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Ingrid expresses herself through sea glass

Artist Ingrid Botelho with some of her sea glass work (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

One day Ingrid Botelho started playing around with sea glass that her family found at the beach.

Always a creative soul she crafted her finds into a picture for a friend who was expecting a baby.

“When I gave it to my friend she actually started to cry,” Ms Botelho said.

That encouraged her to keep going with the sea glass.

“I fell in love with it,” the 56 year old said.

She made figures from sea glass – a minister with a Bible praising the Lord, a dancer, families, a lady wearing a Covid-19 mask.

“People started to say I would buy that from you,” she said.

At first, her husband, Paul Botelho, was a little doubtful. He was not sure if people would really buy artwork made from bits and pieces collected from the sand.

She was not sure either, so she started researching.

The nature of sea glass

Sea glass is broken bits of old bottles and tableware thrown into the sea generations ago. Years of wave and sand action wears away all the sharp edges. While some nostalgic people have suggested throwing modern glass into the ocean to make new sea glass, today’s glass is generally much thinner than in years gone by and would not produce the same effect. Ocean trash is 4.8 per cent glass refuse.

“I went online and there was a whole Facebook page devoted to sea glass lovers,” she said. “The page has more than 30,000 followers. I thought, this is a thing.”

When she joined the Facebook group, and showed subscribers her work she received an outpouring of positivity.

“My art was a lot different from the art that other people were creating,” she said. “They were asking do you teach a class, or can you come to my university?”

So in 2015 she started her own business, Seafrost Bermuda, selling her sea glass creations on social media sites, and also at places such as the Three Graces Spa at Newstead Belmont Hills Golf Resort and Spa in Paget.

“Now I don’t actually have any of my own pieces,” she said. “Every time I put them up on Instagram, they sell.”

Her husband became a believer, and makes all the box frames to display her work.

She does not take any sea glass popular Sea Glass Beach n Dockyard. There is a sign there asking people not to take it.

“Some people think the sea glass is trash and should be cleaned up,” Ms Botelho said. “Other people will argue and say don’t pick anything off the beach. There are so many other places in Bermuda to find sea glass. Some of them are places people don’t think to go.”

Her husband often goes with her to find sea glass. Sometimes they scramble over rocks to get to more isolated beaches.

“It’s a lot of fun,” she said. “There are some places you actually have to use a boat to get to.”

Ms Botelho keeps enough sea glass at home to make her pieces, but does not keep buckets of the stuff.

Occasionally, she also incorporates interesting bits of beach plastic into her work.

“I think it should be recycled and made into something beautiful,” Ms Botelho said.

Sometimes she has an idea for a piece and goes looking for the right pieces of glass. Other times, she sees sea glass on the beach and gets inspiration.

“Sometimes the glass looks like something, like a shoe or some other object,” she said.

She has her favourite colours and types of old glass.

“I love to find the purple glass,” she said. “I have learnt that it did not start out as purple. It started out as white glass. But in the early 1900s they put manganese in glass. I’m not sure why. But that causes white glass to turn purple when the sun hits it.”

Lime green, blue and red are also favourites of hers.

Ms Botelho admitted she sometimes has difficulty using her favourite glass pieces in her art.

“But what else am I going to do with them?” she said.

One lady gifted her with an entire collection of sea glass, after leaving the island.

“She had been collecting glass for a long time,” Ms Botelho said.

Ms Botelho often takes to Google to learn more about the glass she finds.

“I have found some pieces that glow in the dark,” she said.

That’s because uranium oxide was once a common ingredient in glass from the 1830s to the 1940s.

“It needs a black light to see it,” she said.

These pieces pose no threat to human health.

“Sometimes you will find glass that is fused together,” she said. “They used to have bonfires outside the forts to burn their trash. So the glass used to fuse together in the fire. They say sometimes the lightening strikes the beach and also does the same thing.”

When she constructs her art work, she never breaks a piece of glass. She uses everything as she finds it.

“To me that is the beauty of it,” she said.

Ms Botelho loves the feedback she receives.

“I have met cancer patients who tell me don’t stop making your art,” she said.

And recently someone in Australia bought some of her work.

“That’s my first overseas customer,” she said. “I am going to have to wrap the work with lots of bubble wrap.”

Ms Botelho works in a gym part time and focuses on her art the rest of the time.

She has displayed her sea glass art in shows at the Bermuda Society of Arts at City Hall in Hamilton, but never had her own show. Her goal is to have a solo exhibition at BSoA sometime next year, probably in the summer.

She also wants to make more large Bermudian pieces such as gombeys and Bermuda houses.

“I like showing the emotion between people, and I like to show our culture and kindness and the way that we are,” Ms Botelho said.

In high school she dreamt of becoming an artist, but was encouraged to do something more practical. She studied fashion instead, from the business end of things. Now she thinks the fluidity and strong sense of movement in her work, is partly influenced by her fashion school experience.

“In school we had to do a lot of fashion illustration,” she said. “And before I went to college I used to spend all my time doodling doing fashion drawings and figures.”

People sometimes ask her why she uses sea glass.

“I tell them it is very much like our lives,” she said. “We are tossed and turned by the waves. We think we are okay until life breaks us up. But sometimes those trials make us better. Usually when I make my art I give a little note with my art explaining that.”

She hears a lot of women her age saying they always wanted to try this or that, but are now too old.

“They say when I was young I should have done it,” she said. “Whatever you love to do, do it. Live! I did not know that I was going to do this. But it is never too late. Just go ahead.”

Fore more information see her on Instagram and Facebook under @seafrostbda, call 707-5068 or e-mail seafrostglass@gmail.com.

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Published January 04, 2022 at 8:00 am (Updated January 05, 2022 at 8:04 am)

Ingrid expresses herself through sea glass

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