For those on the East Coast or in Canada you’ve probably heard about it and that it’s known for being old currency. It’s been used for centuries both pre and post contact. Made from the quahog clam shell and the occasional whelk shell for all white beads, wampum is most often sought after for its dark purple hues and banded patterns. The shell was carved into beads and strung on Condolence strings for mourning a death, or into large belts used in ceremonies like weddings, and treaties. Wampum belts can be seen in many museums. Purple wampum would stand for war, and white would stand for peace. Although used by many different Woodlands (Eastern) tribes, it is most famously used by the Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) who have two sacred origin myths for wampum that tie into the creation of the Iroquois Confederacy. When settlers came they assumed wampum was used for money by the way it was prized and traded and began trading in it as well. Wampum today is rarely seen and is difficult to carve. The shell is considered sacred, and most “wampum” is now made in replica glass form. The genuine high grade wampum I use I find myself on the beaches here. I cut, trim, grind, sand, and polish these shells into useable pieces.
I’ve been using wampum throughout my work for years and years at this point. Here are some older works:
I’ll be offering some new wampum work including for the first time wampum shells that can be used as ring dishes. These shells are too small or thin to cut up and use but are perfect little collectibles. The backs has been ground off and both sides polished to preserve their beauty…
That’s all for now folks! Thanks for having a look x