Artist to share Portobello’s treasures with the world

Driftwood artist Nicola McFarlane Young. Picture: Greg Macvean
Driftwood artist Nicola McFarlane Young. Picture: Greg Macvean
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A MUM-of-three who spends her time scouring the sand for driftwood and sea glass is set to swap Portobello for the tropics of Hawaii after being invited to speak at an international conference.

Nicola McFarlane Young will jet off on her 25-hour journey in a matter of days after she was asked to give a lecture at the annual International Beachcombing Conference.

The 46-year-old, who lives just a stone’s throw from Porty Beach, will discuss her experiences on the sands of home and how she transforms the objects she finds into unique pieces of art.

Nicola, who set up her business Beach Arts in 2011, said she had wanted to attend the conference ever since it was first held around eight years ago.

It was a chance e-mail she sent to the event’s organisers for more information which led to her being offered the “amazing” opportunity just two weeks ago.

She said: “I couldn’t even read the whole message because I was so excited.

“I was jumping up and down in my bedroom because I got it when I woke up because they are 12 hours behind.

“I’m just going for it, it’s a great opportunity. All the stars aligned for it to happen.”

Nicola explained she had found countless interesting objects over the years, with some of her favourites including a sea glass thistle and a perfume bottle stopper.

In 2013 she hit the headlines after discovering a message in a bottle, which turned out to be a Chinese love letter.

It is these stories which Nicola intends to share during her trip to Hawaii.

She said: “They are really interested in the Scottish coastline and the brilliant things we can find here because of the shipping routes we are on.

“When a piece of sea glass has been frosted all the way through it means it’s been in the sea for 80 to 100 years.

“It’s basically treasure – in my eyes it’s better than gold or diamonds. You find some beautiful things.”

Nicola worked in early years education before starting up her Beach Arts venture, with the business now going from strength to strength.

She said one of the best parts of the job was being able to work outside on larger objects in the summer, with her creations ranging from lamps and mirrors to tables, chairs and other furniture.

As well as Portobello, Nicola has also spent time scouring for treasures at her beach house in Fife and at Seaham.

She explained her art was a way to help bring the natural world into people’s homes.

She said: “I’ve always lived by the beach so it’s always been a thing – just that real connection to nature. I started making things for myself and then people would say could you make one and could I buy it so I just went for it. A lot of people say you are getting something unique not just going to department stores where everybody gets the same thing.”

florence.snead@jpress.co.uk