A Beachcomber’s Treasure

Simple and beautiful with a surprisingly practical and sustainable history: the Fishing Float.

Beach-combers found this haul of vintage fishing floats on the Washington coast in 1966. Photo courtesy The Museum of the North Beach.

A Collectible with a Past

Sturdier than they appear, glass fishing floats (sometimes called Japanese fishing floats) were – and occasionally still are – used to stabilize fishing nets in the open waters by fishermen.

Back in the day (say, 50 to 100 years ago) many were handmade from recycled saké bottles, a bit of air trapped in each one prior to sealing with hot glass. With the air inside, they’d float. There were various sizes and a few main colors: blues and greens … usually with tiny bubbles still in the glass. Reds, golds and purples were less common and are prized for their rarity today.

Still out there?

Plastic floats have long since replaced the glass ones for net fishing. But yes! Hundreds (if not thousands) of old glass floats are still out in the oceans. Some trapped in sand bars waiting for the moment of erosion to fall back to sea. Some continuously circling until the current or a storm washes them ashore. No longer produced for fishing, finding one on the shore is now rare, and all the sweeter if you happen upon one.

But the desire for the beauty and the mystery of these object lives on. And a decorator’s market has emerged. Any and every color can be made new by glass blowers who make them in the spirit of the original fishing floats.

An antique olive green fishing float shows the texture created by years at sea. The rope that was once knotted over the surface acted as a resist, protecting the glass where it was wrapped.

Lost at Sea, Found on Shore

Many thousands of authentic glass fishing floats have washed up on North American shores over the years. Some with and without bits of netting still woven around the sturdy glass balls.

Addictively collectible, these, for some, are a beachcomber’s treasure. For others, a symbol of simplicity, when the cycle of floats, nets and fishing fed the world for generations. For still others, a pretty yet functional piece of history.

 

Old fishing floats are often blue or green with bubbles in the glass due to impurities in the molten material. Some were made by blowing the glass into a mold and show a seam where the mold was released.

Every Shade is Available

Whether you want to display floats indoors or out, you have an entire palette to choose from. We make new floats in a variety of sizes and colors every week. Order an odd number of floats to start your collection and keep adding for special seasons, color collections in each room, for your favorite beach comber collector and more.

Our handblown floats are a beautiful, tasteful gift, suitable for any space of any size.
Add to – or start – a collection today. Order here!

A collection of both vintage and new glass floats offer many decorative possibilities.
As vintage floats become rarer, new artist-made floats such as these by Avalon Glassworks fill the collectible niche and  attain a greater color palette.

 

Buy Blown Glass Floats Below or contact us to order, glasssales@avalonglassworks.com, 206-937-6369.