A SCHOOL OF FISH: Handmade Porcelain Fish for My Living Room
In typical fashion, I decided on some of the artwork for my walls before I had any idea what furniture I would be using. I got it in my head that I needed a school of fish swimming across my wall in the living room. In my mind I could see a school of snowy white fish flowing across my gray walls in the living room. I had never seen anything in a store that fit the bill so I knew I would have to make those fish.
What were my options? I wanted to mount each fish directly to the wall and I wanted to be able to mount them at different depths from the wall too, so that it would be more three dimensional. An obvious option would be to make them out of wood, but the idea of another project that involved painting was just not appealing. I’ve been doing an awful lot of painting in the past couple of years. I thought metal ones would be really cool because I would get to learn to cut metal and to do some welding, but I really wanted white. What about making them out of porcelain?
Hmm. I love working with clay and porcelain is white and has a really interesting translucent quality. I wasn’t sure how in the world I would ever attach them to the wall, but I could always figure that out later. Why worry about the practical aspects when you are excited about an idea, right?
Porcelain it was. I made a paperboard stencil so that all my fish would be the same size. I was really liking the idea of uniformity in the fish. I rolled out a slab of porcelain and started tracing and cutting fish, being sure to make extra because who knew how many I would ruin by breaking them. I am not always as careful as I should be with my clay when it is in its most fragile stages. I rounded out the little fish bodies and supported those little bellies with some wadded up news paper while they dried.
After the initial bisque firing, I decided that they each needed a racing stripe, so I painted a stripe of glaze on each one. Seems I can never get away from that painting thing.
Now to hang them on the wall. I could glue blocks of wood and screws to the back and screw them into the wall. That was a great idea until I realized I couldn’t screw them into the wall unless I placed them farther apart than I wanted them to be. I could glue them to the wall….but that would really tear up my new walls if I ever wanted to move those fish. That option did NOT go over well with Brad. He’s proud of those walls and more than a little happy to have that work behind him. No, he definitely did not like the idea of redoing that drywall in the future. It would only be fair, for me to point out now, that I like to change up my artwork very frequently. Moving art and furniture from room to room happens sometimes weekly in my world.
Compromise is an essential part of life, especially if you like a happy husband! In pursuit of a happy husband, I decided that the fish would not be free range fish, but would be confined to plywood boards that would then be mounted on the wall. I scrounged some quarter inch birch plywood from the workshop. (At this point Brad was more than happy to share some of his stash). I rounded up some blue and gray stain samples and stained the wood to look like water – well a little like water.
For the 3D effect, I glued pieces of cork cut to different lengths to the backs of the fish. Lucky for me, I love corks, so I always save them and have plenty of them. Ah, another benefit to a nice glass of wine.
On the advice of far more experienced artisans at the pottery studio I used PC-7 epoxy as my “glue”. Apparently this stuff seems to do the best job of adhering to ceramics. The only downside is its color. As you can see in the pictures, in a few places I was a little heavy handed with the epoxy and little bits of black show here and there. But overall I am a pretty happy girl!