Fish Leather?! but of course

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Fish Leather?! but of course

All of my pieces come with a story- from the origins of the vintage fabric, to the process and production of the wool, to the materials and source of embellishments and the creation of the closures (usually my sweetie). IMO however some of my latest pieces will be coming with the best story yet! I was very intrigued by a wooden box full of strange leather at the incomparable Plan B, a treasure trove of unique and unusual finds. On closer inspection, the leather, in a range of beautiful colours (beige, pink, red, purple and black) resembled snakeskin but had a more of an oval shape… like a fish?! There was also the most delightful smell emanating from the leather, a fresh and woody aroma.

I brought some of the leather to Bob, the captain of Plan B and he explained that yes it was fish leather and it was locally produced.. and then he told me all about a bit of a political boondoggle in Nova Scotia’s economic past. As you are likely aware, Nova Scotia has a rich tradition of fishing and in the 80’s, the government of the day decided to invest heavily in a by-product of this industry, creating fish leather. A factory was set up and traditional Mi’kmaw tanning practices were adapted to cure the leather using sweetgrass (hence the amazing smell!). Sadly, the world wasn’t ready for fish leather at that point and the venture failed. Bob talked about how for years you would see these giant bales of fish leather in the strangest places but over time stock has dwindled. He hadn’t seen any for a long time until this batch came in.

After hearing this story and seeing, smelling and touching the beauty of this local treasure, I knew I needed to incorporate it into my felt pieces. The first one I’m going to share is called “Selkie” as it incorporates all of the colours of the Atlantic Ocean. The body of the shawl is cobweb felt, embellished with firestar, sari silk and silk cocoon fibres. The shawl closes with a large piece of ebony fish leather and a button made from shed antlers. There are lots of different ways to wear this piece, could even be used as a skirt or wrap.

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