Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Beachcombing For Tools

I'm down in Florida for a few days, staying in North Reddington Beach. My hotel is on the beach.

We got out of work at a reasonable time yesterday, so I went for a walk along the beach with one of my coworkers. We took off our shoes and socks, and walked along the wet sand, just above the surf.

There were a lot of shells, mostly halves of bivalves, about half an inch in size. Every once in a while, I would come across larger shells, or a worn spiral shell. I transferred both socks to one shoe, and then dropped shells into the toe of the other shoe.

I usually ignore the clumps of seaweed and other debris, but the color of one of the lumps, about the size of my fist, caught my eye. Examining it more closely, I discovered that it was a natural sea sponge, that had washed ashore. The color was identical to the ones that Julie and I use in the studio. I was looking at about ten dollars in sponge, at the wrong pottery supply store.

Looking up and down the beach, I saw that there was a lot of sponge along the shore, just laying there on the beach. TENS of dollars worth.

I ended up collecting three samples, tying them to my shoelaces to carry. I washed the sponges out in my hotel room sink. One piece is about the size of half a loaf of french bread, and is thin like elephant ear sponge. The second is a fatter, ragged piece from a larger sponge, about the size of a large kitchen sponge. The third is a branching, light tan sponge, where the branches are the thickness of a finger. A woman that I met on the beach told me that the pieces needed to be rinsed out, and then soaked in water with a little bleach to get rid of the fish smell.

This morning, I went out at sunrise, and walked along the beach for about forty minutes. I gathered a few larger shells, as well as some thick shell fragments that I can use like ribs or to put texture and notches into clay. I had decided not to get any more sponge, but found a stiff branching sponge that has branches as thick as carrots, and was the same color. I only got to rinse it out for a few minutes, but it turned the water in the sink bright orange. I don't know if all of the color is part of the sponge tissue that will wash away (or stink like rotten fish until I properly clean it). I plan to add the orange sponge to the display in our library.

The sponges are in plastic bags right now, which are open to allow them to dry out in the car. I'll seal them before boarding the plane.

UPDATE: When we got out of the car, the carrot orange sponge had turned black, and smelled strongly of soy sauce and fish. We decided not to bring it on the plane, so had to abandon it.


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