Artist specializing in distant fish

To create a detailed texture for things like fish scales, Welbe uses mechanical gears and other small objects that will create a distinctive pattern. James card photo.

Driftwood, steampunk creations

By James Card


Fremont artist Shane Welbes creates two types of fish sculptures: those that capture the natural beauty of driftwood and those that have a pseudo-mechanical steampunk appearance.

For the beauty of nature, he keeps driftwood throughout the year that he finds washed up on the shores of the Wolf River and Poygan Lake. It saves sticks, slabs and gnarled pieces.

One by one, like a patchwork collage, they end up transforming into a giant bluegill or trophy-sized musk.

There is the other type of fish which is difficult to describe. They are Frankensteins with fins; they are creative, original and one of a kind; and they appeal to those they appreciate the steampunk aesthetic.

The term “steampunk” is a sub-genre of art, film, and literature that incorporates retro-futuristic designs influenced by 19th century steam engines.

And they catch the eye. Welbes recounted how at art exhibitions he noticed a woman with a very bored husband. With a single glance at his fish sculpture, the husband turned on his heels towards his display with renewed enthusiasm.

Summer is the time to work on his driftwood designs and he says it’s too hot to fire the oven in his garage. His art studio is at the top of his garage and is accessible by a circular staircase.

He shares the loft with his wife, Erika, who is also an artist and art teacher in Oshkosh.

Their two boys arrive and create their own clay creations. Autumn and winter are when he enjoys working his profession. The fish are shaped then baked and painted.

He experimented with glazes but decided too much could go wrong, so he painted the final finish himself.

To sculpt the fish, it starts from the back.

“Once you get to the head it’s more detailed and you have to slow down a bit. It’s almost like a puzzle, ”Welbe said.

At 43, he was diagnosed with colon cancer. It’s stage four and he’s having chemotherapy every two weeks.

He is 51 years old now and sees it as a turning point.

“But that’s the blessing. I was able to concentrate more on my art. I had all this energy but felt exhausted from the chemo. It got me out of it all because I’m usually a busy guy always doing something, ”Welbe said. “It’s something I could do when I felt good and could leave it and come back. That’s when my art really came out.

Currently, his work is presented exclusively at the Smokin Bean Café in Fremont. His works are also sold by word of mouth and on Facebook and Pinterest.

Search for “Boom Bay Pottery” as a keyword.


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