Wednesday, May 18

here's the tail~

this is the third year i've participated in KICVB's Halibut Tail Art Auction. the visitor's bureau provides local artists (this year i think there are 14 participating) with blank fiberglass taxidermy halibut tail forms, which can be created on in any media we choose. kind of like the chicago cows. the finished tails are auctioned off at the KICVB's Chocolate Lover's Fling, which is being held this saturday. art & chocolate, what a deal.
this year two of the tails are being offered for public online bidding on ebay. this is happening now, check out item #180666099917 and #180666107692.
the past two years i've hand dyed fabrics and pieced, appliqued and beaded quilted "tail covers." 

clarice was first. i loved clarice.

last year was moira's turn. i loved moira. i am so so happy that a very dear friend now owns her. moira is very happy that she is moving to sunny florida, where the waters are much warmer than here...

this year i wanted to try something different. thinking a mixed media piece would be fun, enable me to indulge in my love of rusty stuff, and go together much quicker than a hand dyed quilted piece, i chose that route. it was a lot of fun. created a lot of interesting technical problems i got to work out. it got me to part with many of my beloved beach treasures i've been hoarding. as far as taking less time, well, not so much. but it's done now so i can love it at last.

this is the front.

here's the back.

with no real picture in my head of the finished project, i started by tearing up old tide tables, fishing regulation books and our navigation charts (so if we run aground, hit a rock or get lost at sea this summer, it's all my fault.) aged them with coffee & vanilla then applied them to the fin on both sides with gel medium. this was the only time i used a glue product on this project, i'm kinda happy about that.  then i punched out circles from more charts in 3 different sizes, distressing the edges. i layered them down the base of the tail to create a fish scale look. this took longer than i thought, mainly because i started obsessing over getting the correct halibut fishing areas to show on the little bits of map on the scales & fin...hind site has me wondering if anyone else will even notice that...

once i got the base done i realized this would be the perfect piece to highlight things i've found on the various beaches on the island. i used my trusty dremel tool to cut windows through the fin, where i could attach things like these gems:

it's hard to see, but the item on the left is an old brass navy button. the currant coast guard base on kodiak began as a naval base during WWII, and i often find wonderful rusty navy-type things on a couple different beaches. the tiny sand dollar was a score from a beach on nearby long island last father's day. i soldered around it so i had something to hang it by. in the rest of the windows i put a really awesome ice blue piece of beach glass, hardly ever find that colour, a nice chunk of pottery, and a soldered microscope slide with a mermaid on one side and a collage of old fishing boats i put together on the other.

while working on filling the windows i came across a quote that pulled the whole tail together for me, so to speak. it gave me just what i needed for the focal point to work, the focal point being my take on the sacred heart symbol:

the base is a rusted heart-shaped tin duffy & i found on our morning beach stroll. it was pretty nearly a zen moment for me. the rusty forks were another beach find, and those i wired and soldered on to the back of the tin, hoping to emulate the sacred heart's flames. along the inside of the tin i drilled holes, and wired freshwater pearls down. i brushed some beeswax over the pearls to ensure they stay put, i think it added a nice aged look.

i drilled a couple more holes on the top and wired in an arch some sea glass from another beach. on the bottom i dangled a bit of what looks like a piece of jadeite glass, a vial of white sand from a favorite beach we've all let our kids run around naked on when they were babies, and an awesome old key, nicely patina'd, with russian writing on it. it was hard to part with that one. also sewed on a mother of pearl button to the bottom of the middle fork that my daughter found on the beach a while back. i had to pay her a dollar for it.
i printed the quote out on a paper bag, and applied it to an awesome flat bit of copper (that already had the center hole in it!) with melted beeswax. it buffed out nice and shiny, love beeswax. i hung it from the top of the tin with some rusted & waxed twine.

i mounted the heart onto the tail by screwing it down with some old worn copper screws from my father-in-law's old screw bin. they look great peeking out. who knows how old they are.
i used an old salmon roe packing box (canneries have switched to plastic boxes now, such a pity) for the base. i covered the lid with another chart, aging it with more coffee. i screwed the tail on good and sturdy, then screwed the lid onto the box with more old brass screws. the final bit of glory for this piece came to me a week before the tail was due, when we rode out to fossil beach for an afternoon, and while walking through the seaweed i found an old halibut gagnion, all chewed & rusty (yay) with the most beautiful rusted circle hook ever still attached. i wrapped it around the base of the tail and wired it down. i included a tag so the owner would know where everything came from, and called it done.

i named this year's tail "Enduring Beauty"
and i sure hope someone bids on it saturday night.....


  1. Deb, truly. This is stunning!!!! I love your narrative of the piece, it brings it to life in a great way. The soldered sand dollar is sheer genius, the colors are to die for. What else can I say...the best!

  2. Oh my Dear Deb ~ you had me on the edge of my seat savoring every word and image...what you have put into this piece is awe inspiring!
    When I got to the pic of your gave me chills!
    The way you did the circle scales is brilliant...oh I just adore everything about your "Enduring Beauty"

    I did really admire your other creations VERY MUCH...but this tail really speaks to me!

    Love hearing the details (a rusty russian key, forks and more oh my!) and can only imagine the very lucky person that will take your tail home on Saturday night ... it is priceless!

    is it heavy?

    it was another stroke of genius to do cutouts...didn't catch that in looking at the first pic...even tho I leaned in real close...I am going back and clicking on each and every entranced with your narrative and forgot I could do that...I just cannot say must be so pleased and I have no idea how you can part with it...a most generous artiste you are dear one!

    the last pic with the gorgeous blue water in the background is just perfect too!

    such a splendid creation all around!!!

  3. WOW that's a gorgeous piece of art!

  4. wow that this event exists - wish there was one near me
    wow and wow for the two fabric tails
    and wow for your latest piece - fabulous as a whole and fabulous in each detail you showed.
    I'm feeling so full of creativity from drinking in your work - thank you

  5. Halibut tails for charity-- I LOVE it! This latest piece of yours is amazing. I am so glad you shared the story behind each AUTHENTIC find. Wish I could bid on it.

  6. It really is an incredible piece!! Patty told me about it.

  7. OK so have to admit, Patty sent me too! lol But well worth the visit, wow your tail is amazing! It must have taken ages to plan this and cut the scales and lovingly put it all together. You've made an incredible job of it!

  8. Hi, stopping by from the postcard swap and so glad I did. Your work is beautiful. I'll be back to read more!!

  9. i am a total newbie to anything mixed media and your work just blew me away amazing absolutely amazing, I am so interested to know if anyone bid
    please please let me know

  10. This is totally fantastic, amazing and extraordinarily creative. I love everything about it...the bits and pieces you added and where you found them..the way you put it all together...I am almost speechless! I love the pearl addition on the tin, the fork and beach glass, the scales..heck I just love it all!! If I lived close I would have bid..and been the winner! I would not have let that extraordinary piece of work go. You are so generous to have given so much time and effort to your piece and then to let her go! Did she go to a good home?


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