Artist Lydia Webber could take the easy way out – pick a color, paint a fish, and move on to the next one. But, perhaps inspired by the diversity of ocean life so near her Cape Elizabeth home, she just can’t bring herself to do that. Her fish are painted in bright, multi-colored patterns and designs that would make Mother Nature proud, and each one is different.

“They’ve sort of evolved,” she said. “I started with mostly just circles and stripes, and now it’s paisley ones and plaid ones. It’s like ‘Ooh, what can I try next?'”

Webber, perhaps best known for her painted glassware, makes decorative fish out of old picket fence posts, whose pointy ends resemble a fish head. Her carpenter finds older scrap fencing for her, which she prefers because the pickets are thicker and have a bit of a curve to them. “The new ones are thin and flat, and don’t have the character,” she said.

The fish fins are made out of old milk jugs.

To Webber, each picket is an individual canvas. Some customers buy several of them to group together so they have a school of fish swimming on their wall.

Webber often finds herself staring at real fish in the market a little longer than most other customers, looking for distinctive markings and other details she can borrow for her picket fence fish.

Once she turns the top part of a picket into a fish about 22 inches long, Webber’s carpenter cuts up the scraps so she can make “baby fish” that are about 6 inches shorter.

Webber makes about 300 fish a year – enough to fill a small lake, anyway. She sells them at SummerHouse, the South Portland gift shop she runs with her daughter, as well as at Maxwell’s Pottery in Portland and House of Logan in Boothbay Harbor.

The large fish cost $48 each and the smaller ones are $36.


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