Fish Printing at FabricLab Maine

Fish Printing at FabricLab Maine

Fabric dyeing, printing and other surface design are the things that happen at FabricLab Maine (aka my studio).  Today I celebrated President’s Day with a dead fish. The fish was a nice bass that has been buried in the bottom of my freezer for several years  – maybe 3 or 4. (I also discovered some frozen zaatar bread which I devoured with my morning coffee.)

I learned gyotaku, the ancient art of fish printing, primarily through the Nature Printing Society, and suggest you visit the NPS site to see some exquisite

prints from some of the best gyotaku artists in the world, and  for links to many reference materials. In brief – prepare the fish: wash it, scrub it with salt to get rid of the scales, and then plug up all the fish orifices so it doesn’t leak on your paper or fabric. Sounds gross, but it really isn’t. It is also a good idea to wipe it down with rubbing alcohol to get rid of any bacteria or other fish germs. I forgot to do this and managed to stab myself with a fish fin – ouch & yikes – now waiting to succomb to some fish infection. Take care with the fish and it can be refrozen and reused many times. I then leveled the bass by cutting a hole in styrofoam.

Next get the ink ready.  The fabric I used today was rayon/lycra which won’t take well to heat setting, so I chose to use oil-based block printing ink straight out of the tube. It will “cure” in about 2 weeks without heat setting.

Then ink up the fish. If this were a going to be a fine gyotaku print on paper resulting in a detailed rendition of the fish, I would have use the tradition

al tampos (daubers) made from silk. Instead, I used a soft rubber brayer to roll the ink onto the fish. Finally, the fabric is layed over the fish, carefully held in place with one hand while carefully pressing around the contours of the fish with the other hand. In about 4 hours I printed enough fabric  for at least 3 garments plus some remnants.  A very good day!