If you like authentic, there is nothing like a paperweight made out of an actual spider web, silvered (O.K., aluminum-ed) and preserved in an orb of glass. ABC Carpet & Home, in Manhattan, has been selling them for the past few months, for $45 to $110.
But who, we wondered, was the light-fingered adventurer who brought them back so finely preserved? Web sleuthing turned up Emil Fiore, known as Rocky, a contractor of all trades who sells spider-web products on his site, Whirledwidewebs.com. Mr. Fiore, who is 58 and stalks his prey primarily in New Jersey, talked to us last week from his home in Dumont, N.J., where he was recovering from hernia surgery. And yes, he said, he had delayed the surgery until the web-hunting season (i.e., warm weather) was over.
How did you develop an interest in spider webs?
I read about how to catch a web when I was just a kid, I think in a little Golden Guide — they had crafts for kids. They suggested you spray the web with hair spray and dust it with talcum powder. I held the concept in my head for years.
What was it that fascinated you?
Just that ordinarily the web lasts for a matter of hours.
Really? Just a few hours?
Most spiders take the web down and rebuild it every day. They eat it — they're the original recyclers.
I thought cobwebs stayed there for months.
A cobweb is something different. I don't catch cobwebs. A cobweb is an obscure mass of silk that has no form or format or style; it's just strands. A spider web shows some form of architecture or style. They're called spider webs or orbs. Both are used to ensnare prey.
Are you saying some spiders are better web makers than others?
No, it's just a matter of modus operandi. Indoors you will find mostly cobwebs, because the orb weavers are after flying insects. Cobweb weavers are just after anything that crawls into their web.
Tell me about your first webs.
I was working with stained glass, and it somehow occurred to me to go out and try to sandwich a web between those two pieces of glass. I used to grow a nice vegetable garden that had some spiders hanging out. I sprayed the web with black spray paint, then I sandwiched it between two glasses. It was crude, but effective. This was 35 years ago. But after 10 years, it began to fall apart. I realized by spraying varnish on the glass, I could use just one piece, and it caught the web much better. And I experimented with every darn silver spray paint there is. Now I use Krylon high-heat aluminum paint.
Where do you hunt for webs now that you've gone commercial?
Primarily at the Alpine and Englewood marinas, in Palisades Park. Along the docks there are always spiders' webs. The moisture of the river generates a lot of insects, and if you've got a lot of insects, one thing leads to another. The Palisades Park people actually issued me a permit to collect spider webs in the park. The season is May to September.
And Key Largo, in October. They have a lot of Cyclosa conica, spiders that are only about an eighth of an inch. One cool thing about them, the males make perfect little orb webs that can be as small as an eighth of an inch in diameter. The females' can be up to a foot across. Even when they are that big, the knit is very fine, like a window screen.
What do you do if you find a dead thing in the web?
The prey stays, and it will show quite often: the wings, the antenna, the legs. A lot of people like it. It adds a touch of realism; it adds more to the story: "Oh, there's a bug that got caught — lunch."
I keep wondering why the idea of capturing spider webs has stayed with you since you were 7 years old.
The webs are beautiful. Sometimes they are almost mandala-like. One can sit and stare at the form for some time, and you are drawn in.
Why do you use silver paint instead of gold?
Gold discolors in about six months. I think I have tried every gold spray paint.
You could do colors.
Sure I could, but the silver looks like dew on the web.
Spiderweb Under Glass paperweights are $45 to $110 at ABC Carpet & Home, 888 Broadway (19th Street); (212) 473-3000 or abchome.com. For information on other spider-web products: whirledwidewebs.com.
Link to The New York Times Article
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