top of page


Sea Glass

Mosaic frame

Tutorial by:

Natalie Plumb

Anthropology Researcher

  • Instagram

Sea glass is one of the greatest treasures you can find while beachcombing.  Each piece of glass is entirely unique in color, shape, and texture.  It is produced by the combined efforts of humans and the ocean.  Glass from broken bottles tossed into the ocean or left as litter on the beach is swallowed by the tide.  The initial jagged edges of each piece of glass are gradually worn down and smoothed out by rubbing against ocean rocks and course sand.  Beachcombing for sea glass is a perfect way to avoid taking materials such as shells that may otherwise be used by ocean and coastline-dwelling organisms.  While beautiful, sea glass is human-made and does not belong in the ocean, making it the ideal material for beachcombing artists to craft one of a kind pieces, while also helping to clean up the ocean and coastline.  Sea glass can be used to make numerous forms of art, including jewelry, decorative tiles, mutli-medium collages, and mosaics.  With sea glass, you can easily turn a simple wooden picture frame into a thoughtful, low-cost present for your friend or loved one.  All you need to do is start beachcombing!

Where to Find Sea Glass:

Over my three years at UCSB, I have found sea glass in virtually every section of the campus and Isla Vista coastline.  However, the most reliable spot for finding the widest variety of sea glass shapes and colors is directly perpendicular to the graffiti structure just east of Coal Oil Point (Sands Beach).  This local landmark is primarily referred to as the "Jailhouse" and provides the last traces of the Campbell Ranch beach house built in the 1920s (Gustafson).  At low tide, the waves recede, exposing the underlying rocks and tide pools, where you can find some of the best sea glass our coastline has to offer.  You will also encounter tide pool dwelling creatures such as hermit crabs and sea anemones.

To read more about the history of the Jailhouse and to find this local landmark on a map, visit the Isla Vista Local Wiki page.

Photograph by Craig Moe

  • Flickr

Materials You Will Need:

  • sea glass (of all shapes, sizes, and colors you found while beachcombing)

  • wooden picture frame (you can make from driftwood or purchase from your local craft store)

  • old paint brush (for applying the adhesive)

  • multi-surface adhesive (you can purchase from your local craft store)

  • strainer (for washing salt and dirt from the sea glass)

  • white acrylic paint (you can purchase from your local craft store)

  • towel (for drying sea glass)

  • your favorite photograph (to complete the perfect gift)

Note: Make sure to apply the adhesive outside or in a well ventilated area.

Photograph by Marco Mazza

  • Instagram
  • Flickr

Step by Step:

  1. Gather all materials.  (see above for complete list)

  2. Paint wooden frame with white acrylic paint.  Make sure to fully cover the front and all four sides of the entire frame.  Let the frame dry in the sun for 5-10 minutes.

  3. While the frame is drying, wash the sea glass in a strainer to remove all salt, dirt, and sand.  Spread glass in one layer onto a towel.  Let the sea glass dry in the sun for 10-15 minutes.

  4. Apply the adhesive to the front of the wooden frame using an old paint brush.  Do NOT apply adhesive to the sides of the frame.  Let sit for 2 minutes before applying the sea glass.

  5. Apply the adhesive to the back of the piece of sea glass.  Press firmly onto the frame and hold in place for 5 seconds.  Repeat for each piece of sea glass until you have covered the entire frame.

  6. Let the finished frame dry for 24 hours before placing the photograph in the frame.  Enjoy!

Tutorial by Natalie Plumb


  • Britta Gustafson et al.  "The Jailhouse."  Isla Vista Local Wiki, 2013.  January 2020.

  • Image of Jailhouse by Craig Moe, 2013.

  • Image of sea glass by Marco Mazza, 2020.

  • Tutorial music: "Day Trips" by Ketsa.  Raising Frequency.  Free Music Archive.

bottom of page