Creative Course Club: Salt to Stone

A smiling adult reading a book.Salt is a mineral that is found in every culture on the planet. Mark Kurlansky, in his book Salt: A World History, explains that there are over 14,000 uses for salt. Borax (Sodium Tetraborate) is a popular member of the salt family. Borax, unlike table salt (NaCl), is not something you want to sprinkle on your food. Borax (Na₂[B₄O₅(OH)₄] ·8H₂O) is commonly used as a detergent. However, you can find Borax at work in everything from cosmetics to fiberglass and insecticide. A fairly inexpensive product, Borax is available in most cleaning supply aisles. Commercial Borax comes dehydrated and pulverized into a fine powder. However, much like its edible cousins, pulverization is reversible. This means that borax can be grown and manipulated into amazing works of art. Take for example the works of Sigalit Landau and Alexis Arnold.

Sigalit Ethel Landau, is an Israeli artist taking saline art to the next level. Landau makes her art using the Dead Sea, a land-locked lake almost ten times as salty as the ocean, and the summer heat. To see some of her amazing pieces visit her website.

Alexis Arnold, a San Francisco artist, has taken a “literal” approach to Borax art. Among her popular exhibitions is the “Crystallized Books” work. Arnold freezes an assortment of books into an array of colorful and fascinating positions using Borax crystallization. Visit her website, to see examples of this work.

For some more fun ideas with Borax crystals, check out these videos:

How to Crystalize a Flower

DIY Crystallized Jars and Bottles

STEAM: Make a Crystal Yeti by Jamie Hudson

Titles available exclusively on Hoopla Digital: 

Salt by Nancy Robinson Masters

You eat salt every day, but did you know that only 20% of the world’s salt is consumed as food? Read this book to learn more about how salt is harvested, its other uses, and why wars have been fought over this common, yet important, mineral.

Salt: Grain of Life by Pierre Laszlo

From proverbs to technical arguments, from anecdotes to examples of folklore, chemist and philosopher Pierre Laszlo takes us through the kingdom of “white gold.” With “enthusiasm and freshness” (Le Monde), he mixes literary analysis, history, anthropology, biology, physics, economics, art history, political science, chemistry, ethnology and linguistics to create a full body of knowledge about the everyday substance that rocked the world and brings zest to the ordinary.

Know Your Food: Salt by Michael Centore

Salt doesn’t just make food taste better. Since ancient times, this compound has had profound effects on food, culture and trade. Meanwhile, having too much or too little salt in your diet can cause serious health problems. This book explores the historical, nutritional and economic importance of what chemists call NaCl and what the rest of us call salt. The media is full of advice about what foods to eat and what to avoid. Unfortunately, the advice is constantly changing and often contradictory. Know Your Food explains the real story about what’s on your plate.

Crystal Legends by Moyra Caldecott

Crystals and gemstones have been a source of fascination since Neolithic times; they endure when the bones of those they have adorned have turned to dust. Such was the profundity of crystal lore that ancient peoples incorporated crystals and gemstones as dynamic and potent symbols in their legends and myths. In Crystal Legends, Caldecott approaches crystals from a new angle, retelling the stories drawn from world mythology that show the significance of crystals and precious stones as symbolic icons in a variety of traditions. She gives in-depth commentaries on their esoteric meaning and their significance for us today.

Rocks and Minerals: Get the Dirt on Geology by Chris Eboch and Alexis Cornell

Did you know that minerals were necessary for the beginning of life? Or that geothermal power could provide all the energy the world needs? Planet Earth is our home, but how much do you really know about the world beneath your feet? Rocks and Minerals: Get the Dirt on Geology offers a glimpse under the surface of the earth and explores the forces that have shaped-and continue to shape-our world.

The Smithsonian National Gem Collection: Unearthed by Jeffrey Edward Post

Dr. Jeffrey E. Post, curator of the National Gem Collection for more than 25 years, separates fact from fiction in an all-new and original book, revealing fresh information and regaling the reader with anecdotes and tales of some of the world’s greatest and most famous gemstones. In this brand-new book, Dr. Post tells the stories of the Smithsonian’s most famous gems, including the Hope Diamond, Star of Asia Sapphire, Carmen Lucia Ruby, Hooker Emerald and Blue Heart Diamond-and also presents the tales, details and fascinating facts surrounding rarely displayed gems from the Smithsonian vault and additions made to the collection since 1997. Not only a resource for learning about rare and beautiful gems, the book also presents the stories of the people who once owned or were associated with these jewels-from ordinary people to kings, emperors, maharajas, celebrities and captains of industry.

Salt: A World History

Homer called salt a divine substance. Plato described it as especially dear to the gods. Today we take salt for granted, a common, inexpensive substance that seasons food or clears ice from roads, a word used casually in expressions (“salt of the earth” or “take it with a grain of salt”) without appreciating their deeper meaning. However, as Mark Kurlansky so brilliantly relates in his world-encompassing new book, salt—the only rock we eat—has shaped civilization from the very beginning. Its story is a glittering, often surprising part of the history of mankind.

Title also available on OverDrive.