When most people think about the Outer Banks of North Carolina, they immediately picture crashing ocean waves, sunken ships, wonderful seafood, lighthouses, and Duck Donuts, but as a result of a lunch Steve and I enjoyed there recently, I will always consider OBX synonymous with Pembroke Bryant IV.
Pembroke IV and Pembroke V are affectionately known around Manteo, N.C. as Pem (the dad) and Pippa (his 7-year-old daughter). The sight of either of them, separately or together, never fails to elicit smiles from the townspeople who have watched both of them grow up in their sight. Pem moved to Manteo before his senior year in high school, and, except for his college years, he's never left. Nor does he plan to.
But why am I writing today about Pem Bryant? The answer is simple. When I visit an area as a travel writer, I always inquire about local artists or one-of-a-kind, unique-to-the-area features. The name immediately recommended to me was Pem's, so I was very happy when a meeting could be arranged. I found him personable and engaging from the first moment and want to share my reasons to draw your attention to his name.
Pem is known worldwide as an exceptional sea glass jeweler. In his years growing up on the Outer Banks, he collected thousands of pieces that remain in boxes at his house. But, over time, he developed an insatiable curiosity about the history of various types and colors of sea glass. He took a class in metallurgy at a nearby community college and acquired skill with an acetylene torch. That process clicked for him, and he went on to attend many other metalsmithing and fine jewelry-making classes, always with his eyes on how to incorporate sea glass. Then, he began seeking out the highest quality of sea glass pieces available in other parts of the world, which led to his specialty in fine jewelry using rare sea glass as his gemstones.
Pem is known for his work with victim advocacy and for fathers' rights. He graduated with a degree in philosophy (pre-law) from the University of Mary Washington in Fredricksburg, VA. and met a young man a few years later who was a victim who desperately needed an advocate. Pem encouraged, guided, and befriended the young man and stays in touch even now, which is especially convenient because that young man has moved right across the street from him. As for fathers' rights, Pem has full custody of his daughter. Pem had a bright future in the legal field, but he didn't feel that it brought out his best self. When he came home to find himself, sea glass won the race to be his inspiration and motivation, career-wise.
Pem is a devoted father who participates completely in Pippa's upbringing. He applauds and coaches as she sets her mind on jumping off the town's popular bridge and swimming to the side (something he describes as a rite of passage in Manteo). He teaches her bike safety, listens as she learns to read, and insists on her saying please, thank you, yes ma'am, no sir, etc. etc. Together they regularly attend Coastal Family Church as he promotes Pippa's spiritual growth.
Pem has not let coronavirus deter him. For the last 15+ years, Pem's source of income has been his jewelry with much of it coming through the fine arts shows he participates in around the Southeast. Because of COVID, those were all canceled this year. While he waits for their return, he substitutes in area schools and gives lectures about his jewelry.
Pem reveals that he's a team player by being a full participant in the KDH Cooperative, a gallery with studios and space for about 50 artists to display and sell their work. He takes his turn in minding the store and is an encourager of all the artists. KDH, by the way, stands for Kill Devil Hills.
Going against the grain of popular thought among many of his peers, Pem is a staunch conservative politically. For some reason, the majority of artists and travel writers APPEAR to be very liberal and left-leaning in their views. Once we gingerly established each other's views about the current political climate and realized we shared the same feelings, our conversation really took off. How refreshing!
Pem is committed to excellence. He searches out the finest pieces from his contacts around the world, and he continues to perfect his techniques with gold and silver. He is also uncompromising with his sea glass techniques and takes countless measurements to keep from altering a piece in any way to fit into a design. The design must fit the sea glass, not the other way around. He views sea glass the way "regular" jewelers might view a diamond but considers it a reverse process. This is the description included on each piece he sells at KDH Cooperative: "The process of refining shards of authentic sea glass is strangely similar to that of diamonds, only in reverse. While diamonds are natural products refined by man, sea glass is taken from man and, over time, refined by nature. Just as it is with diamonds, no two pieces of authentic sea glass will ever be the same!" Isn't that a remarkable perspective?
I was inspired by Pem Bryant -- his dedication to his daughter, his work with those who need an advocate, his conservative beliefs, and his uncompromising pursuit of excellence in his work. Check out his website (www.SeaSandAndHand.com) if you want to know more and see additional examples of his work. The website also includes some fascinating, short, educational videos.
I think these are qualities that are pleasing to God, and I want to be known similarly.
Philippians 4:8 -- "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."
Colossians 3:23 -- "Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,"
Proverbs 22:29 -- "Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men."
Psalm 140:12 -- "I know that the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and will execute justice for the needy."