Beachcombing for Art in Oregon

An Oregon coastal town plays hide-and-seek with glass floats, starfish, and sand dollars.

beachcomber finds a glass orb, image

A beachcomber shows off her find.

On the sparsely peopled, windswept beaches of Lincoln City, Ore., from mid-October to late May, volunteers hide bright art glass floats amid the high grass and driftwood, enticing beachcombers to brave the mist and drizzle to hunt for unique souvenirs.

The Finders Keepers project was launched in 1999 by city boosters who lamented the scarcity of an old beachcomber’s friend: glass Japanese fishnet floats once commonplace on Oregon beaches before the advent of plastic and Styrofoam replacements.

The town’s colorful, handblown facsimiles are planted by “float fairies,” amiable locals who often wear disguises and always keep mum.

“We don’t give away any secrets,” says Lisa Austin, who oversees the fairies. “You’ll need to search the whole beach—all seven miles from Roads End to Cutler City.”

This season, the fairies will set 2,014 glass floats, starfish, and sand dollars beneath the cragged bluffs. Each piece of art is a small mystery: “It’s like throwing a message in a bottle out into the ocean,” says Bob Meyer, one of nine contributing glass artists. “You never know where your creation will end up.” (800) 452-2151, oregoncoast.org.

Photography by Philip Burnett

This article was first published in January 2014. Some facts my have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

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