Monday, July 20, 2015

Egg #24- Lake Trout and fishing creel inspired batik style goose egg from the "50 years all cooped up, what's an egg to do?" series

     This next egg is dedicated to my maternal grandfather, Pepere George Paquet. For as long as I can remember, this rugged outdoorsman was tending the dairy cows, sugaring, chopping wood, hunting deer and rabbits with his beagles and basset hounds and fishing for Brook Trout. I can remember the smell of Old Spice, wool, rustic woodsman smell and scratchy whiskers. When I was born, he had retired from working in the Granite sheds of Barre, Vermont. You could call my Pepere a jack-of-all- trades. Here is an old wedding photograph of my Pepere and my Memere (whom I never met, but am named after).
     Here is another photo, taken of my grandfather with my mother Carmen and my Uncle John in front of their old farmhouse in Barre.
      Some of my fondest memories were that of being allowed to play with my grandfather's hunting dogs (thus my love of animals). If you couldn't find me in the yard, chances are I was in the dog pen, playing with Sandy, Prince or Bufford. As a special treat, my Pepere would take my sister and I out fishing in the tiny brook below the hill where his house sat. We were allowed to take turns holding the fishing pole, and if a fish were caught, it was pulled off the hook and slid into a woven, leather trimmed basket with straps called a fishing creel. Of course, we didn't catch too much (probably a little too noisy and excited, stomping around on the river stones and falling in). He didn't seem to mind much, as long as he was enjoying the outdoors, and spending time with his grandchildren.
      George was also an avid ice fisherman. I remember him coming home with large plastic buckets filled to the brim with Smelt- what seemed like hundreds of them! He would clean them downstairs in the bathroom which also doubled as a laundry room. It also had a porcelain butler's sink and a metal walk-in shower. This was also my Pepere's bathroom. My grandfather's second wife (the Memere I grew up knowing) preferred the fish not be cleaned in the kitchen sink. She also didn't care for whiskers in the sink in the powder room upstairs, so my Pepere used to shave in the sink downstairs. It was an older house, so the upstairs bathroom only had a bathtub. The shower stall was installed downstairs so my grandfather could take showers after a long day out in the field. I remember watching him shave with great interest. He had a heavy brass razor with an ivory handle, and a porcelain shaving brush which he lathered up with soap. This is a very vivid memory for me, so much so, that I had painted a picture of the shaving brushes and razor. Here is the painting entitled "Les Trois Freres" (The Three Brothers):

