October 21, 2020

Ex Hell’s Angel buffs up at The Bikini House


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“It’ll take more than a lifetime for me to use the coral I’ve got.” said Carey Hurlstone

Carey Hurlstone has been running “Carey’s Black Coral” for 30 years. He was born in South Sound in 1936, just along from where he lives today, and works making beautiful jewellery from black coral in a wooden workshop he built himself called The Bikini House.

Along with black coral, The Bikini House holds a rather unusual collection of ladies’ thongs. The garments hang from the ceiling of the shop and Mr. Hurlstone says he likes collecting them and often asks people who visit the shop to make a donation. He keeps a record of all the thong donations in a special book called the Thong Book.

Another one of Mr. Hurlstone’s passions is collecting marbles, and his shelves in the Bikini House are filled with jars of them – reflecting all colours of the rainbow.

When he was 17, Mr. Hurlstone went away to sea like most other young Caymanian men, working with the merchant marine, for the US company National Bulk Carriers.

He was only with them for about a year, he said, when he jumped ship at Martinez, California, and signed up with a different outfit – the Hell’s Angels. The Japanese cook who worked on Mr. Hurlstone’s ship had taught him all about judo. Mr. Hurlstone was having a dockside fight using his newly learnt Judo moves, but he didn’t know he was being watched by a member of the Oakland chapter of the Hell’s Angels.

“A man came up to me and said, ‘Do you know how to ride a motorbike?’ I said, ‘No.’ Then the man said,” If you show me how to do that, I’ll show you how to ride a bike.

Carey Hurlstone has been making beautiful jewellery from black coral for 30 years.

“I went back into the ship to get my passport, and say goodbye, and then I rode off, to join the Oakland Hell’s Angels,” Mr. Hurlstone said.

After just over three years with the Angels, Mr. Hurlstone left and made his way back home to the Cayman Islands. “I couldn’t trust my brothers in the Hell’s Angels,” he said.

After joining up with the merchant marine all over again, but this time spending several years sailing with them, Mr. Hurlstone came back home, yet again, but this time to settle down for good.

“My life changed when I met my wife, Merrill,” Mr. Hurlstone said.

Mr. Hurlstone first found work as a carpenter, and later, when others in Cayman were working on Black Coral, he and a friend went diving down 175 feet – they filled many containers with black coral, which have lasted him ever since.

It was a good idea, because a few years later, there was a ban on gathering black coral. But Mr. Hurlstone isn’t worried that he’ll use it all up, “It’ll take more than a lifetime for me to use the coral I’ve got,” he said.

The Bikini House holds a rather unusual collection of ladies’ thongs.

Mr. Hurlstone’s jewellery is very affordable, ranging in price from around 25 dollars to 60 dollars. He makes earrings and pendants mostly, ranging from stingrays to crosses.

You wonder how anything so beautiful can be made from the raw black coral, which looks like old, sandy black twigs. But Mr. Hurlstone is a true craftsman, and he showed me all the different stages the coral goes through to make it shine like black gold.

“I use four different cutters, three grades of sand paper, and finally, car wax with jeweller’s rouge which I apply before I finish it with a buffer,” he said.

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