Widely recognized as being among the world’s premier saltwater sportfishing destinations, the Florida Keys offer sensational year-round fishing opportunities. Why? Because their ideal geographical location, beautiful weather and flourishing fisheries combine to create unbelievably good angling.
That doesn’t just mean, however, that visiting and resident fishing fanatics can fight world-class prey or catch a finny dinner. It also influences and inspires the Keys’ lively community of visual artists.
In fact, as more and more artists discover the beauties of the Keys environment and the satisfactions of the angling lifestyle, they express their enjoyment of that lifestyle in unique and intriguing types of artistry.
Some focus on gyotaku, the fascinating Japanese art of fish printing, while others paint or sculpt the inhabitants of Keys waters. One local artist, multitalented sculptor August Powers, creates quirky hybrids of musical instruments and underwater denizens — ranging from a “trombonefish” to a “wahoo kazoo.” His creations are “played” each July on the ocean floor by costumed divers participating in the Lower Keys Underwater Music Festival.
The sportfish and food fish that draw anglers to the Middle Keys also serve as inspiration for a creative spirit with a fresh and freehanded approach to original marine art. The aptly-named Fishbone Designs brings striking representations of indigenous fish, the coral reef, gamefish and spearfishing action to life in hand-forged and custom-burnished pierced metals.
Fishbone Designs’ goal has always been to create original pieces — conceptualizing a theme with a series of sketches and drawings on paper, and then transferring the outline to a sheet of metal such as high-grade aluminum, stainless steel or copper.
A handheld plasma torch is utilized to pierce the metal. The design is then cut and finished using a die grinder (much like applying sandpaper to wood), resulting in a shiny polished finish.
Each metal design, whether a 12-inch hogfish or 40-foot-wide storefront scene, is shaped down to the muscular structure and scales of a fish. According to Fishbone’s Caleb Goins, bending and contorting the sharp edges into rolled angles gives the work a subtle, 3-D effect.
“I try to apply as much scientific accuracy as I can to each piece, with style,” explained the 28-year-old Caleb — who, inspired by the Keys’ nature, water and sea life, has made Marathon his permanent home.
“The idea is to bring the art to life, make it move and mimic what I see underwater, re-create the scenes I have experienced,” he said.
Now Fishbone Designs’ solo artist, Caleb took the reins from his father Robert Goins, the one and only “Fishbone.” Robert Goins is a woodsman, fisherman and artist who earned the nickname now synonymous with his and Caleb’s hand-hewn craftwork.
Largely focused on commissioned pieces, Fishbone Designs has plans for a studio display location in Marathon. But until that happens, the “fishy” artistry — inspired by the colorful inhabitants of the Florida Keys’ underwater world — can be found by clicking here.