Harmony Hollow Bell Works 800 468 2355 Established in 1969

Bells Proclaim the Tones Which Touch the Soul
as Bell Makers Ply an Ancient Craft

Bradley and Dell Vaughan of Michigan Magazine

From Michigan Magazine
Aug - Sep - Oct 1999

Dell Vaughan: Folks, you might wonder where we are today. As you might know, listening to all these beautiful chimes, we are here at Harmony Hollow. We're down here at Ann Arbor, Michigan, and I'm with Bradley Cross, the real entrepreneur, the proprietor-owner of these beautiful sounds that you hear. Well, Bradley, thanks so much for having us down here to Ann Arbor to your Harmony Hollow Bell Works.

Bradley Cross: Well, welcome.

And, well, Harmony Hollow, I guess the first thing is to ask you about Harmony Hollow. Give us a little definition there.

O.K. We make bells and chimes, and the concept of Harmony Hollow comes from the sounds of harmony, and hollow is from the bell. A bell is hollow. And when it rings in the wind, it creates harmony. We make many different styles of bells all having many different tones.

Now you were saying something about the positive and the negative.

Well, the Yin and Yang of the harmony partnership of opposites. Here's a wonderful chime here. It has a tremendous resonance.

Oh, boy!

This one happens to have a quartz crystal built in. And this sound comes from aluminum, a solid aluminum rod. What's interesting, we were talking about the partnership of opposites is the clapper, the source of all vibrations in this chime, is that partnership of opposites. It's similar to a male and a female, a night and a day--that harmony. So the vibration starts from that source of harmony, and the physical vibrations from these rods send it out and, that's what you hear.

My gosh! It is very, very high quality. Give us a little background on yourself. What were you doing in your prior life before this here, Bradley?

Well, actually before I was into bells, I was in Natural Resources, and I have two degrees from the University of Michigan in Natural Resources, and I used to consult in Wild Land Management Systems Management in Latin America.

Is that right.

And our family, my brother, had this bell business, and through tragic circumstances, I ended up inheriting this, and so we've carried this on, and this is now my life style and my business.

Does Natural Resources play any part in what you do today?

Well, we recycle a lot of metal, so we're conscious of the environment, but I'm not actively consulting in my former career.

Well, now what do you do here? I mean you make bells, you make chimes. Give us some background to the story.

Well, my brother started it in 1969, so this is our 29th year. We started with bells. That was his passion--bells. And we're one of five bell makers in the United States, and we probably make more bells than any other bell maker in the United States. I'm pretty sure of that. We definitely make more bells and chimes, the combination, than anybody in the country, a better selection of designs than anybody in the country because to make chimes is one specialty, to make bells is another. We've combined that. In fact, we've gone a step further. We also make bell mobiles and chime mobiles, so we've got mobiles, chimes, bells. We make a lot of garden accents. We make the stakes you see at art fairs walking around that wave in the wind. We call them dancing garden motifs.


And those are popular. We make a hundred different varieties of these stakes and motifs. You can also get a motif, for example, on top of a bell, a hundred different shapes on top of a bell. This one we call a Friendship Bell because of the hand. And this is a bell people would give to a buddy. Let's say we were buddies, and you were going to move away, I'd give you this bell, and when it rings in the wind, then you'll remember me.

Isn't that neat. Look at these. What do you call these guys?

This one is what is called the Heart Triad. It's very symetrical. Get two of the same bells in a nice triad, and then one down here has a slightly different sound to it.
And there's a 350 year guarantee on this.
All of our bells come with a 350 year guarantee. People think that's exaggerating, but bells have been around since 2500 B.C., and they still ring. We stand behind it.

What has been the most extraordinary request you've ever had in this field, bells or chimes, has there been?

There have been a lot of different high points in it, but I think the thing I like the most is designing bells that really touch people in their emotional core such as the wedding bells that we started out with, these two bells on one bracket symbolizing the joining of two people into a harmonious couple. We've now got this Friendship Bell. We've got gardener's bells, housewarming bells for people to help turn a house into a home. When they hear that sound, they know they're home. So these stories, that emotional touch of what a bell really goes to when you hear it, and it personifies that, people like that.

You ship all over the world.

Yes, we do.

Tell us a little bit about that.

