Saturday Studio: Fish are Friends

Naomi Vanderleest, Education Assistant

On July 16th the Fort Wayne Museum of Art officially opened its new Glass Wing; from now on, three of our seven galleries will always display glass. To celebrate this opening, we unveiled Broad Spectrum, Clear Vision: The Collection of Carl and Stephanie Beling. The Beling’s collected contemporary studio glass from artists all over the world and now, for the first time, it can be seen by the public! I noticed a recurring theme in this collection, fish! An example of this is the Fiskgrall Vase by Edward Hald. 

A glass vase with dark green and black fish swimming around the bottom.
Edward Hald, Swedish, 1883-1980. Fiskgraal Vase. Blown and engraved glass, ca 1960s. Gift from the Collection of Carl and Stephanie Beling, 2021.138. Image courtesy of FWMoA.

Upon further inspection, there are a variety of fish on this vase. Do any of the fish repeat? The fish on the back side of the vase look similar to the fish on the front of this picture. I like to imagine that this fish is swimming around the vase. If this glass wasn’t transparent (a quality that allows light to pass through so objects behind it can be clearly seen) this effect wouldn’t occur. A green hue glows inside the vessel, and even its shadow has a green tone. What does the green remind you of? It reminds me of the color of pond water. Light is an important feature in this artwork; without it, we wouldn’t be able to see the green shadow or the fish in the back. 

This artwork inspired me to use light to create my own fish project. One way to utilize light is a suncatcher, which is a window ornament that is translucent (a quality that allows light to pass through but the objects behind it can’t be clearly seen). Using materials that allow light to pass through them is essential for this project. 

I selected these materials:

  • Tissue Paper
  • Plastic sheet protector
  • Clear liquid glue or Mod-Podge
  • Paintbrush or sponge
  • Scissors
  • Xacto knife (optional)
  • Black construction paper
  • Tape
  • Pencil or White Pastel

First, choose the colors for your fish! Using various colors of tissue paper allows you to layer them, and create new colors that you may not have! Next, cut the tissue paper into scale shapes (rough diamonds), cutting them about an inch wide and two inches long. Don’t make anything too small, though, or it will be difficult to layer later. Cut as many as you like, the amount will dictate the size of your fish: the more pieces, the bigger the fish. 

Next, cut the plastic sheet protector in half so you have one single sheet of plastic. Use a paintbrush to apply a stoke of glue on the plastic, then press a piece of tissue paper onto the glue until it sticks. Repeat this process until you have filled the entire sheet protector with tissue paper. 

The tissue paper will be used to create an opening on the fish for light to shine through, so you don’t have to arrange the tissue paper into a fish shape. Once you have an array of colors and shapes, cut off any excess plastic and trace this shape onto a sheet of black construction paper. 

Now we can design our fish suncatcher! Draw a fish and a hole for the suncatcher to fit in on the black paper; if you have a hard time seeing your pencil lines against the black background, use white pastel or chalk. The shape of the tissue paper will decide the size and shape of your fish. TIP: Create at least a one-inch border around the suncatcher so the fish doesn’t tear. Next, cut out the fish and hole in the black paper using scissors or an Xacto knife (ask an adult to help with this), then flip the paper over to hide the lines that you drew. You can also cut off a small circle from the suncatcher to put in a colorful eye for the fish. Then, tape or glue your suncatcher to the fish cut out. Lastly, use tape to attach your suncatcher to a window. Observe your fish in a new light! 

How did your fish change in the window? The colors are brighter and lighter! Check in on your suncatcher throughout the day, how does it look at different times? Use your imagination to design other animals into suncatchers. Where could the suncatcher fit into your design?

The next time you visit FWMoA, walk through the Glass Wing and count all of the fish you see. Maybe you can use other animals that you see there as inspiration for your next suncatcher!

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