UPPER ISLAND COVE, NL — Jessica Marie Martin’s health issues weighed heavily on her for the last few years, making it hard to have a positive outlook in general.
But since she started making art with sea glass a year ago, life has been a lot better for the Upper Island Cove native.
“It’s been really great for my depression,” the 21-year-old told the Compass. “Just being near the ocean is soothing so much in itself, and through sea glass I’ve made friends all over the world.”
Martin is the bright mind behind SeArt Newfoundland. Through that brand, she’s selling handmade pieces of art assembled from beach glass she’s collected.
“I’ve been to Dildo, I’ve been to Carbonear, I’ve been to Harbour Grace, St. John’s — nearly any body of water you can find sea glass, as long as you look for it.”
Since the age of 15, Martin has undergone 17 surgeries, with most related to kidney troubles. She's also in the process of being officially diagnosed with lupus, a chronic disease that causes the immune system to attack healthy tissue.
Her art practice came about almost by accident. She was collecting some beach rocks to send to her aunt, Kristina Noel, in Nova Scotia and in doing so started to create some images herself.
“It ended up that I had all the pieces on a table, and I was just looking at the shapes and I noticed, ‘Hey, this one looks like a paw. This one looks like a tail.’ My dog was sitting beside me, and I ended up putting pieces together and it turned into a wiener dog.”
Creating art was not at all a part of her life prior to this. With her illnesses, she was finding life at home to be pretty boring. She attempted to attend a post-secondary school in Ottawa when she was 18 with scholarships in tow. But following the 15th surgery in her young life, Martin did not feel comfortable making the move.
“I’m unable to work at all,” she added.
Her newfound ability to create art marks the first time in years she’s been able to make any sort of income herself. Martin made a piece for her grandmother, Sandra Noel of Perry’s Cove, who in turn told friends about her granddaughter’s work. This resulted in more commissioned pieces.
“Orders just kept flooding in,” she said. “After that, I got to where it is now, where I’m getting orders from all over the country and even in the United States.”
What she likes most about working with sea glass is its texture.
“How you can get ridged pieces and then embossed pieces with little leaves, vines and petals. I think it’s so gorgeous.”
Martin also loves getting to spend time near the ocean searching for her materials, and finds the environment has a soothing effect on her.
Over time, she’s built up quite a collection of sea glass.
“I have beef buckets full enough to drive my parents crazy,” Martin said with a laugh. “Our house is taken over. It’s every room, and you can’t walk around the floor without finding a couple of pieces that have fallen off the table. My cats like to steal it.”
Martin plans to attend a few craft shows this year, including some of the larger ones. She has multiple accounts set up on social media websites, but also intends to set up a proper website to promote her wares.