Mom of the week: Turning seaglass into wearable art

Artist & mompreneur Laura Dermid of FromTheNorthCountry.
Artist & mompreneur Laura Dermid of FromTheNorthCountry.

Laura Dermid, 28 of Wingate began FromTheNorthCountry earlier this summer after a family trip to Kodiak Island in Alaska where she was inspired by sea glass that she found alongside of the beach. From this, her jewelry business was born and she has turned sea glass into works of wearable art. Keep reading to learn more about her fascinating story and how to find her gorgeous jewelry.

Q. What inspired FromTheNorthCountry?

A My family and I went to Kodiak Island, Alaska this past summer (June 2015) along with my parents to visit my paternal grandmother and other family members. I’ve been several times before with my parents, but it was the first time most of my dad’s family got to meet my husband and children. We had a wonderful time and near the end of our vacation we visited my great aunt and uncle’s island for a family cookout on the beach. I took a panoramic photo of the beach while we were there and now use it on my business card.

My daughter and her cousin were beach combing so I joined in along with them. Soon, I’d gathered well over a handful of sea glass in various sizes and color – all beautiful. I was pleasantly surprised, excited, and inspired to bring them home. The entire time in Kodiak I had been looking for a new piece of jewelry to bring home as a keepsake of our trip but couldn’t find the perfect one. I had seen other sea glass jewelry in the gift shops but nothing that fit my personal style so I decided to try my hand at making my own souvenir necklace.

First, I made one for myself. Then, I made several for my family members in Kodiak as a memento and token of thanks for the wonderful time we had and their unceasing generosity. I enjoyed making those first five pieces. I mean, I had FUN!

I gained experience and more importantly confidence, too. I had been looking for a job that I could do from home to stay with my boys and be home in the afternoons for our older two children after school. None of the direct sales seemed to be the right fit for me and this gave me the perfect creative outlet that I had been wanting. Working with my hands is satisfying and is something that I can do to produce a product that I am proud to sell.

From there, I used the rest of my Kodiak Island sea glass to make other pieces of sterling silver wire wrapped jewelry. I ended up with about 20 pieces to list on Etsy initially. I knew that I needed a good name for my company and chose something that would allow me to expand into other creative avenues later on if I so chose. After much deliberation, I settled on FromTheNorthCountry due to the fact I am a native of North Carolina, my sea glass came from the northernmost state in the US (AK), and also because I am a fan of the melody of Bob Dylan’s song, “Girl From The North Country.” Plus, I felt like that name was easy to say, memorable, and a solid foundation for my brand.

Q. Tell us a little bit about sea glass and how it is formed.

A. Sea glass is formed from regular glass that has been discarded in the ocean over the years. As long as we have produced glass, sea glass has existed because in the past many people would throw their trash in the ocean. The glass is tumbled around in the waves and smoothed by the salt and the water’s pH as well as the sand. The ocean waters begin to wear down the glass which removes the shiny appearance and replaces it with a satin or frosty look. This smooths any of the sharp edges you might expect to find on a shard or piece of broken glass.

There is a wide variety of colors and the intrinsic value of each piece depends on (the rarity of) the color, the size, and quality (smoothness) of the glass. Some pieces have also retained either their entire original shape (like marbles) or portions of an original pattern/design and those are highly sought after in the sea glass community. Among the rarer colors are: blue, purple, yellow, orange, and red. The more common colors include: brown, clear (white when frosted), and green.

Q. How many pieces of sea glass did you find on your visit?

A. I brought back around 35 pieces of sea glass from Kodiak Island. Some of the smaller pieces weren’t applicable to jewelry making.

Q. Will all of your pieces be made with the glass from Kodiak or where will it be sourced?

A. I used as many of the pieces of glass from Kodiak that I could for my jewelry, which came to around 20 pendants. After that, I decided to source sea glass from eBay as well as Etsy. I strive to purchase and use only genuine sea glass in order to preserve the authenticity of my work, not glass that someone has tumbled in a machine.

Q. Why do you like working with sea glass?

A, Each piece is uniquely different and presents a slightly different challenge or puzzle. It keeps things interesting since no one job is the same. When designing a new piece of sea glass I am working to unlock the potential of that specific piece. I take into consideration the size, shape, and contours of the specific piece when deciding on the gauge and placement of wire. I like taking these discarded items and using them to make something beautiful.

It also fits in with my personal views on conservation and my goals of more natural living. I believe that if we, as a culture, could do more with what we already have available it could lead to a paradigm shift in our country. We could produce less stuff (read: junk, or stuff that all too quickly ends up as junk) that we don’t really need. We could then decrease overall waste.

Q. Will you venture to other stones or materials?

A. I have already begun to use river glass that I purchased from someone who collects her glass from the Delaware River and surrounding hillside. I also have plans to move into ethically sourced precious and semi-precious gemstones. My husband gave me a gift card on our last anniversary to use for a lapidary class where I will learn to cut and set stones.

Q. What types of jewelry have you made so far?

A. I have primarily made pendants but have also ventured into earrings and bracelets. The piece I made for my grandmother was a combination brooch and pendant that can be worn as a pin or a chain as a necklace. I have made one ring so far, just to see if I could do it – it turned out great! I haven’t made any rings to sell because it takes such a great quantity of heavy gauge wire which is a sizable investment into inventory. Currently, I would be able to make someone a ring as a custom order so that I would be able to size it accordingly. I would like to eventually offer a consistent wide selection of all those types of jewelry.

Q. What is your favorite piece?

Dermid’s favorite piece of jewelry, made with seaglass from the shore in Kodiak, Alaska.

A. My favorite piece? That is a hard choice because, as a designer, I feel like I put a little piece of myself into all my work and each is special. If I had to choose I would probably say one of my favorite is a more recent piece. It has three small green pieces of sea glasswrapped and connected together. It is topped with a curving, thick gauge wire. I feel like it is unique and modern but classic enough to stand the test of time.

Q. How have you managed starting a new company with home life? Any tips or tricks you've learned?

A. It has had its challenges, but for the most part, I feel like it has gone smoothly. It seems like everything has fallen into place for me at the right time and in the right way. I can only attribute that to God and his many blessings over this business.

I mostly work in the evenings after the children have gone to bed, which is when I am able to sit down and fully concentrate on my work. I take time out of the day to do as much as I can, whether it be during nap time or while the children play in the living room. I have set up a makeshift work area in our dining room because it is central to our home. It affords me the ability to still watch over the children while I work during the day.

My husband has been a great help especially with the local festivals I sold at recently. He helps me set up and cares for the children while I am at the festivals. I have always heard that saying, “if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life” and for me at least, I feel like that is true. That is my one tip – find something that you truly LOVE to do and you will manage to find the time and energy despite all other obstacles.

Q. What are your average prices?

A. I would say that my average price is currently around $30-$40. For festivals, I make several small pieces to offer for $5 to people who want something but can’t afford to spend a great deal of money on my work. I was a young girl once who loved going to festivals and buying pretty things. So, I feel like it offers a chance for children, especially, who want to own something uniquely beautiful and one of a kind. I’ve already had much success with that aspect of my business.

Q. Where can our readers find you locally?

A. I will be selling at a Christmas festival at Wise Acres Organic Farm in Indian Trail, Saturday & Sunday, December 5-6 and 12-13 from 11:00am to 5:00pm.

Q. Can you do custom orders?

A. I have done a few custom orders for friends and also for three customers. I especially enjoy custom work for individuals. I feel like I can incorporate some of their personality into the piece, making it as unique as each person. You can email or message me via Etsy or Instagram for custom orders!

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