In the 19th century, Japanese fishermen began printing their fish (gyotaku--"fish rubbing") as a means of record keeping. It soon grew into an art form in it's own right and is now practiced around the world. The Japanese are proud of their cultural influence on the rest of the world.
Creating rubbings of local fish connects us more deeply to our environment by making the unseen world of fish visible. Historically, our waterways have gone uncared for and we are still trying to recover from the environmental damage. Today we have similar problems ranging from pharmaceuticals to to over fishing, to invasive species. It's much easier to justify such damage to the underwater unseen world than, say, our forests or bird species.
Beyond the political/environmental, gyotaku moves people to appreciate the beauty of the aquatic world for its own sake. The universe is comprised of layer upon layer of beauty. The underwater world is but one of those layers, and it typically goes unnoticed without representation.
Gyotaku are made by carefully cleaning and preparing the fish. It is then painted with ink and paper or fabric is then carefully pressed and rubbed against the fish to receive a detailed impression. The print is then finished by painting the eye and occasionally other details.
After printing, the fish can then be consumed or saved to print in the future.
Botanical illustration goes back to the first century Greeks, where identifying different species of plants was crucial for medical purposes. By the second millennium, Leonardo DaVinci and others were printing botanical specimens for similar purposes.
Matthew is delighted to bring eastern and western traditions together by offering both fish and botanical prints.