Message In A Bottle Blog

African Trade Beads

by Lisl Armstrong | March 27, 2015 | 0 Comments

 

Even before I made jewelry and before  sea glass came into my life I was intrigued with old glass African trade beads and have been collecting them, along with other types of old glass trade beads, for decades. Old glass beads come to us from another time and they have been on a very long journey. They show signs of change and wear from years of being handled, traded and lost in the earth. These old beads are soulful, beautiful and have a story to tell. 

Over the millennia seashells, stones and glass beads etc. have served as a form of currency throughout the world. Glass beads were produced in Europe for trade in Africa where glass beads were once a major form of currency.

For hundreds of years Europe produced glass beads and traded them in Africa for gold, ivory, palm oil and sadly, slaves. It is obvious from the moment you hear the term "African trade bead" or "beads from the African trade" that these beads carry with them a very serious history that sadly, involves slavery. 

As an artist my mind journeys across history while working with African Trade beads and I think they should be handled and worn with reverence and respect. These beads have a story to tell that serves as a departure point for important discussions about history and more importantly for discussions about modern day life and the many people on our planet that are currently suffering.

My mind also drifts back in time while working with sea glass. Much of the sea glass that I work with dates from the late 1800s to the early 1970s. While working in my studio I often think of what life was like in the many eras before modern history. Much of the sea glass found on beaches today dates back to eras in the USA in which women were not permitted to vote, people where held in slavery and in more recent times we experienced racial segregation. Historically, working conditions in glass factories was less than ideal. Sea glass is a lot more than trash that was transformed by the sea into something jewel like. It also has a story to tell. 

You Can Learn More About African Trade Beads Here: Trade Beads - Victoria Albert Museum Trade Beads 

All forms of currency, including modern day currency, have a dirty lineage. It is very possible that the money in my wallet and the money in yours has passed through the hands of modern day slave traders. Slavery has not gone away. It is not a phenomenon of history. The slave industry is in fact flourishing and there are approximately 21 million men, women and children around the world that are held in some form of slavery. The modern day slave industry generates an estimated $35 billion dollars a year. So when you take a moment to envision the way currency moves it becomes quite obvious that you and I have modern day currency in our possession that may have been used in the modern day slave industry. So as a society it is very important for us to talk about modern day slavery and to make it our mission to end slavery forever. 

 

 

Tagged: African trade beads, gold, history, ivory, modern day slavery, palm oil, sea glass, seashells, slaves, Victoria and Albert Museum

Introducing Our New Enchanting Porthole Lockets

by Lisl Armstrong | February 05, 2015 | 0 Comments

 

We are so happy to introduce our new beautifully affordable Enchanting Porthole Lockets. We launched our new locket line a few days ago and each and every one of them sold out within hours of being added to our website. Many more are on the way so stay tuned.

We fill these lockets with beautiful sea glass and beach found seashells and fossilized sharks teeth and are offering these fun lockets at bargain prices. We only work with seashells that we found ourselves abandoned by their animal on the beach. We never use any sea life items that were harvested live such as starfish, sand dollars, sea horses etc.  

Our lockets are made of highly polished stainless steel and has clear glass on a beveled frame on both sides. A magnetic clasp keeps the locket securely closed. These lockets are fun to wear and are fairly easy to open. You can rearrange or change the contents at your whim. Filling these lockets with sand or items that will crumble is not recommended because grains of sand etc. will quickly work their way into the hinge mechanism.

Tagged: bargain line, lockets, pendants, portholes, sand dollars, sea glass, sea horses, seashells, starfish

Our Living Seas

by Lisl Armstrong | January 31, 2015 | 0 Comments

A beautiful Lettered Olive Snail on a beach in Florida.

Our seas are full of amazing and exquisite sea creatures many of which are being loved to death. Most of the SAND DOLLARS, STARFISH, SEAHORSES, SEA URCHIN SPINES, SEA URCHIN PURSES, CORALS and SEASHELLS that are sold by jewelers, crafters, commercial dealers, craft stores and souvenir stores were harvested live. Many of these treasures come from the Philippines, Indonesia and many African coastal countries. The practice of harvesting these creatures en masse live is environmentally destructive.

I have travelled the world and have witnessed first hand the destruction of coral reef systems. A bleached and dead coral reef is a heartbreaking site especially if you have seen thriving coral reef systems that are teeming with colorful sea creatures. I will never forget a local in Huahine, Tahiti who was practically in tears while he was trying to explain to a tourist about the importance of living coral reefs - the tourist had just emerged from the water with a foot long branch of coral in her hand that she ripped from the reef while snorkeling. This destruction is carried out by tourists and also by the sea life/seashell industry.

The above picture is of a living Lettered Olive Snail on a beach on the west coast of Florida. The collection of living sea creatures by the sea life/seashell industry and beachgoers is depleting eco systems all over the world.

These live harvested treasures are still legally sold in the USA and throughout the world. Please think before purchasing items that may have been harvested live from the sea. Coral reefs systems and sea creatures are important for our future. Coral reef systems are akin to a rainforest in biodiversity. 

Sadly, over the years I have encountered crafters and jewelers that have told me that the seashells, sand dollars and starfish that they use were not harvested live but were actually found by them. It may come as a surprise to many, especially the frauds, that it is fairly easy for many of us to tell. I have seen many instances where jewelers and crafters have claimed that they found these items themselves on their local beaches only their local beaches are on the Atlantic seaboard and the sea life/seashells in question are species that are unique to a region in the South Pacific. It is interesting when people claim to have found these items yet have never travelled to the locations where these creatures live. There are types of seashells that live at great depths and never wash up on the beach and are harvested live by scuba divers or by dredging. I have seen instances where people claim that they found these types of seashells on the beach! There are many ways to determine if sea creatures, including seashells,  were harvested live such as by the type of species, the condition, how it was preserved. Another criteria to look for with seashells is whether or not the mother of pearl texture is visible on the exterior of the seashell. If it is that means that the seashell has been immersed in sulfuric acid to remove the exterior surface to reveal the mother of pearl texture. As a beachcomber, scuba diver and traveller I have become very familiar with ocean ecology and the sea life/ seashell industry and can usually tell, even from a photograph, if a sea creature was harvested live.

Out Of The Blue Sea Glass Jewelry never uses sea creatures such as dried starfish, sand dollars, sea urchin spines etc. or seashells that were harvested live for jewelry or in photo shoots. All of the seashells in our photographs were found by us empty on the beach.

Tagged: beach found, sand dollars, sea horses, seashells, starfish

Love, Peace & Joy

by Lisl Armstrong | December 27, 2014 | 1 Comment

Out Of The Blue Sea Glass Jewelry celebrating Christmas

 

Happy Holidays to all of you! Wishing you all a beautiful holiday season filled with Love, Light & Joy. We are on our Christmas break until January 2. All orders placed between now and January 1 will ship on January 2. We are honored to have had a very busy year. Our website just about sold out entirely during the holiday shopping season. Lots of new jewelry creations have been evolving in the studio over the last several months! We will start to restock our website early in 2015. We will be adding tons and tons of new items starting in January! 

Tagged: Holidays Christmas love light joy jewelry creations