Sunday, October 20, 2013

Preserved Deep One Fetus

For over sixty years the Spouter Inn served the whalers that temporarily called the port of New Bedford, Massachusetts home. In addition to it's primary attraction of cheap lodging and drinks it also boasted an impressive collection of memorabilia collected by sailors from around the globe. Mixed in with the blooded harpoons, whale teeth, and curious oil paintings were a few items of an earthier nature, including shrunken human heads from New Zealand and this curious specimen from the South Seas.


It was reportedly owned, or at least in the possession of, a mate who'd served on the schooner Columbia during it's successful trading voyages into the Pacific. After a falling out with the ship's Captain he fled to New Bedford in search of the first ship that would take him. Desperate for money, he traded the odd creature with the Inn's owner in exchange for lodging. The deal would turn out to be all to the advantage of the innkeeper. Just two days later a reunion with his former shipmates would end tragically when he drunkenly stumbled off the pier and drowned.


The creature would adorn the walls of the Spouter Inn until the early 1920s, when it came into the possession of a traveling sideshow. The specimen criss-crossed the country being exhibited to fair goers before being purchased by a private collector who recognized it's potential importance.


The creature is roughly 8 and a half inches in length and resembles a humanoid fetus or newborn equipped with a tail and what appear to be gills along the side of the head. The body is encased in dried resin and shows signs of partial decomposition, but it's not clear if that occurred before or after it was preserved.


This was another exercise in trying to produce a gaff that meets modern standards of presentation while using vintage-style techniques and materials.  Compared to my previous efforts it shows a lot of improvement, both in the overall sculpt and the final finishing treatment.  Most of that can be attributed to taking my time and really paying attention to anatomy.  With a mummified figure you have a goodly amount of leeway in that area, particularly when you're working on something that's intentionally not human, but it's the first thing a viewer will notice.  I still have a lot of room for improvement, but I'm happy with how the muscle structure came out.

In terms of materials, everything you see is paper mache.  The finish is ivory highlighted with off white and hand painted burnt sienna shadowing.  That was followed up with a coat of traditional shellac and a spritz of matte finish to take the glossiness down to a more satin appearance.  If you click through to the high resolution pictures you can get a better feel for the amount of texture work.



2 comments:

CoastConFan said...

That’s a classic gaff all right. You need a P.T Barnum “This way to the Egress” sign to go with the item.

beigemac said...

Any chance you'll be selling this one?