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Excerpt from a letter written by Glen Zirbes* of McGregor, Iowa, November 9, 1964


"....About all I can tell is that he was a deaf-mute and I believe cripple....I believe he did some of his work at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago. His brother, Mr. Albert Clemens, taught me some of his techniques in putting the sand pictures in the bottles and I will try to recall this for you. In order to create the fine detail in his pictures he used only the finest grains of sand. Sifting the sand was not enough and crushing the sand would destroy some color. His method was to use a piece of heavy paper that he roughened by grinding sand on to it. Then the sand (colored) would be poured on the paper and then poured off. What remained on the paper was almost dust and was fine enough for use. His tools included a scoop, a sharply pointed stick, a stick with a point and bent to form a hook and a stick with a paddle-shaped end. With these tools the sands of various colors could be put in the bottle and then the points of sticks would guide the sand to the proper place to make the pattern or design. The final operation was to pack the sand so that it would not run and ruin the design. This was done by holding a stopper in the bottle opening and tapping the bottle on a surface such as cork. This was a tedious and time consuming job to do it right...."

*Mr. Zirbes' mother worked in the Clemens household occasionally.


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