenly Sea Glass™ is born, and with it, a myriad of artistic concepts.
Sea Glass™ is a line of tile created by an artist that will appeal to people who want works of art in their homes, and it will also appeal to kitchen and bath designers, because it will enable them to provide their clients with something utterly unique. As Sara puts it, “Our silky matte Sea Glass ™ finish has now made it possible for us to create glass mosaics for the floor. They feel so wonderful we were tempted to call it the barefoot collection!” Some of the mosaics we show here are custom, created by Sara to illustrate the possibilities of this latest tile. I point that out because New Ravenna will happily work with designers and home owners to help them achieve that rarest of things in home décor, a design of one’s own.
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