As recently as the 1970s, the Yorkshire city of Hull was one of the world’s major fishing ports. From its perch on the banks on the Humber, fishing trawlers set sail into the North Sea and beyond bringing home catches of fish – mainly cod – from distant waters. However, due to various factors, over the past forty years the industry has been in steady decline.
“There was one fishery in the 1970s that was bringing in £750 million a year,” informs Hopkins, who researched Hull’s industrial heritage extensively before embarking on the project with GF Smith. “That’s when I thought, “Wow! This cod fish actually holds quite a lot of power.””
Wanting to pay tribute to Hull’s cod fishing industry, past and present, Hopkins and his Manchester-based practice Lazerian began the month-long process of creating a 4-metre-long anatomical codfish.
Made entirely from GF Smith’s locally produced Colorplan papers, the Cod is cut open on one side exposing its brightly-coloured organs within – a scarlet red skeleton and canary yellow brain. Meanwhile, its scaly exterior is made using realistic pale cream and brown tones of paper. To add to this life-like effect, Hopkins took advantage of Colorplan’s wide variety of embossed papers using a leathery texture for the Cod’s scales, and a granular finish for the skeleton within.
“My ethos as a designer-maker and artist is to combine digital technologies with handcraft,” says Hopkins, who used a “mixed bag” of tools and techniques to create the sculpture, including a laser cutter, a flatbed plotter, traditional scalpels, scoring aids and glue guns. “I’ve worked with paper professionally since I stated the studio 11 years ago,” he continues. “Over time, I’ve learnt ways in which to add strength to paper. It’s all about understanding its grain structure – it has a long and a short grain – much like wood.”
As well as the giant Cod, Hopkins and his team are on site during the installation serving up paper fish and chips from his mobile workshop which takes the form of a converted 1950s Citroen HY food truck van. With its corrugated sides, and service hatch, the vehicle is the perfect base from which to serve the paper meals. “The workshop is something that I’ve been creating for the last four years,” explains Hopkins who is crafting each serving from a rainbow of different Colorplan shades. “We’ve got both laser cutter CNCs and traditional cutting tools on board.”
Having learnt about the decline of Hull’s once booming fishing industry and the knock-on effect it had on the city, Hopkins was heartened to find that Hull is home to one of the best fish chip shops in the country. (Papas was named Britain’s Best Fish and Chip shop by BBC 2's Britain's Best Takeaways) “That made it a full circle,” he smiles. “The Marina is pretty close to the Humber streets and I wanted to bring that sense of community into the installation and for it to reach a new audience – not just those working in art and design.” The result is an experience that brings people from different walks of life together to share and celebrate this unlikely icon, the local cod.
Words by Ali Morris