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Ricardo Guerrini on 5/11/2007
Nice article.I know Coltros for many years(can't say how many)and despite their hard daily job,frequently stinky job,they are able to reveal real gems from the nature.I can tell you that shells are ,and they'll alwais be their hobby,never a boring job! Ricardo Guerrini,coincidently from Sao Paulo,Brazil.

Kris Woods on 30/03/2007
Hi Laurent That was an interesting article. Always good to know more about Femorale and Sao Paulo. I complain about cleaning self-collected shells(and I don't have to do too many at once!) so can appreciate the hard work put into the countless shells at Femorale- thanks for the cleaning tips too! Regards Kris

Jo Van Heesvelde on 29/03/2007
Well done Laurent...Now we know something about the Coltro's & Brazil, how to gain some weight and how to clean zebra... You didn't tell us anything in the Paris shell show ? See you & the Coltro's in the Antwerp show... Cheers Jo

Living with the Coltros: A special experience by Laurent Gorissen

see photo presentation »
During the last two shell shows in Paris, I helped José manage his table at the bourse. I couldn’t resist asking José if it would be possible to also “help” him in Brazil. Then José made a serious mistake by inviting me! So after finishing my research projects, I left the Netherlands on December 31 for São Paulo and for a totally new and special adventure.

One of my first impressions was the extremely professional way that Femorale is organized. (NO - I’M NOT BEING FORCED TO WRITE THIS, it’s my OWN observation). This is actually very necessary because the handling and cleaning of so many shells requires special skills. I never saw such a large turnover of specimens. Until now I had been one of the collectors receiving only perfectly clean and identified material who had no idea of how much work is involved until a shell gets to be so neat; now there I was allowed to clean my favorite families (cowries and ovulids) and had a small taste of how difficult it can be.

WELL, I am very happy that I’m not a shell dealer, please let me explain.

For example, Cypraea arabicula has a very narrow aperture, so getting the animal out is a hard and frustrating task, especially when cleaning large numbers. You need to use a needle and try to get hold of the animal which often breaks into pieces or leaves some remaining inside of the shell….. it is impossible to blast the animal out using a powerful jet of water (and they have a high pressure hose). I didn’t see any cowry-flesh eating ants in the lab, so don’t believe on those reported fairy tales meat-eating ants. The most difficult cowry to clean is Cypraea zebra! Check the pictures - a single shell produces an incredible amount of slime and the shell becomes impossible to handle as it gets very slippery, even the water hose…..the boys in the lab got several free showers (so that was a true “puta merda” moment – an expression I learned very quickly from them). So for a zebra, I think they should add an extra charge for cleaning them!

Besides seeing the business, the most special part for me was living with Brazilian people and especially with the Coltros. Every Brazilian I met was very open and warm (compared to the more reserved Dutch, this was an eye-opener for me). The Coltros and their friends are no exception.
There is never a dull moment, as José and Marcia really love to have family and friends in their home and take good care of everyone.

see photo presentation »

A true ritual happens every Saturday morning: José goes to his little kingdom, the street market!!
José knows everyone and everyone knows him. In addition to a talent for selecting the best shells for collectors, he is also a true expert in picking out the best fruit, meat and vegetables available at this market. That’s also why I really loved Brazilian FOOD prepared in their home. José warned me that I should be prepared to gain some weight, well I did gain some (5 kilos), but based on the amount I ate, it should have been closer to 100 kg……..ehm I fear some kind of tapeworm living inside me also enjoyed all the good food.

I was there in February, and it was carnival time! Luckily Thais (José’s and Marcia’s daughter) was there to give me the appropriate beauty treatment: a tiger face! Well I must admit you need some imagination to recognize it. During carnival, José celebrated his birthday, together with his special friend Luiz Viscardi…….they had a surprise party with all the dancers from a Carnival school, singers, and a huge barbeque. For sure, they know how to party and make a superb barbeque!

And now my last and most extraordinary discovery: you always thought that José and Marcus were answering your e-mails and identifying shells… No - it is Thais!!!!!!!!!! OK she is only 4 and already CEO of Femorale, taking care of everything! You might not believe me, well luckily I have the pictures!

Many, many thanks to José & Marcus and the employes of Femorale, for having me at the office. I really enjoyed working with them all. Special thanks to José & Marcia for having me in their home for such a long time.


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