Wind instruments A gentle breeze is all it takes to stir wind chimes to life, and their soothing music suggests the wonder of nature

Focus on wind chimes

July 26, 1998|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,Sun Staff

Lawrence Weisgal had never really thought much about wind chimes until his sister sent him one as a gift. He was so intrigued by its melodic sounds and the decorative look of its dangling metal pieces he decided to make his own.

"The next thing I knew I had 74 of them all over the house," the Hampden resident says. "I couldn't even walk around."

Such is the lure of wind chimes, those (usually) small mobiles that ring with a gentle tinkling sound when a breeze stirs them. Weisgal now makes wind chimes, often out of silverware, for a living. He sells them at crafts shows and stores like Mud & Metal in Hampden.

He's picked the right time to go into the wind chime business. Think of them as garden decor, at a time when gardening has never been more popular. They add the element of sound to an outdoor living space - a garden, deck or patio - much as a well-placed urn filled with flowers pleases the eye.

"Wind chimes put you in touch with nature," says Betsy Garthwaite of Woodstock Percussion, one of the nation's largest manufacturers. "Wind chimes are man-made, but they make you think of the wind blowing through the trees, the sound of water. It's pastoral, natural."

Wind chimes placed in a sun room filled with plants help blur the distinction between indoors and out even further. The air currents inside are strong enough to produce delicate sound every once in a while, or you can hang them by an open window.

Garthwaite has seen a striking increase in the popularity of wind chimes in the past few years, judging both by Woodstock's sales and the growing number of competitors.

People like to give them as gifts, particularly for housewarmings and weddings. Seventy to 80 percent of Woodstock's sales, she estimates, are driven by gift buying.

There's another reason for wind chimes' popularity. Interest in all things Asian is strong right now. Feng shui, the almost mystical Chinese art of interior design and landscaping, has become mainstream. In the ancient Orient, chimes were hung around temples and homes to ward off evil spirits. Placed at an entrance, they warned of intruders. Modern-day feng shui uses wind chimes to stimulate and balance the energy flow of a home. More important to most people, their sound is relaxing, like a bubbly fountain.

Well, to almost everyone.

"We go back and forth on whether they get on people's nerves, although they keep on selling," says Bill Steinmetz, whose Store Ltd. in Cross Keys carries several varieties. Wind chimes can, of course, enrage cranky neighbors. One man's pleasing sounds are another man's irritatingly random tinkle.

Woodstock is the high end, musically speaking, of what has become a varied and fascinating art form. Not many other crafts appeal equally to the eye and ear. Artists use silverware, porcelain shapes, copper tubing, colored glass - almost anything that creates a harmonious sound when brushed together by a breeze.

Classic wind chimes have several elements in common: metal tubes that sound when struck; a wind catcher that moves a string hung with a clapper; the clapper itself, which strikes the tubes; thin nylon lines; and a holding piece from which everything is suspended. Wind chimes made from porcelain or glass usually don't have clappers; the elements strike one another.

It's not that difficult to create your own wind chimes out of materials that mean something to you personally - shells from a beach vacation, metal found objects. Let your imagination be your guide. Just don't get carried away the way wind chime artist Lawrence Weisgal did.

Creating your own wind chimes

If you have nylon fishing line, a collection of found objects and something to hang your objects from, you can make your own wind chimes.

Here are some suggestions:

* Metal discs: Save the lids when you open a tin can. Use a large one (perhaps a coffee-can lid) as the top from which the others hang.

* Shells: Look for ones with holes in them. You could hang them from a small piece of driftwood.

* Old keys in various sizes and shapes

* Pieces of colored glass

* Coins

* Hollow pieces of wood

* Ceramic pieces: Make your own from clay.

* Old silverware

Pub Date: 7/26/98

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