According to Irish traditions, the three leaves of the clover, or shamrock, stand for faith, hope and love. When you find a 4-leaf clover, the fourth leaf means luck. Sixth century priests considered them to be Celtic charms that could protect them and ward off evil spirits.
Many, if not most of us, have had the good fortune of finding a 4-leaf clover on occasion. What would you say about a person who found not just dozens, but literally hundreds of these lucky charms each year and for many years? He found 805 in one summer alone. He’s not only found seemingly countless 4-leaf clovers, but he also has numerous 5-leaf clovers, 18 6-leaf and even an 8-leaf clover. His name is Joe Carlson, and I’ve never met anyone like him.
Joe lives on the outskirts of Duluth. He said when I visited him that he was working as a landscaper when this experience of finding 4-leaf clovers began. “It’s strange why I find so many. A lot can be said about belief. I had an ex-girlfriend who made me believe I was the luckiest person in the world.”
He noted a turning point for him came after a 15 second experience that he has difficulty explaining. Right after that he saw a 4-leaf clover. As he bent to pick it he saw three more. He found 32 4-leaf clovers that day. He brought them to his roommate, but the cat ate them. The next day he found 33 more.
Joe Carlson has been drawing and making art since his youth. Since the 4-leaf clovers began accumulating in his life he’s been incorporating these multi-leafed wonders into some of his paintings using a technique that he’s developed through experimentation. He’s also been creating pendants featuring the 4-leaf clovers, some decorated with rhinestones.
All of his paintings have stories behind their imagery, much like the symbolism one might see in the works of Native artists like Jonathan Thunder.
There was one especially interesting anecdote that shows how remarkable his skill is. A few years ago he attended the outdoor wedding of a friend. In the middle of the ceremony the friend and bride-to-be stopped the wedding so that Joe could go find two 4-leaf clovers for them as symbols of their luck in finding one another.
Some people no doubt thought this was a little nuts. I can imagine more than one person saying, “Come on, we don’t have all day.”
Joe dutifully agreed to go fetch the 4-leaf clovers and minutes later returned with one for the bride and one for the groom.
I met Joe Carlson at the Catalyst Content Festival here in Duluth three weeks ago. In addition to making art, he has a passion for storytelling in video and has made five or six movies. One aim of attending Catalyst was the hope of finding a sponsor for his videos.
Another interesting facet of this story is Joe’s involvement with the Moon Arts Ark project. The project, conceived at Carnegie Mellon, sought artwork that could be miniaturized and etched to be transported to the moon. One of Carlson’s black and white images was selected — based on a 4-leaf clover design, naturally.
I asked where his inspiration came from to draw and make art. He said he was greatly influenced by his first grade teacher Mrs. Bartell. (EdNote: Heads up, teachers. Your encouragement can change a life forever.)
A second source of inspiration was an ex-lady friend named Sarah, a foreign exchange student from Germany. “She made me believe I was lucky.
Do you believe in magic?
I don’t know yet where this story will go, but it was a privilege meeting Joe and I look forward to seeing what unfold.
If you would like a little of Joe’s “luck” to rub off on you, his jewelry, pendants and art can be found at his website, JosephCarlson77.com