Salt Water Fish Rubbings


Rowayton, CT
Having someone bring her a dead fish is a common occurrence for Joanne Gray. That’s because the Cornwall, England, transplant started making fish rubbings three years ago after seeing them in Cape Cod. “I thought it was so cool,” she says. So, she set about learning a technique known as gyotaku, a Japanese method dating back to the 1800s that was a means for fishermen to record their catches. How it works: First, she dries the fish and sponges on block printing paint; then she uses rice paper or fabric to make a rubbing. The at times comical nature of her process isn’t lost on Gray. There was the time she did a rubbing of an octopus (“It came frozen and I had to blowdry it.”). Or the time she strolled into Pagano’s Seafood in Norwalk requesting something “different”. “They gave me a John Dory…it looks like a dinosaur.” And then there are her loyal customers. (“I had to quickly do a rubbing of a fish a guy caught because he wanted it back to make a fish stew out of it.”) Gray’s business has caught on quickly, and now she designs T-shirts with her fish rubbings for Fjord Fisheries in Greenwich and Westport, CT and she sells her happy prints online and at her charming store, Seaside Delights, in Rowayton, CT. So what’s she dying to get her hands on next? “Something big, like a swordfish.”

Photograph by Hollie Bertram