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Fish Printing at FHHS

Students in Alicia Swackhamer's art classes at Forest Hills were able to perform the ancient Japanese art of Gyotaku (fish printing) after their teacher wrote and received a grant from the Union County Education Foundation.

Students in Alicia Swackhamer’s art classes recently had the opportunity to learn the ancient art of Gyotaku.  Gyotaku is Japanese for “fish rubbings.”  Beginning in the 1800’s, Japanese fisherman wanted a way to record the size of the fish they caught.  The fisherman would use an edible ink and spread it across the fish immediately after they caught it.  They would then press a piece of rice paper on the fish to get a print of the fish.  The fish was then able to be released back into the water.  An emperor saw one of the fish prints and purchased it from the fisherman.  This sparked an entire art form evolving called Gyotaku.

Mrs. Swackhamer received a grant from the Education Foundation that allowed this unique opportunity to happen.  Students learned all about the Japanese culture and the history of Gyotaku.  Students were also taught about today’s modern ways of printmaking.  All of the art students were then able to create their own fish rubbings using Lifeforms.  Lifeforms are fake fish that are all anatomically accurate.

The exciting part of the lesson came when students had the opportunity to create a print from a real octopus!  Students had to position the octopus body and tentacles before they could begin the printmaking process.  Students then rolled the ink onto the octopus and then pressed a piece of paper on top of the body.  The results were awesome!  As a finishing touch to the fish and octopus prints, students were able to accent certain aspects of the fish prints using tempera paint.

Eleventh grader Savannah Brown had the opportunity to print both fish and the octopus.  “Besides the smell," she said, "the octopus print was my favorite print, because who can say they’ve printed an octopus before?!  It turned out very cool!”

A graduating senior, Emmanuel Trejo, had this to say, “I really enjoyed the Gyotaku project.  At first I did not expect much from it, but when we were finished I liked the details left from the fish prints!”

Mrs. Swackhamer said, “This was a really great project, and I am very grateful to the Education Foundation for giving us the opportunity to explore an ancient Japanese art form!”

Written by: Alicia Swackhamer, Art Teacher
Posted: May 04, 2015 by Melissa Howell

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