An island artist used washed-ashore hard and soft corals to fashion a timepiece-and-wristband after misreading a reef conservation flyer. (photo courtesy of Jerrod Ephesians)
A misreading of an environmental announcement on Blacktip Island this week led to an island artist’s creating a line of wristwatches made of coral.
“The sign said they wanted everyone to participate in ‘the Coral Watch’ over the weekend, so that’s exactly what I did,” said island artist Jerrod Ephesians. “I collected bits of sea fans, hard coral and soft coral from the beach, ground down the stuff I needed and made a watch from it. It was a bit big, but looks-wise it rocked.
“The clockwork mechanisms inside are solid state, and it runs on a battery, but the face, hands and wristband are all repurposed coral,” Ephesians said. “I made a bunch more as unique mementos for people who want to feel connected to the reef. I was surprised as anyone else when I found out the announcement meant literally looking at coral. A wristwatch makes way more sense.”
Island environmentalists were not amused.
“Jerrod’s nonsense undercuts everything we’re trying to accomplish,” environmental activist Harry Pickett said. “We’re encouraging people to be mindful of, and protective of, our fragile reefs, not use their skeletons as fashion accessories. You don’t ‘repurpose’ coral. He’s scavenging it off the beach and destroying wildlife habitat.
“These watches trivialize reef preservation,” Pickett said. “People won’t participate if they’re busy snickering. And now copycats will be out tearing up live coral for their artsy-fartsy creations.”
Others took a more lighthearted view.
“The best part of all this to me isn’t Jerrod doing one of his off-the-wall takes on something, it’s that he made an actual watch,” Wendy Beaufort said. “I mean, who wears a watch anymore? Now, if he made a coral dive computer, or a coral cell phone, that would’ve been useful.
“I guess it works as jewelry, if you’re into that kind of thing,” Beaufort said. “But as a functioning timepiece? I don’t get it. And using dead coral really does send the wrong message.”
Ephesians defended his creations.
“They’re not meant to be functioning timepieces. That’s the beauty of them,” he said. “They’re works of art, a throwback to the Medieval and Renaissance clocks that were beautiful art pieces, but were crap at telling time. The guts are $20 Timexes. You want the exact time, check your phone.
“Long-term, this will actually get people more interested in the reef,” Ephesians said. “And no live coral was harmed in making this watch. I used only coral washed up on the beach. What was I supposed to do, throw the black coral back?”
The original watch will be on display at the island’s Heritage House. Ephesians’ line of watches will be available exclusively through island outdoors retailer Bamboo You.