December 10, 2018
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‘Lost things found’: Searsport artist turns beach finds into jewelry

When Searsport-based jewelry artist Sarah Koelbl says she likes taking long walks on the beach, she does not mean the leisurely stroll that comes with summer evenings. Koelbl’s walks are deliberate, and in her favorite beachcombing seasons of fall and winter that means starting at the high-tide line and walking the length of the beach in rows until she has scavenged every inch of sand and mud for sea-borne treasure.

“It’s definitely an addiction, of sorts, to be a beachcomber and to collect seaglass and pottery,” Koelbl says of the groundwork behind her artistic process. “You can take a part of history, a piece of the past and frame it and present it as something beautiful to wear.”

From sea glass to pottery to skeleton keys and a plethora of other artifacts the Maine tides toss ashore, Koelbl’s walks on the beach are a part of her effort to make “lost things found” through her jewelry making. Since 2005, Koelbl has been forging objects she finds along the coast into unique pieces of jewelry and selling her pieces at select shops throughout Maine, as well as on her online shop, Sojourn Curiosities.

Koelbl began making jewelry in high school, when she discovered bead stringing. Now at age 34, between being a full-time kindergarten teacher and mother, Koelbl spends all the time she can in her lofted at-home studio, where she uses an array of metal wires and beads to hand-wrap and embellish the pieces she has found in her favorite beachcombing spots along the coastline from Belfast to Bucksport.

Organized by object type and color, Koelbl’s collection overflows the seven drawers of her studio’s yellow filing cabinet. Her passion takes a different form in each drawer, with tea cup handles and pieces of porcelain trinkets at the top, and the full spectrum of blue hues displayed in a mosaic of china fragments at the bottom.

While each facet of her found object collection holds a special place of inspiration, Koelbl has discovered pieces of the past she gravitates toward.

“I really connect more with the china than the sea glass, just because from piece to piece sea glass is pretty similar; but with china you’re capturing a little fragment of a bowl or a vase or a plate that someone used 200 years ago,” Koelbl says

When she finds the object she wants to work with, “there is no preconceived notion” as to just what the final piece will look like. “The shape that I am wrapping really dictates the form that the [piece of jewelry] takes. It’s never premeditated; it’s organic,” Koelbl said.

The free-formed nature of her artistic process results in an array of finished jewelry pieces, such as pendant necklaces, cuff bracelets, earrings and even an occasional broach.

Koelbl will be showcasing her jewelry alongside 28 other artists at the inaugural Bucksport Arts Festival on Aug. 15. With views of the Penobscot Bay anchoring the festival — the same region of the North Atlantic that has brought ashore Koelbl’s cherished raw materials — Koelbl’s jewelry will be waiting for the right person to come and claim its story.

“My jewelry is not just about status or the gemstones or the metals; its about the whole story that the piece conveys and how someone connects with it personally,” Koelbl said.

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