Showing posts with label fish leather. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fish leather. Show all posts

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Tanning Steelhead Trout in Green Tea

I was recently graced with a gift of two nice-sized steelhead trout skins by the fishmonger's wife. For a change they were a matched pair, i.e. they could have been both sides of the same fish, a nice bonus when thinking about binding designs.

Decided to tan these using green tea. I had seen wonderful examples by Janey Chang and Abigail Bainbridge in which much of the natural coloring had been preserved. It would have largely been lost had I used black tea, or made parchment.

Cleaning and other preparations the same as before, lots of changes of cold water with unscented/undyed dish detergent kept in the fridge. Next...

The skins in the first bath of 5 bags of tea. I used about 60 bags
total of Tetley's Green Tea.
It is important to start with a dilute tannin mixture
to ensure the skin tans through to the center.

The second bath had 10 bags of tea.
This went on with changes every day and half in
which the amount of bags increased each time. 
The last was about 25 bags for 2 days.
I snipped into the skin during changes to make sure
the center was getting tannins.

After taking the skins out, dripped-dried them, then started working by stretching and massaging. When starting to feel like they were drying worked them over a stake, in my case a c-clamp that was smooth and had a rounded shape. Benefit of the c-clamp was that it didn't move...

Got tired after a while and had Fritz Otto take over. He had a few things to say, but did a good job...

"Making parchment from fish is nothing...
This softening after tanning is brutal hard work.
Working on oversized books was bad enough."

As he felt them drying he added some olive oil to his hands
to help lubricate the skins and finish them.

Team-work and a good week's work.

In the first step of the process, cleaning the fish, we decided to filter out the shinies (aka scales)... A few stubborn ones went through the tanning process and ended up yellowish. For kicks we threw them on the flatbed scanner (4800 dpi and downscaled for web).

A sampling...
Untanned, note the growth rings, just like tree-rings
 said the dendrochronologist's daughter...

This was one of the stubborn ones that wanted to be tanned...

These skins will be used on Life-history and Habits of the Salmon, Sea-trout, Trout, and other Freshwater Fish (1910). 


Thursday, October 1, 2020

Trout Fishing on the Rapid Streams

In 1983 the Guild of Book Workers organized a small set book exhibition of sixteen fine bindings on Cutcliffe's The Art of Trout Fishing on the Rapid Streams published as a fine press book with illustrations by D. R. Wakefield. That fine press edition is no longer available, but the original is (scroll down).

The catalog cover. Print copies can still be found.
It is also online via the Guild of Book Workers' website.


H. C. Cutcliffe. The Art of Trout Fishing on the Rapid Streams. Revised and illustrated by D. R. Wakefield. Tiverton, Devon: The Chevington Press, 1982. Printed in Perpetua type on handmade Barcham Green. 10½ x 7 7/8 x 3/8  inches. Limited to fifty copies, signed and numbered by the illustrator.

Binders who participated were:

  • William Anthony
  • David P. Bourbeau
  • Lage Carlson
  • Betty Lou Chaika
  • Jerilyn Glenn Davis
  • Odette Drapeau Milot
  • Louise Genest-Côté
  • Donald Glaister
  • Ursula Hofer
  • Jamie Kamph
  • William Minter
  • Joseph Newman
  • Gisela Noack
  • Gray Parrot
  • Julie Beinecke Stackpole
  • Griselda Warr

The catalog is illustrated in the style of the day with smallish black and white photographs. Still, it is a wonderful record of the exhibit representing some of the most active binders of the day. Some are still active, some not so much, and some have passed. Included in the catalog are the binder's education, prior and past positions, and a description of the binding. Mine also included the price list for those works that were for sale.

The price list in 1983 dollars.

So, ordered a first from 1883 to bind. Paper ok, needs a bath, smells less like a damp lakeside camp than the last book, but otherwise in good condition. Still, going to pull, wash, and deacidify. The book is also available in print and digitally via the Internet Archive.


When engaging in piscatorial bibliopegy, I prefer to use skins that I have preserved, but when Janey Chang shared these oak gall tanned brook trout on her Insta I couldn't help but ask whether she would part with them. When making parchment the color largely disappears, and other tanning methods overpower the delicate coloring of the fish. These are just perfect. Now to work on a design that honors the fish, and book.

So, who's up for an exhibit on this book?

Friday, August 28, 2020

Piscatorial Bibliopegy, Again

 So, I'll probably never "get over" piscatorial bindings, especially if they just scream using materials as metaphor. Here the latest candidate that arrived in yesterday's post from the shores of some loch in Scotland.

The binding and paper of my copy of Life-history and habits of the salmon, sea-trout, trout, and other Freshwater Fish (1910) show a life of love in a fisherman's cabin, intact (mostly), sewing very loose, cover wear, and just a hint of the general mustiness of wet sheep(dog), fog, and solitude. Almost 300 pages of clay coated paper. 

Copies, including print-on-demand versions are available, and it is also available digitally via Internet Archive at 125mb. This is a fantastic text. richly illustrated with photographs and diagrams. Below a taste.

