Creative Types Turn Washed Up Treasures Into Art With Speckled Squid

By Monique M. Demopoulos | Jun 26, 2019
Photo by: Lexi Schnell

Some local businesses are teaming up with Speckled Squid to bring the community together for an evening of crafting. On Monday night, locals gathered at Tuckers Tavern in Beach Haven to craft their own sea glass sun catchers with the guidance of Megan Barber of Speckled Squid.

Craft nights with Speckled Squid provide participants with a unique experience that is accessible to all skill levels. Barber provides attendees with locally sourced sea glass, shells and other materials, as well as step-by-step instruction. The experience is completed by the hosting venue, as crafters are able to order food and/or drinks throughout the evening.

Barber, who resides in Little Egg Harbor, began doing craft nights just for fun with friends. She and her friends would take turns hosting the event at their homes. Last winter, Barber said, she reached out to her friends at The Union Market and Gallery in Tuckerton to host her very first public craft night. To her surprise, the event sold out in less than 24 hours. At that point, she knew this was something that could be engaging for her community.

Barber’s mother, Vearl Harrington of Brookville, assisted her daughter at Tuckers. “Sea glass is her passion. She roams the beaches all winter long,” Harrington said of her daughter. “When she was growing up in Brookville, she would pound in the dirt until she found bottles and other glass pieces.”

Barber affirmed her mother’s recollection with a laugh. “And now I’ve got pails and pails of everything!”

Barber prides herself on her cherished collection of local sea glass. She said, “People complain that they have never found any. They envy me because it just finds me.” However, it’s not that she isn’t putting in the effort. Barber claimed she will walk from Beach Haven to Holgate and back, hunting for sea glass and shells. She expressed with much enthusiasm that she enjoys finding artifacts and researching them to find out their origins.

Barber said many clients of Speckled Squid share her appreciation for sea glass and found local objects. “A lot of my clients bring their own sea glass and artifacts. This gives them a fun way to display what they’ve collected,” she said.

Rather than keep treasures hidden in jars or boxes, Barber teaches how to turn them into hanging art pieces. These pieces can easily be made a gift for a friend or loved one. For those who do not have a collection to pull from, Barber assures she has plenty to go around! Friends and strangers alike have told her where she could find the “hot spots,” and many people even gift her with shells and glass they found.

Barber graduated from the Fashion Institute of Design, but she claims never to have been a traditional artist. “I was always into funky art and working with my hands. It runs in my family.” She went on to earn her master’s degree in special education, and now works in high school home economics, as a cooking teacher for students with special needs in Lacey Township. During the summer, she bartends at The Sandbar in Beach Haven. Speckled Squid is how she shares her passion for local treasures with the public on her days off.

Speckled Squid was born from a hand-drawn logo that Barber made for a company that originally intended to do cooking tutorials and catering. With a few life transitions, Speckled Squid has come to focus primarily on crafting.

“It evolved into my own little fun on a week night that I can share with my community,” Barber said with a smile. The crafting serves a similar purpose to cooking and teaching for her. “It’s just like food. It brings people together, no matter their age or gender.”

Just like Barber’s day job, teaching students with disabilities how to make simple yet gratifying meals, Speckled Squid allows people of varying skill levels and different creative styles to make “something beautiful that they can be proud of.” She emphasized, “A lot of people think they can’t. So when they learn to make something and find out they can, it’s just as fun and fulfilling for me as it is when one of my students learns to make their first grilled cheese sandwich.”

Michelle Sysol of C.M. Sysol Contracting in West Creek says she saw the event at Tuckers on Facebook, and asked her daughter, Madison, if she had the night free. The two made Monday night a mother-daughter craft date.

“I’m not artsy at all,” Sysol explained. “I just thought it might be a fun thing to do together on a Monday night.” While they both humbly denied having much artistic sensibility, they seemed to quickly take to the making of their sun catchers, and with much enjoyment, at that.

Madison, 17, is dually enrolled in the Stars Program, with bright plans to pursue nursing. In the meantime, she works as a general manager of Not Just Yogurt in Manahawkin. As a fellow collector, she looks forward to making it to future Speckled Squid events. “I have a ton of sea glass that I collected in Barbados. I definitely want to come back and make something out of it,” she shared.

Cathy Sinopoli of Ship Bottom invited her two friends, Laura Starner of Manahawkin and Michelle LeBlanc of Allentown, to Tuckers to celebrate both of their birthdays making their own hanging art. Sinopoli aptly described herself and her friends as “lovers of sea glass and the beach.” They enjoyed a creative evening over some appetizers and cocktails, which included friendly conversation and, of course, sea glass.

Speckled Squid craft nights have quickly become a trendy, creative night out. During the winter, they are often held on the weekends, but during the summer, they often take place on the quieter days, such as Monday. For locals and shore-goers alike, Barber encourages those who work during the weekends, or those overwhelmed by the weekend crowds, to come out for a night tailored to them. Those interested in attending future Speckled Squid events can stay up to date on Facebook and Instagram (@SpeckledSquid), or contact speckledsquid@gmail.com.

— Monique M Demopoulos

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