‘Mountain glass’

Published 10:30 am Wednesday, June 7, 2023

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Nearly everybody in Harlan County is familiar with the Poke Sallet Festival, as it’s the biggest event in the county every year. Folks attend the festival for all sorts of different reasons, whether for the live music, the food or for carnival rides. Many attend specifically for the unique items available for purchase, such as those from long-time Poke Sallet Festival vendor Broken Bottle Boutique.

Broken Bottle Boutique is the work of Shyla Raleigh, who has been selling unique items at the Poke Sallet Festival for some time.

“I’m a vendor here at the Poke Sallet Festival. This is my fourth year being here,” Raleigh said. “I’m selling handmade jewelry items like necklaces I make from glass I collect out of rivers and streams.”

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According to Raleigh, the process for making the items she sells relies on what sort of glass she can locate.

“I go to a river and find a sandbar,” Raleigh said. “Anytime there’s a sandbar, there’s usually some glass there. I look for unique pieces just lying around that stand out and catch my eye.”

Raleigh explained the criteria for the glass she chooses.

“The glass pieces I use are really smooth around the edges because they’ve been in the running water a long time; they’re not rough or sharp because they’ve been smoothed out by rubbing up against the rocks and sand, kind of like sea glass,” Raleigh said. “I call it mountain glass.”

Once the glass is collected, Raleigh thoroughly cleans it and decides what sort of jewelry she is going to make.

“This is probably my sixth year making jewelry,” Raleigh said. “I just recently started making clay polymer earrings.”

Raleigh also makes necklaces, earrings and the occasional ring for her Broken Bottle Boutique products, however, some items are more complicated to produce than others.

“It’s hard to make earrings because you have to find two pieces of glass that match,” Raleigh said. “That’s what makes my jewelry more unique than any other kind because it’s all one of a kind.”

Raleigh says she came up with the idea while fishing.

“I was wading the river and I saw some glass, and I noticed how pretty it was,” Raleigh said. “I thought it was way too pretty just to be chilling in the river wasting away, so I decided to repurpose it and turn it into something people can enjoy.”

Broken Bottle Boutique merchandise is available at outlets including Sassy Trash in Harlan and Southern Bliss Boutiques and Annie’s Frugal Finery, both in Whitesburg.

For more information, visit the Broken Bottle Boutiques Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/boutiquebrokenbottle.