Tag Archives: long island

Clamshells as Folk Objects – Long Island, NY


Informant KC was a current undergraduate student at the University of Southern California at the time of this collection and was raised in the east end of Long Island, NY.

When speaking with KC, they told me how clamming is a source of income and entertainment for many living along/near the coast along the east end of Long Island. They mentioned how people use large rake-like tools to sift through the sand while searching for clams. Once the clams had been cracked open, emptied, and cleaned, KC explained how the shells are often “repurposed” as folk objects. After cleaning, the shells can be decorated, painted, or kept looking “natural.”

In listing the many unique uses for old clamshells they mentioned how they have seen them repurposed as…


  • Spoon rests
  • Ashtrays
  • Plant pots
  • Jewelry holders


After speaking with KC, I considered how these examples of folk objects help illustrate/represent the identity and interest of east end Long Islanders. Whereas outsiders might not understand the repurposing of a clamshell or mistake it for a commercially bought object, insiders (east end Long Islanders) have a different connection to these objects as reflections of their identity and customs. This leads me to believe that east end long islanders might hold shared values of sustainability and/or craftiness which are able to be expressed through these repurposed clamshells.