What is this and where can I find more of it?
March 25, 2021 1:07 PM   Subscribe

Yes, it's a fish. It's also a heavy plaster shelf / corbel in a particular style that I like, and I can't find anything suitably similar anywhere else despite years of Googling. I am keen to know if anyone has come across any other pieces of ornamental ephemera like it, and if so for the love of Dog, where? My Google is goggled.

It frustrates me to look for this much loved, ugly happy fish, especially when I go on yet another trawl (haha funny) and end up looking at pages and pages of iridescent unicorns on Amazon - I like unicorns fine and well but not when I'm looking for my fish thingy.

I am lost in terms of how to search - I have tried various combinations of words, including but not limited to fish shelf, fish corbel, anthropomorphic fish, ornamental shelf, grotesque fish shelf corbel aaargh and so on. We got this as a gift many years ago and the friend who gave it to us can't remember where they got it from anyway. It's just a cheap thing, about a foot high, not particularly well made, but it makes me happy when it's up on the wall.

I suppose I would say it gives me an Alice in Wonderland vibe, or looks like a sort of fantastical, slightly anthropomorphic illustration.

Do you know where similar things live, do you have any better idea of what I could use as search terms, do you live with your own version of this and if so, where did you find it?

If it helps / matters, I'm in the UK, I don't use eBay but do use Etsy, and don't have wedges of cash but am happy to spend up to £50 maybe, excluding postage.
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence to Grab Bag (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Google similar image search thinks it's a dragon. Hopefully that really long link works.
posted by aniola at 1:25 PM on March 25 [1 favorite]


Do you have this thing and want another, or do you just have a picture? If it's the former, you could possibly have someone take a mold off it and cast more. You'd have to be careful to use something which wouldn't remove or discolor the paint, but I'm sure this was cast in a mold in the first place.
Another option is a 3D scan, and having someone mill one out of a block of material which can be used to make a mold. This isn't as daunting as it seems, both technologies are pretty mainstream, especially the scan part.
I tried a reverse image search on Tineye, but found nothing. My impression is that this thing is about a century old, and it was probably made in small numbers. It's not very likely that any others survive, and if you find one it'll be by perseverance and chance.
Good luck, and don't give up.
posted by AugustusCrunch at 2:18 PM on March 25 [2 favorites]


I would classify this fine and handsome fish fellow in the realm of something inspired by gargoyles, so maybe searching for gargoyle shelf will turn up similar fantastical beast shelves.
posted by urbanlenny at 2:35 PM on March 25 [2 favorites]


> I am lost in terms of how to search - I have tried various combinations of words, including but not limited to fish shelf, fish corbel, anthropomorphic fish, ornamental shelf, grotesque fish shelf corbel aaargh and so on. We got this as a gift many years ago and the friend who gave it to us can't remember where they got it from anyway. It's just a cheap thing, about a foot high, not particularly well made, but it makes me happy when it's up on the wall.

It's not a fish.

It's a dolphin.

https://blog.marcmaison.com/two-cast-iron-dolphins-historical-ornaments-from-the-bridge-of-porte-de-france-in-grenoble-by-gustave-eiffel/?lang=en

https://www.medievalists.net/2016/01/dolphins-in-the-middle-ages/
posted by sebastienbailard at 2:45 PM on March 25 [5 favorites]


Response by poster: I love you AskMefi.

I did wonder about casting it (or getting someone who knows how to do it to do so) but hadn't thought about 3D printing.

I'd love to find some "companion pieces" so the links so far are flipping brilliant.

Have at it, you fine people.
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 2:52 PM on March 25


It might be worth your time to give Gargoyles in Seattle a ring and see if they can source something like that delightful buddy, either by connecting you to an artist or even perhaps if they have something like it already made in store. They do ship nationally and have a much larger collection than their website would imply, and sometimes are surprisingly adept at sourcing statuary.
posted by zinful at 3:02 PM on March 25 [1 favorite]


I’d look for grotesques in the Renaissance sense, although the word has been reused so much that this is a fifth-page sort of search term. Might help within collections of statuary, though.
posted by clew at 3:29 PM on March 25 [4 favorites]


I'm getting an English seaside-resort (pavilions, fairgrounds, etc.) architectural salvage vibe; there have been several renovations in the last decade and change.
posted by Iris Gambol at 5:51 PM on March 25 [3 favorites]


Some of the pieces at Design Toscano seem to have a really similar aesthetic.
posted by AnneShirley at 7:16 PM on March 25 [1 favorite]


Following Iris Gambol‘s thought, funfair and carousel carvings do get resold, and are as engaging and colorful and strange as that, and get really expensive . But you could carve a scale model...
posted by clew at 10:08 PM on March 25 [1 favorite]


This is not immediately useful information, but if you ever find yourself in New Zealand, you might enjoy a visit to the Grainstore Gallery in Oamaru. Emphasis on images of people rather than creatures, but something of the same vibe; it's what your photos immediately reminded me of, 15 years after my one and only visit.

I'm also thinking architectural salvage; in my town, the shop I'd keep an eye on is this one, and I'm sure there are similar places closer to you.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 3:47 AM on March 26 [1 favorite]


A little googling suggests that 'chalkware brackets' might be a useful search term to add into your mix.

My impression is that this thing is about a century old, and it was probably made in small numbers.

I'd beg to differ and hazard that it was from the kind of cheap and cheerful UK high street store that stocked a huge range of quick-turnover imported household stuff, any time from the 90s to the present day but especially in the 90s - rugs, folding furniture, chunky wooden candlesticks, random decorations like this etc. In which case you're possibly going to struggle to find an exact match on sale somewhere now, but you do have a lifetime quest every time you go past a decent-sized second-hand shop from now on...
posted by penguin pie at 4:24 PM on March 26 [1 favorite]


Not really your aesthetic, but in case they turn up any useful links to sellers/search terms, some more bonkers wall shelf thingies:

Pair of girls faces
Art Deco Angel
Crazy orange fruit

Also: This is totally getting mentally filed by me alongside the The Great Medusa Door Knocker Mystery which haunts me to this day.
posted by penguin pie at 4:44 PM on March 26 [3 favorites]


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