Pen shells trimmed with beards

I knew my love for reading the BBC World News section would pan out eventually. Today’s article was about Sea Silk, or fiber spun from the solidified saliva of a large clam.

Image result for byssus sea silk art

Yup. Chiara Vigo dives into the ocean, harvests the spit (or beard) that anchors the clams to the ground, and turns it into fine, elastic thread that she spins, then weaves/embroiders etc. into textiles that churches and art museums all over the world want. Don’t quote me on that though. The internet being closer than a library, I ain’t ashamed to say this Wikipedia was a good start to learn where this craft has popped through time and across cultures.

Sidebar: it also led to searching for “Mermaid hair” which brought up algae…you’re welcome.

My favorite find from trawling the interwebs, is “Spirals in Time: The Secret Life and Curious Afterlife of Seashells” by Helen Scales, which is now featured prominently on my Need to Read post-it note list. One section delves into Sea Silk, and the vagaries of mussels. During an experiment it appeared that the more a mussel is agitated, the more solidified saliva (byssus)  it produces. Thankfully, “This was done by an automated mussel-bothering machine, not a sleepless grad student.” Shew. 


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