      The fleur-de-lis in the background represents my French-Canadian heritage. The three shaving brushes represent my Pepere's closest brothers, who in turn were also avid outdoors men, Rosario (Buck, for short- yep- had a great Uncle Buck), and William (Bill), and of course, my grandfather. The razor in the foreground was very much like the one he used, and a soap mug (I threw a couple Pysanky in the painting, as I had just started making them).
     As for the fish (back to our story), he would slice open the smelt from one bucket, run his thumb up the opening and push the fish guts out into a separate bucket, then chop off the head. He'd throw the cleaned fish into a bucket of water to keep them wet. Every once in a while, he would find a female full of roe, and yell to my sister and I to come and see. Being young, we were totally fascinated with it all! Once he'd cleaned all of the smelt, he would rinse them and drain the water and carry them upstairs to my Memere, where she and my mother would dip them in batter, and fry them for dinner. Can't say I ever acquired a taste for them, but it sure made for some interesting afternoons with my Pepere. So, the trout and creel basket inspired fish egg is for you, you and miss we go:
     Here is the preliminary sketch of the front, back and middle border that will separate the egg in half. The border is a hint and stylization of a woven creel basket, trimmed with leather, and a strap and buckle to keep the lid closed. The open space where you'd throw the fish in is centered over the drain hole. Below is a photo of a woven basket creel, trimmed with leather, much like my Pepere used.
     The back of the egg will have a worm tin and other fishing accoutrements pictured there. The front of the egg depicts a brook trout with river rocks towards the bottom. The egg will be horizontally orientated.
     I divide the egg horizontally in half. I then divide the egg vertically in half. I take my tape measure and mark out 2 - 1/4" sections to the right of the vertical line, and 2 to the left so I have a total of 4 1/4" wide vertical ribbons. I mark 1/4" segments horizontally so that I have a 1" grid that is made up of 1/4" squares. I plot out my design for the creel border, using the grid to center the design on each side (buckle and strap). I add two more 1/4" bands on either side of the 1" band for leather trim.
     I dye the egg with PUSA Mushroom.
     I wax over the outline for the leather edging, the leather top band, the strap and the buckle. I use a extra fine kitska for this. I also add "stitching" marks.
     I then divide the horizontal band segments into 1/16ths. I wax over the zig-zag interwoven segments that run down the middle.
     I use PUSA Nubian brown at the edges, and shade with  PUSA Chocolate Kiss and just touch the brush in the middle segments, loaded with PUSA Navajo Clay. The colors bleed into each other nicely. After that is dry, I wax over each section, then I do the opposite side. And when that is dry, that section is waxed too. I turn the egg over and do the same for the band on the other side.
     I hand paint the black holes in the leather strap with PUSA Licorice. I wax over those too.
     Next is the leather strap. I brush on PUSA Navajo Clay, then I "bleed" PUSA Cinnamon from the edges into the center. At the very outside edge, I use a small brush, and while still wet, I brush UGS Brick for a dark shadow- I also shade under the belt buckle. All of this gives the illusion of the strap being 3-dimensional. I am pleased with the results.
     I wax over the entire strap on both sides. I now  dip the entire egg into the Navajo clay. I brush the leather edging much like the strap, and shade with PUSA Cinnamon and UGS Brick. After that is dry, I wax over the entire edging. I hand paint Licorice into the slot that the strap disappears into and wax that over.
     I am not concerned with any of the dye slopping over into the center medallions, as I will be acid etching back to the white of the egg. I leave the buckle undone as well.
     I acid etch the egg in Acid Magic with the proper safety gear, and then rinse the egg off, and use a little liquid ivory soap to neutralize the acid. I rinse again, and let the egg rest for at least 30 minutes, and carefully unplug the drain hole at the bottom to aid in drying out the shell (this is done by gently plunging in a hot kitska to melt a hole in the plug).
     I give the egg a brush with a very diluted PUSA Neon green and vinegar, and there is a little of the UGS Brick dye pigment left on the brush, so it looks like an off white. It is much like an artist giving the canvas or watercolor paper a light wash so that you are working on a colored ground, rather than a stark white. After a quick dry, I start sketching on my brook trout and the river stones.
     I then brush in a very diluted PUSA Navajo Clay for the "peachy" underbelly, tail, fins and around the gills and mouth. What comes next might knock your socks off! And you ask yourself "Why?"
     If you've ever studied trout, you've noticed that there are many speckles of colors to the scales. This is what I will endeavor to replicate. I use both a fine and medium tip kitska to "dot" on the speckles. I also wax in the ribbing of the fins.
     I brush on a darker version of the Navajo Clay, stipple over that, then a coat of Cinnamon, stipple and then the last color Brick is brushed over wherever there are spaces in between the speckles, I wax over the entire section. Next comes the green. I brush on a coat of Neon Green.
     I wax over the upper ribbing in the fins, and a swirly pattern on the upper side of the fish. I use an extra fine kitska for this.
     I build up several layers doing the same stipple effect, with Pusa Key Lime, Asparagus, Christmas Green, Mallard Green, and lastly Forrest green. I wax over the entire fish.
     I do the same treatment with the river stones. I start with PUSA Dove Gray, Charcoal Gray, Forrest Green and Licorice. I wax over the stones. Last thing to do is the murky water background. I have chosen to do green, as I believe it will set off all the other elements nicely. I brush on Neon Green, Key Lime, Asparagus, Christmas Green, Mallard Green, Forrest Green, and end at the bottom with Licorice. Each color is dry before the next color goes on. I pull from the top and add more color as I reach the bottom. This is left to dry thoroughly before waxing the entire side over. Now it is onto the next side.
     Remember the preliminary sketch? Well, as you know, sometimes ideas change "mid-stream" and the "current" takes you along for the ride. Such is with the change in the design for the second side. Yep. You guessed it. I will claim "Artistic License" once again. I've been using that a lot, lately...I decide that the pile of fishing accoutrements is much too busy for the size of the space, and decide to pick one element and focus on that, giving it more importance. Sometimes simplifying is best. I chose the lure with double hooks and a little bit of fishing line tangled up. I will add some feathers to the end of the lure, making it a delectable and tasty looking treat for any self-respecting fish. The background colors will be the same dark green as the other side. I wax the fishing line, and hand paint the metal body of the lure with PUSA Dove Gray, and blend it with Charcoal and a little Licorice.
     I also paint in with the dyes the hooks and shade the barbs. I add a little Neon green and Shocking Pink on the body of the lure while still wet.
     I paint in the eyes with Licorice, and wax over the entire lure. I start hand painting the dyes in for the feathers, and  wax in tiny lines, and create some shading, and wax over those as well. The last thing to do is the background, and I brush all of the greens in the same successive order that I did for the other side of the egg. Each coat is allowed to dry before the next glaze of darker color is brushed over. I let the final color dry completely before waxing over the entire egg. Now it is onto unwaxing this little gem of an egg.
     I rub a little olive oil over the entire egg, and line a paper coffee carrier with paper towels. I put everything on an old cookies sheet and place in a cold oven, and fire it up to 175 degrees for 15 minutes. I then gently wipe away the excess wax with toilet tissue (less abrasive than paper towels- you may also use old cotton rags).
     Here is a photo of the wax melting off the egg onto the paper towels. I am really happy with the reveal so far.
     I am really pleased with how border turned out. I do believe that it does look like a woven straw creel. I am also pleased with the leather straps, buckle and border. The extra attention to the shading gives the illusion of three-dimensionality. is the finished egg:


     I hope you've enjoyed the creation of this tribute to my Grandfather, as I have enjoyed the creating it in his memory. Thank you for keeping me company. I will leave you with this thought for the day:

If people concentrated on the really important things in life, there would be a shortage of fishing poles.  ~Doug Larson

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