Jann Manning at work on the pier several years ago
Jann Manning says, “One day when I was walking on the [O.B.] pier, which I love to do, I noticed there were a lot of holes in the pier [concrete] and it was kind of dirty and gray, and it just came to me — the flat marbles, or ‘dragon tears,’ as they're called in craft circles, would look really nice filling these holes.”
Among the first stones set in concrete on West Point Loma Boulevard
Normally you’d find the glass stones in craft stores, aquariums, or, more commonly, in mosaics. Once Manning got ahold of them and began what became her community art project, she started calling them “holey glows.”
“I felt that on the right and the left of the pier going all the way down, the cracks and imperfections of the concrete looked like fish or sea-creature shapes, so if you notice, I started adding ‘eyes,’” she explains.
Manning spent approximately ten years planting dragon tears around Ocean Beach, lugging her supplies in a bucket.
“I used a large plastic cat-litter bucket; therein, I carried a small plastic container with enough Quikrete for the day, a bottle of water, plastic trays, and wooden whatever for mixing, paper towels, and a spray bottle. The holey glows were stacked by stone size in different containers.”
Eventually Manning started painting the bottom of the clear stones so they would stand out more.
“I would do that with nail polish…glittery, glow-in-the-dark, metallic, and neon colors. My art room became platters of drying stones and that became as much fun and as personal as actually laying them down…. It took very many trials to get just the right and simplest way to do it and that is: just Quikrete and stones that are painted beautifully.”
How many holes has Manning made glow?
“One time in 2015 my girlfriend and I went down to the pier in an effort to try and count what was there…. Although we couldn't count them all — the pier was very busy — we did count 875, so I believe probably over the entire time of doing the pier there were probably about 2000 to 3000 holey glows….
"The pier was my main focus, but I did go all over O.B., anywhere that I had lived or really loved and placed them there as well, such as Del Mar Avenue, Orchard Avenue, West Point Loma between Nimitz and Sunset Cliffs, and down Newport Avenue. The driveway where my husband and I lived and my mom and dad's driveway up in Escondido were filled with them….
“Nobody ever asked me to stop. Nobody ever reprimanded me. All I ever got were kind words, some questions, a dollar bill once from a very nice lady, a lot of very cool stories regarding the stones and fantastic memories…. When I first started this process it was a long time before anyone even really saw me doing this; I have an allergy to UV so I would have to do this in the morning early or late in the day or after dark…. It wasn’t a secret, I just wanted to do it because I loved the act of giving back to O.B.”
After a period of time planting the stones, Manning says a young girl helped add a bit of magic to the story.
“A little girl came up to me while I was working and tugged on my shirt and said, ‘Whatchya doing?’ I was so startled that someone approached me, and here it’s this little tiny girl. I decided that she [Emmy] and all children from then on should get a special stone if they approached me. The stone color would be red... They'd pick a hole of their choice, I would prepare the hole, put [the stone] in, they would touch it into the cement, and make a wish….
“It was so cool because I would see these children from time to time come back again with their parents to show them their named stone such as the ‘Emmy glow’ or the ‘Tammy glow,’ what have you. There would be days when my sole purpose was to wet the cement of the stones I had placed in the holes the night before so I would just have a spray bottle with a long squirter and wet towel to shine the glows. I would hear the children around me and people counting stones and saying that they had heard that if you saw one of these stones glow it was magic and you get your wish... I would hear all this and it would make my day.”
Manning lived in O.B. from 1979 until 2016, when she and her husband moved due to a rent increase.
“If we couldn't live in O.B., my husband and I did not want to live in California, so we moved to Tennessee…and when I come back to Ocean Beach for a visit, my sister still lives there. I will take days and do what I can to repair and fill holes for the pier once more.”