Well, we're on the internet now, and we've been there for a couple of years. Harmony Hollow.com, and believe it or not, we get orders from Israel, from England, from Australia, from Japan. Most of our business truly is not international. Most of it is here in the United States, but we ship everyday to throughout the whole country. People are interested in these kinds of bells. They're going to know about us, stores as well as individuals, because there are just not that many bells. It's kind of a lost art.
People can go on the internet, and they can listen to the bells. Every single bell is recorded, every single chime is recorded. And then all these motifs that you can see are presented on the internet.

Isn't that great.

So it makes it very easy and fun for people to vis-a-vis come into my studio computer. This morning before you got here, I got an order for a small wedding bell. It came right over the internet. People were listening to that. A lot of times they write me special comments. They want me to write on the card when it's sent out.

That's nice. That's nice. Wow! When you said bells have different...

To get them to ring, we'll have to separate here. There we go. This is our shipping display stand, what we ship out to the different galleries, as well as, for people who come to the studio and want to buy one. These are bells that are ready to be sold. They're finished. Every bell has got to have a different, separate tone.

So people, when they come in here, this is what they can do, they can ring them. See this is the sound they are looking for, the bell, the shape or whatever.

Exactly. And there is not really perfect sound. Everybody has a different sound that they like. This one is a deeper one. This one is a little bit of a deeper tone. Dell, listen to this one.

More like a church bell type of sound...

Exactly. Some people think that a bigger bell is going to be a definitely deeper pitch. This one is higher.

Could it be the way you mold it?

It's the design.

It's the design.

Now, look at this one. This is a smaller one, but it has a deeper pitch. So, size has to do with volume, and the tuning and design have to do with whether it's deeper or higher.

Who tunes them? You, or do you have somebody?

Well, we don't tune them exactly to a musical pitch because that would raise the price way beyond what normal people just to hang it on their trees would want. But slotting the bell, what we've done here is we've slotted it, and that's a good way to get a lot of tuning for not a whole lot of money, not a lot of investment. So, we've deepened the pitch here. We've built in ridges to maintain the resonance so they have a nice sound.


And they don't ever change, 350 years, SOO years, they're still going to be ringing like this. This is a one time investment, a one time deal. Look at this. These guys don't break. They're not going to break. They're not going to fall apart.


We have an interesting triple tone bell where you get three tones out of one bell. I could show you over here. See you get three tones out of one bell. Bells and chimes from Harmony Hollow ring with a clear distinctive tone. They are designed for special occasions such as weddings which helps make them a keepsake and a constant reminder of happy times.

That's something. That's neat.

It has a kind of a bell sound, but it operates like a chime because you get several sounds out of one.

Now, the actual molding is done at a different place.

Yes. We don't do that right here in Ann Arbor.

Funny thing about these, they all have a nice clear quality, real sound. I mean it's real bronze.


That's why probably, because I've listened to a lot of chimes and bells through the years, and they don't seem to have that staying power these do.

That's called the resonance, and it's where we start. If a bell doesn't ring, in other words, we don't like clinking bells. If a bell clinks, we're not going to deal with it. It doesn't get produced.

You put it back in the mold.

It goes down again. It has to ring. It has to ring beautifully, and it has to last. And all of these bells ring in a nine to ten mile an hour breeze. The chimes in five to six. They've all been run through a turbometer, so we know exactly how much wind it takes.
And we do art fairs around the country. Tomorrow I'll be going down to Washington D.C. There's a show I'll be going to. Later in December there's one at Charlotte, N.C.

Any surprises.

Well, there are people that get more emotionally involved in these bells than I expected.

Is that right.

People come up to me out of the blue. I don't know them at all. They've been given one of my wedding bells, and they'll thank me profusely because this was the most sentimental, most emotionally meaningful gift of their marriage, and sometimes when they've had strife, they've listened to that bell ring, and it helped bring them together.

Constant reminder. Well, isn't that wonderful.

To me, I'm just in the art fair. I'm just selling bells, and they come up with this wonderful story which is part of the design of it, and it really works.

You're passing on something that's great. Well, I'll tell you what, on that note, Bradley, it certainly has been nice for this guy to come down and learn more about bells, and to meet you, and learn more about Harmony Hollow Bell Works. Thank you for being part of Michigan Magazine.

Thank you.