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The usual suspects...





Amy’s Creations: Making Magic with Sand Dollars

by Dirk Messelaar, PITA


Some call them sand cakes, cake urchins, or even sea cookies.  Most local beachcombers just call them sand dollars, as the bleached skeletons remind them of silver dollars. But one Plum Island entrepreneur calls them her livelihood.


Amy Sciuto began collecting sand dollars and shells of any kind beginning about 8 years ago just for the fun of it. (Many of them come from Plum Island.  But don’t attempt to take them from the National Wildlife Refuge, because even though they are dead, they are protected and some beachcombers have been cited for trying to take them.)


She stored 1,000 sand dollars in her Finnegan Way garage because they made her happy. Amy began trying to make and sell glass jewelry at first without any thought about her sand dollars. But when the glass jewelry didn’t sell, she turned her attention to the sand dollars in the garage.


She spent one year developing a sand dollar pendant painted with water color. Then she took her first 100 pendants to a craft show in York ME, and to her surprise they all sold within a few hours. Adding metal earrings and other products to her collection didn’t sell well over the next two years. So six years ago she focused on diversifying what she made with sand dollars: bracelets, necklaces, earrings — and they sold like hot cakes. Last year she added night lights and keys chains to her successful product line.


But getting enough sand dollars was a real challenge the first few years. Amy would comb beaches during different times in the spring and summer, with typically finding only about 10 sand dollars each trip. That would never be enough for a growing demand. So, one day she took a chance and walked the beach on a cold winter day. And bingo, she collected about 2500 sand dollars in only two hours. She had discovered that sand dollars had died off in the winter and she was able to collect them easily with ebb tides after a full moon. So, now she gathers sand dollars about 6 times each year and yields about 15,000 sand dollars in a year!


But straight from the beach, the sand dollars are still 2-3 months away being used in jewelry or otherwise. First all of the sand dollars need to be bleached white in the sun for a month or two.Those dollars bleached enough are thoroughly rinsed and then set in the sun again for two days. Those that are not bleached enough are soaked in water with bleach for a few days,and rinsed when ready. When they’re ready, 300-400 sand dollars at a time are painted with watercolor in different colors.


But they’re still not finished. Amy applies a “secret formula” that allows the dollars to harden in about one week. Then they are glazed in batches of 50 and cure in one week. Finally, the “sea cookies” are either baled, or made into bracelets, night lights, earrings, ornaments, or pendants. After all this, they sell at a very reasonable price of between $10-$20.


Amy’s marketing seems almost as herculean as the long process in readying the sand dollars before they can make real dollars. She attends between 35-40 craft shows on the East Coast each year — some as far away as Ocean City, Maryland and some as close as Ogunquit, Maine.


Amy Sciuto

Amy’s Creations

Plum Island, MA

617.290.7546

amysciuto@comcast.net

www.etsy.com/shop/AmysPlumIsland

facebook.com/AmysPlumIsand