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Artists repair beloved bronze Finley the Salmon sculpture in Issaquah

Artist Tom Jay shows the area that the vandal cut along the bronze statue, Finley the Salmon, which he and his wife constructed in 1996. - Nicole Jennings/staff photo
Artist Tom Jay shows the area that the vandal cut along the bronze statue, Finley the Salmon, which he and his wife constructed in 1996.
— image credit: Nicole Jennings/staff photo

Until recently, Finley the Salmon looked as though it would forever carry a long, deep cut across its back.

The bronze sculpture, which adorns the entrance to the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery, was attacked with a saw last October.

But as of last week, the fish is looking as good as new again.

The sculpture was repaired last week by its original artist, Tom Jay, and his wife and business partner, Sara Johani. Jay sculpted the male salmon in 1996 along with its female counterpart, Gilda, which swims next to Finley.

An unknown vandal entered the hatchery on the night of Oct. 18 and made a cut several inches deep on the back of the fish. Police have not caught the person responsible and do not know the motive for the crime.

The repairs were a combined effort for Jay and Johani, who own bronze studio the Lateral Line in Chimacum, Washington.

“We collaborate,” Johani said.

“Whoever is good at that does that,” Jay explained.

First, Jay inserted beads of bronze in the cut, before welding and melting them to fill out the cut. He then distressed the surface with lines so that the new area would match the rest of the fish, which has been exposed to the elements for the past 21 years.

Next, Johani stepped in, staining the bronze with liver of sulfur to form a patina. She used a heat gun to help the stain dry faster.

The final step was spreading wax over the entire area, which Johani explained “protects the paint and brings it to the same shininess” as the rest of the statue.

Robin Kelley, executive director of Friends of the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery, said that FISH was very grateful to have the salmon’s artist repair the statue, as this has kept the statue in line with its original look.

“We were fortunate to have them be available, to have them be the original people working on their piece,” Kelley said.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time Johani and Jay have had to repair their creations.

“Lately, the vandalism has gone up,” Jay explained, noting that several of his works throughout the state have been damaged or even gone missing. He said that the “Watershed Bell” he designed for the city of Bellingham had to be removed because it had been harmed too many times.

About 30 of Jay and Johani’s pieces can be found all around the region, from Vancouver, B.C. to Vancouver, Washington. In Issaquah, Johani designed the statue of nature conservationist Harvey Manning on Cougar Mountain.

The couple shares a love of sculpting as well as a love for one another. Jay and Johani first met 37 years ago in a bronze foundry.

“We’ve grown to be a team,” Johani said. “It’s a working love.”



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