"...o my G*d - what is that color? What
happened?" We'd taken the boat through the
waters adjacent to Bethlehem
Steel along the
Lackawanna shores. It was the
rusting iron at
the bottom of the lake, dumped there by
decades of steel production.
Within five or so years from that
Sunday afternoon in the 1960s, Lake Erie was declared dead. So this was
the reason why when I'd stay at my aunt's at Point Breeze we'd find dead
seagulls, a few a day, and huge dead carp. It was then I also became a
As a late teen, I'd spend summer days at my sister's; she'd lived just
across the lake for several years and this was my chance to connect with
the waters of Lake Erie. I loved swimming and the natural shale cliffs
of the Lake. I'd pack my lunch in a plastic bag, leave all my stuff at
the local beach, hit the water and continue walking south in the water
for several miles just to look at the beautiful combinations of stone
and water. I would pass natural thrones smoothed by centuries of wear,
providing a perfect seat to view an endless water pane of blue-green
calm balanced against complacent, open skies. I would see a
section of shale all rough, with an almost perfect flat cut of 8" x 11"
- and repeatedly I would tell myself, "Next time, I'm bringing my paints
and putting a painting there" naturally framed by a cliff and seen only
by the eyes of the Lake. My strong instincts also understood that there
was already painted a more valuable rendering by hands full of far
more grace and power than I will ever possess.
Like many Lake people, we couldn't resist the various clam shells
that would wash up on shore through the seasons. Some were pretty large
then. Others were small but perfect, and the purple of black raspberry ice cream-others a kind of Victorian pink, some even having a tawny mix.
I could not understand away from the Lake why no one cared about these shells
like the other "precious" shells at the stores. Another snub at the
common, cheap, dead lake I guess.
As time passed, and Buffalo became a place to be visited at holiday
time, I read more and more about the invasion of the zebra mussel. I had
no idea it was that bad until I revisited the Lake many years later. The
very few shells I could find were paper thin. Several were host to
hundreds of tiny zebra mussels.
There was talk about the Lake slowly coming to life. Detergent types
were modified so as not to smother all the oxygen from the Lake; the
steel industry moved to South America, to China, to Southeast Asia.
There was even a few years when the Lake's water level was at a healthy
high. As I create this public text, notwithstanding the few "dead zones"
of this lake, the waters of Erie are now said to be quite alive, and the
zebra mussel menace has even helped to clean much of the water. The few
shells I found last were stronger and full of good rainbow.
The Great Lakes Bracelets you see on this linked page are born from two
sources: the wampum culture of the great
Iroquois Nation - in Buffalo's case, it
would be the Seneca, and the need to integrate something beautiful from
a beautiful place into something that people can wear as a way of
expressing a kind of consonance with the peace, beauty and humble
sanctity of our beautiful Great Lake, Lake Erie.
All the shells used in the Lakes pieces are cut from old Lake Erie
clam shell that I collected over 40 years. The section
is carefully selected for iridescence, being then cut and polished using
polishes normally used for opal.
Quohog shell wampum is available, but I
lack the capital to use this hand-cut material. I have instead opted for
amethyst for the valuable purple quahog cut, and mother of pearl for the
typical white quahog shell. Red raw silk is used as it brings back
memories of the great wampum I saw exhibited at the
Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society as an elementary
school boy. I have since discovered that this wrapping technique was
used once red silk ribbons became available through the English traders.
The Great Lakes Bracelets may be ordered using the existing inventory -
small though it is - or you may request a custom size. Please measure
the circumference of your wrist without making the string taught, only
lightly snug. I will create your bracelet with a small amount of give so
it is not uncomfortable to wear. In the case of an attached Lake Erie
clam shell pendant, the shell is attached by pure silk thread to the
bracelet. We are also experimenting with nickel, making a loser, more
strongly attached pendant. The bracelets are not designed to be worn in
water or worn during times of vigorous activity as the leather will
become salt treated.
Thank you again for your interest in these small works of fine art.
some time looking at G*d's world. It is unequaled forever in brilliance
The Sanctity of