Fishskin removed from a freshly caught fish and dried has very different properties from fishskin on a cooked fish.  The dried skin can be manually worked into a soft material with surprising strength and is a material which can be sewn.  Patterns can be cut out of sheets of fishskin, or a tube of skin can be used to construct dolls or mobiles.  Prehistorically the tubes were used as containers for sewing materials.
Fishskin removed from a freshly caught fish and dried has very different properties from fishskin on a cooked fish.  The dried skin can be manually worked into a soft material with surprising strength and is a material which can be sewn.  Patterns can be cut out of sheets of fishskin, or a tube of skin can be used to construct dolls or mobiles.  Prehistorically the tubes were used as containers for sewing materials.

© 2008, Najuqsivik Community Museum. All Rights Reserved.

The head is removed allowing skin to be peeled back

The skin covering the head is very difficult to remove; since it is not useful as a sewing material, the head is cut off.

John Jamieson,
Annesie Appaqaq

© 2008 Najuqsivik Community Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Fingers are inserted under the skin

Slide your fingers under the skin and rotate around to start the separation.

John Jamieson,
Annesie Appaqaq

© 2008 Najuqsivik Community Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Carefully clip the tissue holding the fins to the body of the fish.

The fins present a problem if the skin is peeled back too quickly. Carefully pull the fins out and expose the tissue attaching the fins to the muscles. The fins will remain part of the peeled skin. If the skin is not to be removed as a cylinder, this care may not be necessary.

John Jamieson
Annesie Appaqaq

© 2008 Najuqsivik Community Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Advance your fingers down the body

Continue to push your fingers down the body, rotating around the circumference to release the connective tissue.

John Jamieson
Annesie Appaqaq.

© 2008 Najuqsivik Community Museum. All Rights Reserved.


The skin is pulled back to the caudal fin.

After the skin is peeled back to the caudal fin, the body is cut from the tail.

John Jamieson
Annesie Appaqaq

© 2008 Najuqsivik Community Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Skin completely separated from body

The skin is completely removed from body and turned inside out.

John Jamieson
Annesie Appaqaq

© 2008 Najuqsivik Community Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Remove attached flesh from skin

Some flesh may remain on the skin. It can be removed with a scraping tool. A spoon works well. Since no chemicals are used to preserve the skin, it is recommended to remove as much attached tissue as possible, but some amounts will remain.

John Jamieson
Annesie Appaqaq

© 2008 Najuqsivik Community Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Wash the skin in freshwater

After scraping off the attached flesh, wash both sides in water.

John Jamieson
Annesie Appaqaq

© 2008 Najuqsivik Community Museum All Rights Reserved.


Remplir le cylindre avec un matériau absorbant

The cylinder requires a material to be inserted inside to absorb moisture and have the fishskin dry without excessive wrinkles. The quality of the final dried skin requires attention to this process.

John Jamieson
Annesie Appaqaq.

© 2008 Najuqsivik Community Museum. All Rights Reserved.


The fishskin is stuffed and ready for drying

The fishskin is still moist but now it is stuffed and ready to dry. The absorbent material may be changed several times to assist drying.

John Jamieson
Annesie Appaqaq

© 2008 Najuqsivik Community Museum All Rights Reserved.


Hang cylinder from caudal fin

Attach a string around the caudal fin and suspend for drying. It may take a day to dry. Once dried it can be used to make dolls or containers for artifacts. If worked by rubbing between your hands it can be given an interesting texture and some of the stiffness can be removed from it. The skin is now ready for some interesting artwork to be accomplished.

John Jamieson
Annesie Appaqaq

© 2008 Najuqsivik Community Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Learning Objectives

Prehistoric aboriginals found that fishskin possessed some beneficial characteristics. Once removed from the fish, it dries quickly and can be used to prepare a container for holding artifacts, or turned into sheets of material which could make a lightweight raincoat.

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