#22 February 1989
Section 22.214.171.124.022.of the Artemis Data Book
by Peter Kokh
May 18, 1980 started out to be a day of spectacular demonstration that human 'conquest' of nature was but a veneer. That was the day that Mount St. Helens blew its top. In time, however, enterprising Washingtonians put the unwanted inches of white ash that buried much of their state to an amazing variety of uses.
To be sure, much of this ash was merchandised tongue-in-cheek. The same people who once fell in love with cute little "pet rocks" at $5 apiece, were now lining up to buy MSH ash for "pet food" for these critters. The ash found its way into novelty gift soap bars, ash ant farms, candles, terrariums, gag salt, pepper, and ash shaker sets, and bean bag chairs.
Ash-filled souvenirs quickly appeared such as paperweights, pens, good luck charms, hour glasses, etc. But what caught my interest immediately was the way in which serious local arts and crafts people quickly found ways to express themselves in this suddenly abundant ash-cheap new material. Potters, glassmakers, sculptors, and painters all began experimenting with the stuff and producing items of exceptional character and beauty.
What in the universe, you ask, does this have to do with the Moon? The answer should jump out at you. The previous article, FIRST EXPORT$, highlighted the SSI brainstorming idea that the glass nodules and iron fines in the tailings from the lunar soil run through a pilot liquid oxygen production plant could fetch a high price on Earth if turned into novelty jewelry and coins 'made-on-the-Moon'. The assumption here is that the vast bulk of the ash-like soil could not be turned into comparable profits. Not so!
I do endorse the glass jewelry and iron coin idea for an icebreaker lunar enterprise since the 'made-on-the-Moon' aura will definitely add extra market value to the extraterrestrial origin of the material itself. BUT the artistic quality of such 'machine-made' trinkets and the number of people who will want to pay the price both work to limit the potential of this gambit.
This first junior chamber of commerce effort should be immediately followed by a bi-world enterprise in which a group of human artisans commissioned by the venture company fetching the lunar soil, would turn the common 'Moondust' into objects of more genuine beauty, right here an Earth. The price of their works could be kept high by the simple device of using the Moondust as an accent, a garnish, an ingredient adding striking character to objects the bulk of whose materials are Earth-derived, The results would be nonetheless authentic and certified LUNAR SOUVENIRS. To illustrate:
Moonscapes created with lunar soils of various shadings in an earthly glass-glass sandwich (wall-art, jewelry box lids, pendants, votive candle glasses etc.). Fine terrestrial glassware (bridal registry quality or prestige barware) with etching like patterns made with lunar fines. Decorative mirrors, clock faces, and other items made similarly. Fine earthly china and pottery in which Moondust is used as a striking glaze accent. Lamp bases and glass shades, candlestick holders, book ends made similarly. As colored glass fiber combined with earth glass matrix in striking and illustrative glass-glass composite (GLAX*) creations from paperweights in 1x4x9cm '2001' monolith style to luxury door knobs and pulls, 'Moon-pearl' necklaces and earrings, abacus beads, and prestige desktop name plates. And this is just a starter. Homework can be done now, both with MSH ash and using some of the lunar simulants available at $1/lb. The possibilities are far more numerous, the attainable quality higher, and the market far less shallow for items made-from-Moondust-by-an-artist-on-Earth than those made-on-the-Moon-by-machine.
[Special thanks to my sister Mary Wegmann and to Jack Estes both of Peninsula College, Port Angeles, Washington and to Carla Rickerson, head of the Pacific Northwest Collection, University of Washington Libraries, Seattle, for their research assistance and suggestions.]
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