Antu Ott - men with fish skins



An article about a Võrtsjärv fish-skin artist in Viljandi County, Estonia:

The stairway of a block of flats in Leie village near lake Võrtsjärv smells like fish. The siamese cat Miisu paces back and forth with great interest. His neighbour Antu Ott has hung three large pictures on his wall.  It is they that are the source of the smell: Mr Ott makes his artwork from dried fish skin.
Antu Ott’s flat is full of pictures, and his house in the country is also full of them. He has been working with fish art for more than a dozen years and set up exhibitions all over Estonia.

Although the artist Ott is a fisherman himself, he gets his raw skins from the fish plant, from salesmen and acquaintances who fish.  Before any artistic work can start, the material must be cleansed, salted, washed and dried.
‘The skins hang on a string to dry, just like laundry', he says. ‘But you’d better not overdry them or they’ll get all rolled up and the whole thing gets botched'.

Antu Ott’s favourite fish skins are those from cold-smoked rainbow trout.  
’An acquaintance once brought me one from Finland with a beautiful golden colour and a pinkish strand on the side. And I’ve gotten salmon from Norway, 180 skins.  Salmon is the only fish skin which glitters when made into a picture' , he remarks about the best material.  ’Bream is the best for light backgrounds, unsalted pike doesn’t go grey but retains its contrasts. They can be used for tree stumps, clouds and waves.'

When professionally glued together, fish skins have a lot of nuances. Not only the skins are used, but the fins and gills as well.
’Fins can be used to make trees and bushes, bird wings and flowers, the gills can be used for beautiful roses' the artist adds. It takes him at least three days to complete a picture. When it is lacquered at the end of the process, the strong smell of fish disappears.  

From a culinary perspective, the best fish is pike perch, he says. It is also the back fin of a pike perch that has been used to create the moustaches of fish king Vladislav Korshets.

Source: Maaleht.