Floats made of blown glass have a long history, originating in the fishing industry for use with nets. Though glass has largely been replaced by more "modern" materials for this use, glass floats have evolved to become more of a decorative item, serving as an ideal "canvas" for displaying beautiful glass colors.
Ocean Beaches Glassblowing is the exclusive maker of the Oregon Float® brand of hand-blown glass floats that you'll find in a number of shops along the Oregon coast. With the Oregon Float® label you'll find on each of our floats, you'll be assured that you're purchasing a locally hand-made piece of glass art.
Our "Sitting" Floats are our most similar style to the original fishing floats, though made in a way that's easy to "sit" on a shelf. Once they're blown to the desired size, a "plug" of glass is fused onto the Float to seal the opening left by the blowpipe. In the original fishing floats, that "plug" of glass was contoured to the curve of the original floats, whereas ours are flattened for display purposes.
They are available in diameters from 3.5" to 8", and are all part of our Oregon Float® line.
Our Hanging Floats are a variation from the original fishing floats. Rather than just sealing the float with a plug of glass, we stretch it out to loop it into a hook from which the Float can hang. These are a great option if you're short on horizontal display space, or would rather have a Float in the window.
The Hanging Floats are available in diameters from 3.5" to 8" in diameter, and are part of our Oregon Float® line.
Our Lighted Float is an entirely decorative variation of the original fishing floats. Like the Treasure Float, there's a 1.5" diameter opening ground into it, but that opening is intended to remain so that a light bulb can protrude into the Float. We have a couple of woodworkers that make the lighted bases to go with these Floats - take a look here! Please note that the lighted bases do not come as a package with the Floats.
The Lighted Floats are available in diameters from 6" to 8", and are part of our Oregon Float® line.
The first mention of the manufacture of glass fishing floats was in the production registry of Norway's Hadeland Glassverk in 1841, and use by local fishermen started around that same time.
In the Pacific, Japan’s fishing fleet started using glass floats around 1910, and glass had replaced older materials (e.g., wood and cork) by the 1940's. Later, in the 1970's, glass started being replaced by plastic, aluminum and styrofoam in the making of fishing floats. In Japan, fishing floats are known as ukidama ('bouy balls") or bindami (glass balls). They were made using various colors of recycled glass, which resulted in their blue/green color.
Many of those glass fishing floats escaped their binds over time to begin circling the Pacific Ocean. Starting in the warm, north-flowing Kuriosho Current of the western Pacific, their path would take them into the clockwise-flowing North Pacific Gyre to travel through the Arctic and along the entire Pacific shores of North America, often straying onto beaches along the way.
This phenomenon even inspired the writing of books, such as "Beachcombing for Japanese Floats" in 1967. Author Amos L. Wood wrote poetically:"For almost fifty years, Japan, our immediate neighbor across the Pacific to the west, has unknowingly been sending good-will messengers to our Pacific beaches in the form of lost fishing net floats. These runaways from her vast fishing industry still create as much mystery and enchantment as they did in 1918, when they first started to show up on the Oregon beaches."
Though the arrival of those "good-will messengers" has waned over time to become a rare event today, the tradition of finding glass floats on the Oregon coast goes on through the contribution of local glassblowers. Granted, the Floats have become more decorative than functional, but we use the same tools and techniques as the glassblowers of the 1800’s to create hand-blown glass Floats. And they still tend to capture the “mystery and enchantment” that Mr. Wood described in his book.