GTPulse: Woman From Bellaire Upcycles Sea Glass Into Jewelry

09/06/2019 10:04

It’s marvelous what one can find on the beach. Earlier in the summer I wrote about a woman who collected garbage off the shores of Lake Michigan and turned it in to beautiful pieces of mosaic art. Garbage on the beach is plentiful, whether it’s on the shores of the Great Lakes or on the shores of the ocean, but what about the beautiful things? Through all the garbage there are diamonds in the rough. June Barnard makes beautiful pieces of jewelry with the sea glass she finds on shorelines all over the world.

June grew up in Bellaire, Michigan. She lives in San Francisco now, but she has spent the past few weeks back home with her parents in her hometown. She was supposed to head back to California this weekend, but the beauty of a Northern Michigan summer has charmed her into staying another week.

“I come here almost every summer. I’ve driven a few times so I can bring my paddleboard. It’s a great place to be in the summer.”

Bellaire was where June first started cultivating her jewelry making skills. Growing up, June’s father was a welder. He worked on things like furnaces, power supplies and other industrial items, items that most little girls have little to no interest in. However, June was interested in using those same skills to make jewelry.

“I used to weld for my dad, here. So I had a little taste of metal work from that.”

She’s been making jewelry for the past 18 years, and has lived in San Francisco the past 11. She started learning how to make jewelry out of metals through classes offered by San Francisco parks and recreation. June had a few stones that she wanted to turn into rings. She also had been collecting sea glass long before she started the classes.

I don’t know if this is common knowledge, but I’ve never known exactly what sea glass was until I asked June. I’ve always thought that sea glass was somehow made by the ocean. Maybe a rock gets polished by salt and corrosion enough that it becomes slightly transparent. None of that is correct, sea glass is glass that’s been tossed around and smoothed by the water. June had a beautiful spread of sea glass not yet turned into jewelry. The turquoise blues, mossy greens and milky white glass all reminded me of the beach. There were pieces of printed tile, mason jars and other glass that has been transformed from years in the water.

June’s glass comes from all over the globe. She has glass from beaches in Monterey California, Baja, Puerto Rico, Iceland and Leelanau among many others. June has always enjoyed traveling, and although she doesn’t plan her vacations around finding sea glass, she always scopes out local beaches wherever she travels.


“I went to England for a woman’s 50th birthday party and I found a cheap, WOW air free stopover in Iceland so I made sure I had five days in Iceland. I got a little rental car and found some fabulous stuff.”

Wherever June goes, so do her jewelry, sea glass and gemstones. She is always working on a new piece of jewelry. Her Etsy shop, Salty Blue Designs, is where she sells most of her jewelry. June will be in Bellaire for another week selling her jewelry and has an open house going on today from 2 p.m. until 8 p.m. The sweet little garage is right next to where her father welds on Bellaire Highway.

June has had a lovely time visiting home in Northern Michigan. She was able to sell some of her jewelry, hang out with her mom, and even run into some old friends while downtown Bellaire. An old friend June grew up with was at Bee Well Meadery a few days ago. June wears many of her own pieces of jewelry and when her old friend fell in love with a sea glass ring June was wearing, he asked to buy it and proposed to his girlfriend with it right then and there.

Beyond inspiring wedding proposals, the jewelry inspires conversation. June makes cuffs, rings and even makes necklaces made out of shark lures. Her unique pieces of jewelry inspire conversation, and that conversation often leads to talking about keeping beaches clean, and seafood sustainability. Both causes are close to June’s heart and are a big reason why she makes the jewelry that she does.

“I don’t wanna just make pretty stuff. I want it to have an impact, I want it to tell a story. Maybe people will feel inspired to be more conscious of their choices, that’s really important to me.”

Being conscious of what we throw away and where we do it is important in sustaining and preserving the planet we live on, and June Barnard is finding a way to start sustainability conversations and help keep beaches clean with her sea glass jewelry.