Hmmm, how to bind. Good thing I have several salmon and sea-trout parchments ready, or maybe I go fishing at Loch Wegman in the lowlands of Dewitt and tan the skin.

This catch is definitely a keeper. Now to clean, cut up into its parts, and take it from there... The front cover and spine will be integrated somehow...







For more inspiration, check out the 2020 Fish Skin Bind-O-Rama!

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Fish Skin - Tanned Fish Skin - Fish Parchment

The images below are a selection of those in Franz Weisse's 1938 article "Fischhaut - Fischleder - Fischpergament" published in Das deutsche Buchbinderhandwerk, Vol 2, Nr 9, 1938. Das deutsche Buchbinderhandwerk was created by a consolidation of all the bookbinding trade publications under the National Socialists to make it easier to control the message... As such nationalistic tones and appeals were integral, and the trades were of national importance.

The article recaps many of the themes around using fish in binding from austerity measures, to self-reliance (no foreign sources), but also to the unique and beautiful variations of the raw material. It references the long history of using fish in Ainu and Siberian (polar) cultures, before discussing the material properties of fish skin, common misconceptions (Oh, the stench...!), and processes for preserving the skin from tanning to making parchment. Martini's article from 1919 is cited, but not by name, neither is there (as expected) a mention of Ernst Collins' articles just 4 years earlier in the bookbinding trade journals. Much of the article describes the most common/suitable for binding species; salmon, pollack, wolf fish, cod, lingcod, flounder, shark, and eel among others. Woven in are also tips for working and descriptions of the aesthetic properties, and suitable uses.

Weisse also speaks to books bound in fish that were shown in exhibits, clearly rejecting many decorative and metaphoric applications that to him are easy outs and too simplistic – not worthy of the infinite variations and natural characteristics of the skins. As an example, don't use flounder on a binding about the Alps... "We can (must) do better!" He further states that to make use of the material as second nature as that of Morocco or calf vellum it must be more than just a temporal fashion statement... It is our "duty" as German workers in the skilled trades, in this case bookbinding. Apropos exhibits, the Archiv fuer Buchgewerbe recapped a 1918 exhibition of Franz Martini's bindings made from Klippfish (stock fisch, salted cod) parchment at the Deutschen Kulturmuseum für Buch und Schrift in Leipzig. Also mentioned were the tests undertaken on Martini's fish parchment.

Note the size of the fish in these images, most caught closer to their markets as factory-scale fishing was not as common then. Compare with the fishes we see now. A clear sign of over-fishing.

Skinning the fish. Note, the fillet is placed skin down and skinned
that way, kind of like paring leather.

The remaining bits of flesh and scales are removed in a process similar 
to de-hairing mammalian skins prior to making parchment or tanning.


The skins are stretched unto boards with nails.

After tanning, the skins are stretched out on boards to dry.


The finished fish leathers in the hands of the Meister who is examining it 
for aesthetics and usefulness. "What binding is this most appropriate for...?"




Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Making Parchment From Fish Skin (The Webinar)

Now available on YouTube, the recording from today's lunchtime webinar. 109ish viewers while live, not bad. Actually a great turnout. Good questions in live feed as well. Regrettably those were not captured with the video. I did sort of repeat and respond to the questions in the recording though.

Enjoy, and please consider trying this yourself, as well as entering the Bind-O-Rama. The entry form is now online, deadline of June 30 to enter. Hope to see what you've made from fish skin. Early shares are showing a good number of happy nascent piscatorial binders.




To learn more about making parchment from fish, see:
"Fips" and His Eels: Fish Skin in Bookbinding
Book Arts arts du livre Canada (Vol 10., Nr. 2, 2019)

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Easter Salmon

Neighbor, "the fish monger's wife," continues to provide salmon skins, and never one to look a gift fish in the mouth, I graciously accept. As a bonus, she's gotten very good at skinning – less work for me." So, ...

Into the dish detergent it goes. Remember, always cold water with
unscented detergent.



Soaking up the Easter Egg dye. Only reasons I used this was that
it was in the house and free. Dyes are beet/radish based, and required
added water and a bit of vinegar. No idea about long-term effect of either.

The skin was soaked in the dye overnight and really seemed to soak it in.
But, whoever scaled the fish, not the "fish monger's wife," did a hack job
on the half nearest to the head.

A mostly nice day, so I used the power of the sun to dry.
Push pins go into coroplast, the kind used for yard signs like our solar panels.
These are FREE, ubiquitous, and also great for practicing endbands.

Woah! Where did the striping come from? Is this a rare tiger salmon (Behavior
similar to tiger musky). Whatever it is, I like it.

Here it is backlit.

The "cause" of the striping, or at least a clue. The wet skin had stuck to the cheap
paper I layed it on to dry. Interesting!

Just got a text and neighbor will be dropping off another skin in the next day or so. Yippee!

