fish exchange

‘The fish exchange’ is a project which began in Shetland in 2007 with an idea by artist Deirdre Nelson with support from Hazel Hughson and Shetland Arts.  Discovering that the Herring gutting women could gut 60 herring a minute , ideas developed to knit 60 fish!  A group of children in Unst  Shetland began to knit fish.  On residency in Uist in the Outer Hebrides the idea progressed further with people from all age groups. Word spread to Pittenweim, Suffolk, Scarborough, Helsinki, Cork, Helmsdale , to Fraserburgh and Skye. Fish auctions have taken place to raise money for relevent local charities. 

The fish exchange is now also in Ireland and communities are making lace fish which reflect local history of lacemaking and  abundance of mackerel in the area of Cobh Co Cork.  

* Further projects have had limited or no funding and have come about through alot of enthusiasm, kindness and recycling !

''While Nelson’s made and found pieces interrogated the domestic and working lives of the women of remote coastal communities, at the heart of her exhibition was a shoal of brightly coloured knitted fish contributed by local knitters. The fish were auctioned off at the end of her residency, raising £1700 for the RNLI. And then, in a process which seems to mirror the historic movement of both herring and knitted stitches around the coastline of Britain, shoals of Nelson’s fish began to migrate. Inspired by her work, knitted fish appeared at another RNLI auction in Pittenweem, and continued a Southward course to the Suffolk Herring festival, where they made a big splash in 2009. “We were really inspired by Deirdre Nelson’s project,” says festival organiser Kelvin Smith, “and ended up with more than two hundred weird and wonderful fish for auction.” The purpose of the Suffolk herring festival—likely now to be an annual event—is to celebrate the historic past and sustainable future of herring fishing, and to raise awareness of the connectedness of the communities of Britain’s North Sea Coast. In such projects, the shared traditions of knitting and fishing continue to reinvent themselves—in positive ways—anew.''

from Knitting and Fishing by Kate Davies ( describing previous work on the project)

more information can be found below:
click here for Facebook page
Uist Fish Exchange here 
Suffolk Herring festival  here  
Cobh Co Cork Ireland Fish Exchange here  
Museum of Scottish Lighthouses here