Meet the Maker: Hannah Marshall from the Beach Shack Project
In this Meet the Maker interview, we’re bringing you a sliver of salt-tinged summer goodness in the middle of January. Meet Hannah Elspeth Marshall from the Beach Shack Project who designs and makes sea pottery and sea glass jewellery. She makes her pieces from shards of sea glass or ceramics that have been polished by the waves against the sand and washed up on shore – each piece is exactly as she found it on the beach. Hannah talks to fellow Folksy seller and lover of the seashore Nicola from ndm handmade about her sea glass jewellery, her Jack Russell, her inspiration and her favourite beaches…
Ahoy Hannah! Happy New Year! It’s lovely to meet a fellow lover of the sea. First up, has the sound of crashing waves always pulsed in your ears and salt water always coursed through your veins?
Ahoy! Yes, I have always felt very close to the sea. I grew up in Cornwall and now live in Brighton. Most people enjoy other pursuits on the beach, like sunbathing or watersports. I’m a beach Womble, and you can usually find me foraging for flotsam and jetsam. Every beach has its treasure whether it’s sea glass, shells, driftwood or pebbles. Mostly I collect sea glass and pottery, shards of bottles, plates or tiles that have had their edges smoothed by the tide moving them against the sand, like a natural tumbler. This process takes many years, but some pieces may be much older than that.
Your Folksy shop is like a blast of salt-tinged summer goodness in the middle of winter. Do you have a favourite time of year for visiting the beach?
Obviously summer is warmer, so it’s always nicer to beachcomb at that time, but then everyone else has the same idea so it’s busier! People give me odd looks as I comb the tide lines! But the best time to search is after a storm, so the winter months can be more fruitful, if a little chiller!
People give me odd looks as I comb the tide lines! But the best time to search is after a storm, so the winter months can be more fruitful, if a little chiller!
Without giving away any of your secrets, do you have a favourite spot for collecting beach treasure?
Oh yes! I have many secret spots! Last year I went beachcombing in Cornwall, Dorset and Sicily. I would love to go back to Sicily, I harvested many beautiful pieces of terracotta with beautiful muted glazes there. Unfortunately there is a big rubbish problem there, so I saw lots of plastic, fishing line and even white goods dumped on the beach. Sadly it’s not always lovely things you find on the beach. I pick up any rubbish I do find as I potter about, and bin it. Other items, like fishing nylon and bright shards of plastic I like to hoard or incorporate into my work.
My boyfriend despairs as there is sea glass or driftwood or shells or stones on most surfaces in our flat. There is method to my chaos though.
If you were granted a wish to visit any beach in the world to spend a day collecting, where would it be and why?
I think it would have to be any beach in Hawaii. It’s always been a dream destination of mine – it looks like a tropical paradise! The beach I’d most like to comb there is Glass Beach on the Island of Kauai, which is near an industrial area and, as the name aptly suggests, is made of glass. Because Hawaii doesn’t have a long history of glass manufacture or many large factories making glass, it can be hard to find, but the right beaches seem to yield well-rounded pieces, particularly beautiful deep aquas and teals.
My Jack Russell, Bean, is obsessed with the beach. He loves it.
Your Jack Russell, Bean, is a very handsome shipmate indeed. Does he enjoy the beach as much as you do?
He’s obsessed with the beach. He loves it. He loves trying to find the biggest rock he can and then proceeds to bark endlessly at me until I throw it. It’s a good thing I usually keep moving on the beach, as it’s hard to relax with his dulcet tones echoing round us!
I would love to go back to Sicily, I harvested many beautiful pieces of terracotta with beautiful muted glazes there.
It must be exciting finding treasure from the sea. Have you ever come across a piece that you just can’t bear to be parted from?
All the time! I have a letterpress tray that I display some of my favourites finds on. Many are very sentimental and have been collected by or with special people. One of my favourite pieces is a boot that my boyfriend found in Sicily that looks like the shape of Italy.
I also have a tiny red glass flower I found with my darling dachshund. He was tired after walking the length of the beach and I ended up carrying him back from the beach. He passed away shortly after this, so I fondly remember my last day at the beach with him when I look at that special find. Red sea glass is a very rare colour to find. Gold was traditionally used to produce the colour and it’s never been mass manufactured. Most red sea glass has come from car headlights or perhaps decorative glass. I think this flower possibly came from a piece of jewellery.
Sometimes I hoard what I find and I wait until I discover the perfect piece to go with it.
How do you approach the design of your jewellery? Do you instinctively know exactly which pieces of sea treasure you want to use together?
Because I work with found objects, each design is completely unique and dependant on what I find. I love playing around with combinations of colour or pattern or even texture. Sometimes I hoard what I find and I wait until I discover the perfect piece to go with it. My boyfriend despairs as there is sea glass or driftwood or shells or stones on most surfaces in our flat! There is method to my chaos though.
Most of my lovely finds are crammed inside a large kitchen larder dresser from the 1950s. It has this fabulous enamel pull-out worktop on it that someone would have used to kneed dough or chop vegetables back in the day.
Do you have a dedicated studio workspace where you create? (I’m imagining a studio in a red and white striped lighthouse, perched on a clifftop with a wind-blown path winding its way down to the sandy shore.)
Oh, that would be lovely! I have always envisioned a boat in a tree as being a near perfect living/work environment, but the reality is I work from my spare room at home, which is rammed full of treasure. It’s quite a small room, so most of my lovely finds are crammed inside a large kitchen larder dresser from the 1950s. It has this fabulous enamel pull-out worktop on it that someone would have used to kneed dough or chop vegetables back in the day. It’s perfect for working on and storing all my beach finds.
I want to do more paintings on driftwood in 2018 as they sold so well last year.
Now that we are settling into the new year, do you have any special plans or goals for 2018?
So many plans! I am really excited about 2018! I want to do more paintings on driftwood as they sold so well last year, and I’m doing some basket courses early in the year, so I will be foraging for materials for that in the countryside.
Sadly it’s not always lovely things you find on the beach. I pick up any rubbish I do find as I potter about, and bin it. Other items, like fishing nylon and bright shards of plastic, I like to hoard or incorporate into my work.
I’m also planning a trip to Seaham, which is a sea glass Mecca – an old glass factory sits overlooking the beach and glass was tossed off the cliffs into the sea at the end of the day (it’s especially good for finding Multi’s, which are multicoloured pieces of sea glass, usually quite an uncommon find). I’m planning to do an Open House in Brighton in May – I’ll be opening up my home to the public every weekend, so you can come and see my beach bling and meet Mr Bean! That’s another thing, I am definitely making a Bean Calendar this year for his fans!
I am definitely making a Bean Calendar this year for his fans!
And finally, do you have any advice for aspiring makers whose New Year’s Resolution for 2018 was to open a Folksy shop?
Running a creative business is so rewarding and I honestly can’t imagine not doing what I do. I feel very lucky but it’s also very hard work and can sometimes feel lonely. If you love what you do, then keep doing it. But you need a business head too. I think that’s where a lot of people stop short as they have beautiful products but lack the knowledge or confidence to promote themselves. That’s why the resources on Folksy are so good – it has a plethora of information for growing your dream into a reality.
A lot of people have beautiful products but lack the knowledge or confidence to promote themselves. That’s why the resources on Folksy are so good – it has a plethora of information for growing your dream into a reality.
Treat yourself to 15% of all sea glass jewellery, driftwood art and found object beauties by Beach Shack Project with discount code FOLKSY15. Only valid until 2nd February 2018.
Meet the Interviewer
The maker asking the questions this time is embroidery artist and jeweller Nicola McEachran from ndm handmade.