Part of the reason I tried the Easter egg dye was that I was inspired by Amber Sandy, Anishinaabe and indigenous science advocate who has a terrific Instagram feed in which she describes how she tans skins of all kinds, also teaching at Reyerson University. A great resource! The dye was inspired by her mention of using fabric dye (Rit or Dylon). She also mentioned a great source for fish skins - sushi restaurants! Will definitely have to ask my favorite place, fingers crossed it survives this COVID19 world. Toronto area binders check it out, and perhaps catch a hands-on workshop / invite her to teach.


To learn more about making parchment from fish, see:
"Fips" and His Eels: Fish Skin in Bookbinding
Book Arts arts du livre Canada (Vol 10., Nr. 2, 2019)

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Fishy Sunprints

Did something different today, made sunprints from my pieces of fish parchment. Love how the texture of the skins came through.

Artic char

Sea bass & lane snapper

Lane snapper, sea bass, and Arctic char

Mackerel, Arctic char, and haddock

Haddock, sea bass, and lane snapper

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Old Man and the Sea

We saw Fritz Otto helping turn that delicious mackerel into parchment. Here the binding one of the half-skins was used on, Hemingway's Old Man and the Sea. The other half goes in the skin archive. Below the binding I just completed.

Here the top-edge Fritz Otto made. Acrylics in paste with some stippling for waves...
The book is still in-process, and the colored flyleaf will be tipped to the next leaf
just along the fore-edge as one of the last steps.

The mackerel skin was backed with gray Morike paper and cut out to match the
contours of the skin. The mackerel is a standing for the swordfish in the story.
Scars/distressed areas on the skin represent the  life and death struggle of fish and Santiago.

The book was sewn on three thongs of shark leather, a metaphor
for the sharks that ate Santiago's swordfish...

This is a Dorfner-style open-joint binding. The parchment
was not covered or trimmed back, so shows the contours
of the fish. Doublure and flyleaf Cave Paper "layered indigo day."

The boards were covered in Pergamena dyed goat
parchment, title stamped in graphite foil. 

Here the completed binding. Shark thong ends capped by weathered
wood representing Santiago's boat. 

To learn more about making parchment from fish, see:
"Fips" and His Eels: Fish Skin in Bookbinding
Book Arts arts du livre Canada (Vol 10., Nr. 2, 2019)

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Lunch Instead of Fish Skin Binding

Back before Christmas, Fritz Otto was on vacation in Greece (aka Wegmans like any good fisherman) and caught a bunch of sardines. Finally, a right-sized fish he could work from start to finish for his own binding(s).


Today, pulled them out of the freezer to practice his flaying skills...

Catch of the day.

Filleting was the easy part.

The Peachey lifting knife was great!

Filleting was the easy part, but alas, the skin was too thin to get off. He also tried pulling it off of the intact fish but that was even less successful. Alas..., nothing left to do but make lunch for himself.

Just fried in a little olive oil with pepper. Didn't need more for a tasty meal.

Rülps! (How Germans Burp) That was delicious!
So, defeated in making parchment, successful in preparing a meal.

To learn more about making parchment from fish, see
"Fips" and His Eels: Fish Skin in Bookbinding
Book Arts arts du livre Canada (Vol 10., Nr. 2, 2019)

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Fish skin fashion: a dying craft by China's 'mermaid descendants'

A small minority along China’s ‘Black Dragon’ river have a long history with the water. According to legend, the Hezhen people descend from mermaids, but now some of their unique traits, such as their signature fish skin suits, are at risk of vanishing. Michelle Hennessy reports.



You Wenfeng, 68, an ethnic Hezhen woman,
poses with her fishskin clothes at her studio in Tongjiang



Ethnic Hezhen You Wenfeng's Chinese Han student learns
how to make clothes from fish skin at You's studio in Tongjiang.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Fish Parchment and Leather Swatches

A sampler of all the fish I've made parchment from.

From top: mackerel, sea bass, lane snapper, haddock, Arctic char, Atlantic salmon.
Underbellies are lighter than tops.

Note: except for the mackerel, the skins are highly translucent.


And below, examples of commercially available tanned fish skins.
See here for more.
From the top: eel, suede trout, glazed salmon, suede salmon, glazed carp.


Book Arts arts du livre Canada (Vol 10., Nr. 2, 2019)

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Holy Mackerel!

Fritz Otto's latest adventure. As usual, he only gets to do the dirty, thankless tasks, never the whole thing. At least the eatin' was good...

Making sure the implements of destruction are all ready.
I got sent out of the room, and didn't get to watch the de-skinning or stretching...


Inspecting the skins. Brrr, it's cold in the basement studio this time of year.

Oh, great... I get to scrape away the nasty, left-over fleshy stuff... Gross!

Detail of the grossness. The Peachey lifting knife is great for scraping this stuff off.
Some day I better get my own fish to skin, prepare, eat, and use on a binding.
Better be worth it.

 Broiled with salt, pepper, smoked paprika, and pine nuts – it was wonderful!

Book Arts arts du livre Canada (Vol 10., Nr. 2, 2019)