A thalassophile is someone who feels connected and magnetically drawn to the sea. Scotland has over six thousand miles of coastline, offering plenty of inspiration for artists and makers up and down the country. Whether it’s creating art from hidden treasures washed ashore or finding creative vision from the creatures of the deep, our coast and waters offer a bountiful harvest. Here Erin McDermott profiles three such artists and makers who have made a successful business from the fruits of the sea…


Artist and sculptor Sam MacDonald uses metal to capture the intricacies and beautiful aesthetic of Scottish marine life. Sam, 57, trained in Silversmithing and Metalwork at Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts in London but grew up on the Isle of Lewis and lived on Orkney for 20 years. “I started fishing again when I moved up to Orkney,” he explains. “I made a fish sculpture for the house and friends saw and liked it and wanted it for themselves, and everything grew from there.”

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Sam now lives in East Lothian, and says that the sea has always been a major feature in his life. He is an keen fisherman, diver, swimmer and retains a deep fascination with the ocean and all its creatures.

He notes: “My choice of subject, the fish, suits very much the material I work with. The metals seem to suit the hard, shininess of the fish. People like the aesthetic appeal of the fish, and I think it’s the same sort of fascination people have for the sea. I sell to fishermen and various people the majority of whom are connected to the sea or rivers in some way.”

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From his studio Sam creates impressions of fish using the tactile effects that metal (usually pewter, bronze, copper, or brass), its processes and techniques have to offer.

“Because all the scales are hand done and beaten, you can go a wee bit mad,” he laughs. “I did once count how many hammer blows were in one of the herring that I do and there was 956.”

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Sam’s work has been featured on TV and he has also shown at group exhibitions in galleries including the House of Bruar, the Royal Scottish Academy, The Wykeham Gallery and Visions West Gallery, Montana.




For Rois Clark, one person’s trash truly is another person’s treasure. Since 2014, Rois, 32, has been creating unique pieces of jewellery from the sea glass she finds on Scotland’s coasts.

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“I’d noticed someone making shell and sea glass jewellery in Hawaii years ago, and I’d never seen it used that way before,” she says.

“I started to look around beaches in Scotland and found we had our own sea glass. Then I noticed how different shores have produce different types of sea glass – the colours, types of bottles and textures were unique to the conditions of the that particular coastline.”

The National: Rois ClarkRois Clark

Rois, who is based in Glasgow, admits the main source of satisfaction from her work derives from creating meaningful jewellery from broken pieces of old discarded glass.

“My background is in Student Ministry,” she comments, “mostly working with younger vulnerable women.

“I find it quite a prayerful practice making treasure out of the broken pieces – the action for me is a symbol of hope. We’ve all had our own tumultuous journey, and many vulnerable people can feel a little broken themselves, but when handled with care and attention things can change.”

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Rois collects her sea glass from over 70 beaches all over Scotland, gathering samples of varying shapes, colours, and textures. Each piece of jewellery is handpicked, handmade and comes with a map stating where it was found.

She says: “I’d say 70 per cent of people who select my products choose it for the location aspect. A lot of the time people share a story about why that location means so much to them.”




Since graduating from Glasgow School of Art last June, artist Iona Turner has impressed many with her original jewellery made from seaweed foraged from Scotland’s beaches.

Growing up in Edinburgh, Iona chose  to spend a lot of her time by the sea and since the age of 17 she has been a seasonal surf instructor in East Lothian.

The National: Iona TurnerIona Turner

“I began working with the materials that I was foraging there after developing a desire to make something using the natural surroundings,” she says.

“I came to seaweed through foraging it for food, that’s how I got a bit more familiar with its materiality.

“The process I have is low-impact and a sensitive approach to the seaweed – I don’t meddle too much with it before making my pieces.”

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Iona forages for seaweed that’s been ripped up by natural processes, such as after a storm or a big swell. The storm-cast knotted-wrack seaweed is used to make her bold statement pieces of jewellery.

She says: “I really like that I get to collect the material myself and source it from places that I love. I also love working with a material where there is no waste from it – any discards are made into compost. And what I really enjoy most about the seaweed is that I get to be the supply chain.

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“I think my buyers are drawn to my pieces because of the sense of the closeness to nature and the fact that they are buying something that doesn’t have the same consumer guilt that other products can have. Just having that connection to a coastal place is also a big draw.”