My name is Becky Lang and I make jewelry from otoliths. What is an Otolith? Otoliths are the inner ear bones of a fish. They are composed of calcium carbonate and they grow as the fish grows. Otoliths are used by Marine biologists to age the fish much like the rings of a tree let us know how old the tree is. In making my jewelry, I don’t alter the otoliths in any way. The only harvest my otoliths from the waters of Great Slave Lake.
As a commercial fisherman of Indigenous descent I am always interested in using as much of the fish as possible as I’ve been taught to do from childhood. Before discovering about the existence of otoliths I would fillet and smoke the fish and sell it to customers around Yellowknife, with my primary focus being at the Yellowknife farmers market. When I first found out about the otoliths, I did some research to see if they had a use and discovered that they are used by artists to create jewelry of various designs.
My first effort in making my own jewelry was that I made a pair of earrings for myself and it grew from there. The pieces I make are simple and elegant at the same time. I use settings of Sterling silver, gold, and hypoallergenic materials. I really enjoy using my artistic side to see what kind of designs I can create so I can share these “pearls” of the Great Slave Lake with others who enjoy them as well.
The design process has really allowed my artistic side to grow over the last few years using not only my own opinions but those of others as well. I love to invite comments from my customers and others as to what they might like to see and then do my best to bring the ideas to life.
Another almost surprising result of my endeavours in making this jewelry is that it has really helped me to connect with my Metis heritage in many ways. A large part of my youth involved harvesting from the land alongside my family as we picked berries, hunted for meat and of course fish in order to keep good healthy food on the table. I’ve tried to continue those traditions as an adult and in keeping with my heritage, I prefer to use as much of what I harvest as possible. It brings me happiness to know that the jewelry I make comes from the fish I harvest to eat-it is that full-circle process of life that I enjoy being a part of.