Great Lakes Bracelets



cadavre exquis


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                                                                  "...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 feather collector.
            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 unioinid 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.
    Spend some time looking at G*d's world. It is unequaled forever in brilliance and depth.


 The Sanctity of Lake Erie